Background: biotechnology notices of submission

Government evaluators from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada assess new agricultural products of biotechnology for food, livestock feed, and environmental safety. Product developers are required to follow regulatory directives and guidelines by supplying evaluators with detailed and comprehensive information about their products.

In 2004, the CFIA and Health Canada launched a project to post on the CFIA Web site "notices of submission" that describe the product and the data they receive from certain product developers who have requested safety assessments of plants with novel traits (PNTs) for unconfined release and safety assessments of novel feeds and novel foods derived from PNTs.

CropLife Canada is an industry association that represents approximately 85% of industry plant biotechnology developers in Canada. Developers of PNTs and novel feeds and novel foods derived from PNTs, who are also members of CropLife Canada, have volunteered to write these notices of submission to accompany their submissions to the CFIA and Health Canada.

Why is this being done?

  • to give the public an opportunity to provide input on scientific matters relevant to the safety assessment of each submission
  • to increase transparency of the regulatory process
  • to increase confidence in the regulatory system with respect to PNTs, and novel feeds and novel foods derived from PNTs
  • to support the commitment to achieve greater openness regarding product information made by the Government of Canada in its response to the Royal Society of Canada's (RSC) Expert Panel Report titled, Elements of Precaution: Recommendations for the Regulation of Food Biotechnology in Canada, as well as those identified in the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee (CBAC) report, called Improving the Regulation of Genetically Modified Foods and Other Novel Foods in Canada

We invite readers to give their comments on the content of the notices of submissions received from CropLife members.

Questions and Answers

What happens to the comments the CFIA and HC receive via email or post?

Scientific questions or information will be forwarded to CFIA  and Health Canada evaluators for consideration in the assessment. Non-scientific input will be evaluated and appropriate ways of addressing it will be explored. Subject to your consent, the CFIA will forward your comments to developers whose products are being assessed and may post them on the CFIA and Health Canada Web sites (please indicate this consent if sending comments by postal mail). Developers will not be given your name or e-mail and postal address, nor will any personal information be posted on the CFIA or Health Canada Web site.

What happens to my personal information when I send in a comment?

All personal information shall be treated in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act.

Will notices now be posted on the CFIA and Health Canada Web sites, for all submissions for PNTs and novel feeds and novel foods derived from PNTs?

No. These notices involve only members of the industry association CropLife Canada, which represents approximately 85% of industry plant biotechnology developers in Canada. These companies have volunteered to write and submit the notices of submission to demonstrate their support and understanding of the public desire for more transparency in the regulatory system.

Why don't the CFIA and Health Canada make all companies post these notices of submission?

There is no requirement for this in the acts and regulations administered by the CFIA and Health Canada.

Will notices of submission from all applicants (not just CropLife members) be posted on the Internet?

The CFIA and Health Canada recognize the need to increase the disclosure of information and are currently exploring ways to encourage all developers to participate in the notices of submission.

How can I get more information about a product that has been posted?

Please contact the developer that submitted the product (contact information is available at the end of each notice of submission).

How can I find out about other submissions that aren't posted?

For products that do not have notices of submission, information that is not considered to be confidential business information remains available from the applicant or through the access to information process.

Who decides what is "confidential business information" (CBI)?

The federal Access to Information Act sets out what can and cannot be considered CBI. More information on CBI is available in the CFIA factsheet "Finding Out about the Regulatory Decisions Made for Products Derived through Biotechnology".