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Report Highlights Need for Evolving Food Safety Regulation

25.apr.03, Food Safety Network News Release, Food Safety Network News Release

"The science of food production continues to evolve," said Dr. Douglas Powell, associate professor at the University of Guelph and scientific director of the Food Safety Network. "Any technology can prvode a wide range of potential benefits, but may also mean greater potential risks if the technology is misused or mishandled. The key is to minimize those risks through strong regulatory oversight."

25.apr.03, Food Safety Network News Release, Food Safety Network News Release
GUELPH, Ontario - According to the Food Safety Network, the report released
yesterday by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology confirms the need
for food safety regulations to face ongoing revision if they are to provide
adequate protection from potential health and environmental risks.
"The science of food production continues to evolve," said Dr. Douglas
Powell, associate professor at the University of Guelph and scientific
director of the Food Safety Network. "Any technology can prvode a wide range
of potential benefits, but may also mean greater potential risks if the
technology is misused or mishandled. The key is to minimize those risks
through strong regulatory oversight."
The report, prepared by researchers from Resources for the Future, a
research and policy analysis institute based in Washington, D.C., identifies
potential vulnerabilities in the post-market oversight of foods developed
through biotechnology. Although the authors emphasize that weaknesses in the
post-market surveillance system have not resulted in food safety or
environmental challenges to date, nor in significant non-compliance with
regulatory requirements, they express concerns that future biotech products
will require more extensive post-market regulatory control.
Examples of such products include plants that produce pharmaceutical
proteins as well as food crops that are nutritionally different from their
traditionally produced counterparts. Although such products are not yet in
commercial production, it is widely believed that the technology will
eventually result in a wide variety of such designer’ crops. Strong
oversight will be essential to ensure that production streams for these
crops maintain strict separation from standard food crops.
The increased importance of post-market surveillance for future products
developed through biotechnology has also been identified by the Canadian
Biotechnology Advisory Committee (2001, 2002) and the Royal Society of
Canada’s Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology (2001).
In response to the recommendations of these panels, food safety regulators
have instituted a number of initiatives to ensure that Canada's regulatory
system and capabilities keeps pace with future applications of
biotechnology:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has initiated a long-term (12-year)
research study to examine the potential long-term environmental impacts of
approved and commercially available GM crops.
Health Canada is working to establish a national surveillance system to
permit the identification of long-term health impacts of
biotechnology-derived products, including GM-foods.
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency continue to update
regulatory directives, guidelines and protocols for product review as plants
with novel traits increase in their complexity and as more advanced methods
become available.

The Food Safety Network (FSN) at the University of Guelph provides research,
commentary, policy evaluation and public information on food safety issues
from farm-to-fork. Food safety information can be obtained by contacting FSN
at 1-866-503-7638 or fsnrsn@uoguelph.ca, or through the FSN websites at
www.foodsafety.ksu.edu and www.eatwelleatsafe.ca
For further information:
Michael Taylor and Jody Tick, Post Market Oversight of Biotech Foods: Is
the System Prepared? http://www.pewagbiotech.org/research/postmarket/
Health Canada. Biotechnology Surveillance Project.
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/pphb-dgspsp/csc-ccs/biotech_e.html
Action Plan of the Government of Canada in Response to the Royal Society of
Canada Expert Panel Report. Progress Report, December 2002.
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/english/protection/royalsociety/progress_report_decem
ber.html
Contact:
Dr. Douglas Powell, Scientific Director: (519) 835-3015
dpowell@uoguelph.ca