Perfect. I think we're good.
If we're all ready, we'll close that chapter and move on to our very wonderful witnesses, who have been patiently waiting.
I will introduce who's here.
From Pulse Canada, we have Gordon Bacon, chief executive officer. Thank you for being here in the committee room with us.
We have David Boyd, who is adjunct professor, resource and environmental management, at Simon Fraser University. He is on video conference with us. It's nice to see you again. Thank you for being here.
From the Ecology Action Centre, we have Mark Butler, who is the policy director. He is here via video conference from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thank you very much for being here also.
We usually get started with the video conference people, because that's always the most dicey section. We might lose you, and we don't want to do that.
We'll get started with David Boyd. You have 10 minutes. I think you know the procedure, having been in front of us before. Thank you so much.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair and honourable MPs. It's a pleasure to be joining you here today.
It is now 30 years since the Progressive Conservatives under Prime Minister Mulroney pledged to introduce a comprehensive new environmental law for Canada. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, in their words, was to be the world's toughest pollution legislation and include an environmental bill of rights for Canadians. Unfortunately, neither of those visions has come to pass, but I think they offer objectives that are still relevant to Canadians today: to have world-class legislation that protects human health and ecosystem health from pollution and toxic substances.
I am going to start with an overview of the problem we are trying to solve. Much of what I say today is drawn from my most recent book, called Cleaner, Greener, Healthier: A Prescription for Stronger Canadian Environmental Laws and Policies. If any members of the committee are interested, I am happy to provide complimentary copies of that book to you.
Let me start with the big picture. The environmental burden of disease in Canada, which is the proportion of premature deaths and illnesses caused by exposure to environmental hazards, is strikingly high. The best estimates of the number of premature mortalities in Canada every year range between 15,000 and 25,000, and we have millions of preventable illnesses caused by exposure to environmental hazards. The areas of greatest concern are probably cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to air pollution, and cancer caused by a whole range of toxic substances from air pollution to asbestos, radon, and so on.
To make matters worse, this environmental burden of disease in Canada is not equitably distributed. There are vulnerable and marginalized populations that are currently bearing a disproportionate share of the burden of pollution. Indigenous people in Kitimat, B.C., Fort McKay, Alberta, and Sarnia, Ontario, are exposed to high levels of air pollution. Water contamination faces Grassy Narrows First Nation, and there is extensive pollution in the three northern territories.
It is not just indigenous peoples who bear the brunt of disproportionate pollution in Canada. A striking study revealed that one out of every four low-income Canadians lives within one kilometre of a major source of industrial air pollution, resulting in higher levels of hospitalization for heart disease and lung disease.
These are the problems we are trying to solve. The environmental burden of disease in Canada carries a major economic cost, ranging between $3 billion and $7 billion a year in direct health care costs, and between $3 billion and $8 billion a year in terms of lost productivity. When we try to put a dollar figure on the pain, suffering, and premature loss of life, we get a figure exceeding $70 billion.
What I hope to do in my 10 minutes with you today is lay out eight principled approaches that will enable you to strengthen CEPA, prevent these premature deaths, prevent these preventable and unnecessary illnesses, and save the Canadian economy billions of dollars.
With no further introduction, let me turn to my first recommendation.
Number one is the polluter pays principle, something that I'm sure all of us agree is an important principle of environmental law. Everyone, from economists on one side to environmentalists on the other, agrees that the most efficient way to implement the polluter pays principle is through pollution taxes, yet Canada ranks dead last among wealthy industrialized countries in the use of pollution taxes, according to a 2013 study from KPMG.
My book compares pollution taxes on fuel, energy, pesticides, air pollution, and water pollution and finds that in each of these categories, we lag behind our industrialized peers. My first recommendation for you is to amend CEPA to explicitly authorize the use of pollution taxes, which is not currently in the law, and to mandate the creation of a national pollutant tax, using the data provided to the Government of Canada through the National Pollutant Release Inventory. That's number one.
The second principle is substitution, which is a very simple principle. It just means we should eliminate and phase out toxic substances and replace them with safer alternatives. This was a principle pioneered by Swedish legislation in the 1990s. It's now the bedrock of the European Union's REACH chemicals legislation, but it is not found at all in CEPA.
My second recommendation is that CEPA should be amended to include the substitution principle, and that in part 5 of CEPA, every time we list a toxic substance, we should go through a rigorous assessment of the alternatives and mandatory substitution of safer substances.
My third principle that I would like to share with you is the precautionary principle. Again, the precautionary principle is already found in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act; it's the implementation that's been lacking. For example, when I compared drinking water rules and regulations across the OECD for 65 different chemical contaminants, Canada's voluntary guideline for those contaminants is weaker than that of another jurisdiction for over 80% of those chemical contaminants. It's not only that: most countries have legally binding standards for drinking water quality, whereas Canada only has voluntary guidelines.
To really ensure that we are applying the precautionary principle, I have two recommendations. One is that CEPA be amended to require the suspension of the manufacturing, import, export, or use of any toxic substance that has been banned by another OECD nation. The second is to use a hazards-based approach for substances of very high concern.
This is emulating the European Union. The assumption would be that we would prohibit those substances unless industry can provide evidence that they can be safely used and that there are no feasible alternatives.
My fourth principle is world-class standards. I believe all Canadians should be protected by world-class standards. In my book I review Canadian rules governing both indoor and outdoor air quality, drinking water, pesticides, and toxic substances, and we consistently lag behind other countries. I'll give you just one very important example: air pollution and air quality. Canada is the only western industrialized nation that does not have legally binding national standards for air quality. We have voluntary guidelines. We call them standards, but let me be clear: they are not.
Even our voluntary guidelines are much weaker than those in other countries. For example, Canada's guideline for sulphur dioxide is more than four times weaker than the corresponding American standard.
My recommendations in terms of world-class standards are that CEPA should be amended to require Canada to put in place standards that are as strong as or better than any other OECD nation and to mandate the development of national standards that are legally binding for air quality and for drinking water safety.
The fifth principle I came to talk to you today about is the right to live in a healthy environment. This was intended to be included in the original CEPA back in the 1980s. That didn't happen. The right to a healthy environment is a right to clear air, to safe drinking water, to a non-toxic environment, and to flourishing biodiversity. It's accompanied by procedural rights, including access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice.
This right is found in the environmental laws of more than 100 countries around the world, such as France, Finland, Norway, Costa Rica, and Brazil. It's also found in the environmental laws of five Canadian jurisdictions: Ontario, Quebec, and the three northern territories. In the past two years, more than 150 Canadian municipalities have passed resolutions recognizing their citizens' right to a healthy environment and calling upon the federal government to do the same, so my fifth recommendation is that CEPA be amended in part 2 to include environmental rights and responsibilities.
For all of these recommendations I'm putting forward today, I will submit a much more detailed brief, because obviously I can't cover them in 10 minutes.
My sixth recommendation has to do with environmental justice. I mentioned at the outset that a disproportionate burden of pollution is being borne by vulnerable and marginalized populations. This principle needs to be added to part 2 of CEPA, and in all decisions and actions taken by the federal government, special consideration for these populations needs to be included.
Canada should also follow the urging of the World Health Organization, so CEPA should require a national environmental health equity assessment to be done on a regular basis, every five or 10 years, to define the scope of the problem and outline potential solutions.
My seventh recommendation has to do with the effective enforcement of CEPA. I can tell you that the enforcement of this law has been a disaster from the get-go. For my book I calculated that the first 23 years of enforcement under CEPA resulted in a smaller number of fines than one year of enforcement of an overdue book in the Toronto Public Library.
CEPA 1999 includes an environmental protection action that citizens can use to enforce CEPA. It has never been used.
My recommendation here is to provide citizens with the opportunity to bring civil actions to enforce the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. There are successful models in the United States and Australia that we can build on that will help ensure greater compliance with this very important law.
Madam Chair, co-chairs, and members, thank you for this opportunity to present and for turning your attention to the application of the act to the first GM food animal in the world to receive approval for human consumption.
At the end of my presentation, I will also briefly address a couple of other CEPA-related issues.
I am the policy director at the Ecology Action Centre, which is a Nova Scotia-based environmental organization founded in 1971. We endeavour to ground our work in science, and we also try to find solutions that integrate the economy and the environment. Our preference is to be solutions-based, and I will endeavour to take that approach today.
I am not a CEPA scholar, and CEPA is not an easy act, or at least part 6 is not. There are others, such as my co-presenters Dr. David Boyd or Dr. Meinhard Doelle at Dalhousie University, or some of the lawyers at Ecojustice, who are better equipped to craft amendments to the act that will address some of the problems that I will discuss today.
Prior to EAC's engagement on GM salmon in 2014, we did relatively little work on the interactions of genetically modified organisms with natural systems. We became involved because of a threat in our backyard to wild Atlantic salmon.
AquaBounty is an international company with a research facility in Prince Edward Island. The company has developed a salmon that contains the genetic material from two other species: chinook salmon and ocean pout, which is an eel-like marine fish. The company claims that the fish can grow faster than conventionally farmed salmon. They also claim they have established barriers to their reproducing with wild salmon, principally through the use of land-based facilities and triploid induction, which is the creation of organisms with three chromosomes, effectively making them infertile.
We are concerned about the risk to wild salmon should GM salmon escape. First, GM salmon could outcompete wild salmon for the resources of food, habitat, or mates. Second, and more importantly, fertile GM salmon could breed with wild salmon, changing the genetic makeup of wild salmon forever. This would have unknown ecological consequences and economic consequences for recreational and food fisheries in Atlantic Canada.
We do have concerns about the research facility in P.E.I., but our main concern is with commercialization. At that point, you are talking about hundreds of millions of fish being grown in numerous facilities, and potentially close to some of our famous salmon rivers in New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.
At the commercial scale, the barriers to reproduction with wild fish are subject to the laws of probability. Research papers have documented the escape of non-GM fish from land-based hatcheries in Atlantic Canada. We also know that triploid induction is not 100% effective. When you are talking about hundreds of millions of fish, a 1%, or 3%, or 5% failure rate is a lot of fish.
We are not looking for problems or windmills to tilt at. Atlantic salmon has enough problems without us inventing more for them. It's an endangered species, and there are probably fewer than 700,000 fish left in Atlantic Canada.
This approval has implications beyond salmon. The approval issued by Environment Canada is precedent-setting. It's the first commercial production of a GM food animal in Canada and the world. The biotech industry knows this. What Canada decides, what you decide, will have implications for the many other species with wild counterparts that are candidates for genetic engineering.
For these reasons, in 2014 we challenged Environment Canada's and Health Canada's approval in Federal Court. In 2015, the court ruled against us, and we appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal. We just heard this week that we lost our appeal. The court's main reason was deference to ministerial discretion.
Our principal argument in court was that Environment Canada gave approval for commercial production without assessing it. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans conducted a scientific assessment of AquaBounty's request to export 100,000 eggs to Panama for commercial grow-out and declared this transaction non-CEPA toxic, but made it clear that their conclusions were specific to this request. Export of eggs from one research facility is a very different matter than the production of millions of fish at numerous facilities.
We also raised concerns around the issuance of waivers and the long delays in the publications of waivers, which I can address if you have questions.
During this process we were stunned to realize that CEPA, at least in this case, provided no opportunity for public consultation, nor has there been any consultation with stakeholders, be it the agriculture industry, the commercial fishing industry, the tourism and recreational fishery, or even the provinces. The Province of Nova Scotia has publicly opposed GM salmon, saying it's not necessary to the development of the industry. There has been no consultation with first nations and indigenous peoples. Atlantic salmon was and is a very important species for first nations in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. Altering the genome of this fish should trigger consultations.
Based on our experience over the last couple of years, we have some recommendations. They centre around public consultation, the transferability of the right to introduce a new substance from one company to another, and the issue of caution and the precautionary approach. I certainly agree with Dr. Boyd that while it's in the act, the act is certainly not being applied like that, at least with respect to GM salmon.
We also would like to see included in the act an expansion of what is considered to go toward sustainability benefit, including a broader definition of risk.
I mentioned that we work on other issues that have implications for CEPA, and I'll briefly address those.
We also work on the regulation of the conventional aquaculture industry. We are concerned about the Aquaculture Activities Regulations, which came into force in August 2015 but were an initiative of the previous government and, in our opinion, were part of the lost protections expressed through regulatory changes. Specifically, we would like the government to look closely to see if the disposal-at-sea provisions of CEPA are effectively violated by pesticide use in the aquaculture industry, and the reporting requirements under the AARs.
We are also concerned that these regulatory changes are counter to the intent of the London convention. The cuts to toxicology research on this issue will also impact science-based decision-making, and we know that the AAR changes were in direct response to the charges against Cooke Aquaculture for using an illegal pesticide in New Brunswick.
Finally, environmental justice, raised by David Boyd and other presenters, is important for our organization, and we work with impact to communities. We appreciate that the committee is considering this dimension in its review and that some presenters have raised it, and while we haven't focused on CEPA in our work on environmental justice, we are happy to answer questions on that matter.
Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, Madam Chairman, and good afternoon to all the committee members. Thank you very much for the invitation to appear in front of you today.
I want to start with a very brief introduction of our organization. Pulse Canada is the national industry group representing farmers and processors and exporters of pulse crops in Canada.
You may not know that Canada is the world's largest exporter of pulse crops, accounting for some 37% of global trade. Canada exports pulse crops like peas, beans, lentils, and chick peas to more than 150 countries around the world. While Canada's pulse crop industry might not be front of mind with all Canadians, the global pulse community does recognize Canada as a global pulse superpower, and we continue to grow.
Canadian farmers grew more than 4.6 million tonnes of peas in 2016, an increase of 44% from the previous year, and 3.2 million tonnes of lentils in 2016, which is a 36% increase from 2015. I believe this alone is a great story on environmental and sustainable development.
You might have heard that the United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses. To date, we've had more than 2.8 billion media impressions generated as consumers in the food industry look to the nutritional value of pulses, their contribution to important health issues like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and increasingly the important role that pulses can play to improve the environmental footprint associated with food.
Pulses have clearly become much more than a trend. Consumer interest is continuing to grow, and the food industry is already acting, with new product launches and launches of reformulated foods that boost higher protein and fibre levels. The reformulation of food with ingredients with a small footprint will become increasingly important, and can be a cornerstone of Canadian and global approaches to reducing the footprint from food. When reformulation also improves nutritional content, it's a real win-win.
CEPA, along with other acts, is part of the regulatory framework in Canada that ensures protection of the health of Canadians and protection of the environment. Since Canada exports to more than 150 countries, the Canadian regulatory framework also provides assurances to consumers and governments around the world. Canada's export of food items like pulses is seen as a trusted source of food, in part because of our recognition as being a global leader in our regulatory approach.
Canada plays a very important role globally in ensuring that people have access to sufficient food, affordable food, and safe food. We are one of only a handful of countries in the world that regularly produces enough food to be a reliable supplier to world markets. Canada therefore plays an important role in global food security.
Our work in the pulse industry is aligned with some broad global priorities: affordable food, food that improves human health, and a food system that is environmentally sustainable. When we add in the national goals of economic growth, competitiveness, and fostering of innovation, we have a multifaceted framework within which we can build a Canadian approach to regulation with a focus on environmental protection and sustainable development.
The sustainability of all sections of the food value chain depends upon its ability to assure the other links, including the consumer, that our food is safe. Farmers have a particularly close and personal link to both human and environmental health. Regulations provide the framework and safeguards to build on this assurance. As part of a global food system, it's important for Canada to play a leading role in ensuring there are global approaches to both human and environmental health.
The PCP Act, Pest Control Products Act in Canada is an important part of the regulatory framework that's working to protect human and environmental health. There's a strong alignment between the approaches taken by Canada's PMRA and the approach taken by the EPA in the U.S., the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, and similar bodies in Australia and elsewhere. Their rigorous science-based approach to risk assessment with new and existing crop protection products not only keeps Canada's food system safe but also makes an important contribution to establishing a global framework for food safety. Canada is an important resource at Codex, which is the global food safety standards body.
Risk-based assessments recognize the importance of exposure in determining societal risk. Canada's current regulatory approach for pesticides recognizes vulnerable populations and occupational exposure as part of the comprehensive pre-market assessment.
Recognizing that we have a world-leading approach in CEPA, as well as in Canada's PCP Act and in the Seeds Act, is not to say that we wouldn't suggest or support changes. What does make sense is that we avoid overlap between agencies and acts so that Canadians have a clear process and a streamlined approach. Having dedicated departments, adequately resourced, avoids the duplication of efforts and aligns well with the need to ensure that regulatory approaches are structured to deal with the rapid pace of innovation.
As part of a global food system, we need to ensure that the uniqueness of Canada's environment and farming systems is fully considered and at the same time work to ensure the ongoing alignment of scientific approaches with other esteemed regulatory authorities around the world.
Consumer preferences can be met with differentiation in the marketplace. Regulatory approaches in human and environmental safety must remain focused on the weight of scientific evidence. Canada's regulatory approaches can continue to be science-driven and evidence-based and can look to how other governments and science bodies have taken risk-based approaches. This is the way that we can protect people and the planet, and ensure that Canada continues to play an important role in sustainably feeding the world's population with affordable food.
It's our belief, and the belief of many, that we need a risk-based assessment. I'll speak about it from a crop-protection perspective and what the Pest Control Products Act does, which is very extensive.
Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars in pre-market assessments, which brings in a critical component, and that is exposure.
There's a long list of hazards to our health. I have IARC's list of known carcinogens here: coffee, alcoholic beverages, sunshine—
For potential hazards, there is a long list, but you do need to bring into consideration exposure to those hazards to understand that risk. My view would be that we should have a system that takes a look at the toxicity of compounds as well as exposure.
In the case of crop protection products, it makes many assumptions about maximum levels of exposure, high-risk populations, the length of lifetimes, and multiple safety factors are built in. I believe a risk-based approach that looks at exposure is key.
A hazard-based approach can lead to confusion, and I would cite IARC. Some examples are cellphones and brain cancer, and processed meats and exposure. There are more recent headlines coming out of it that I think can confuse people as to what the risk is at a consumer level.
I think risk-based approaches that bring into account actual exposure are an important part of understanding what should be noted as a concern.
I want to thank all three of the witnesses. I appreciate your making yourselves available.
I think I only have time for questions for Dr. Boyd, but I do have a request for Mr. Butler. I really appreciated your concerns about biotech and particularly with aquaculture. When I just quickly look at the act, it looks like the definition of disposal is awfully narrow, so I would certainly welcome—and I'm sure the rest of the committee would—any recommendations you would have for changing that part of the legislation to address your concerns.
I'm sorry to pass the work to you, but I appreciate any input you can provide. Perhaps you could confer with other people on the west coast as well.
Dr. Boyd, thank you very much. I really appreciate your long list. I look forward to getting the details. As probably the only member of the committee who actually was involved in the negotiation of the first act, I'm really discouraged that there are parts of the act that we still haven't improved.
I would appreciate some feedback from you, and possibly from Mr. Butler as well, on any recommendations you have on part 9, which is about the federal and aboriginal lands. It's a huge gap in the law because there are areas, including on Indian reserves, where there are essentially no pollution control laws. It's a bit stunning that for fenced lands, parks, and aboriginal lands, there's a big gap because the provincial laws don't apply. If you could talk to your colleagues, I would welcome any ideas. We've just never improved that part of the legislation.
Dr. Boyd, I would like to ask you questions in two areas.
One is under part 3, where both the and the have obligations of mandatory duties for monitoring.
Interestingly, there are two provisions: sections 45 and 55. Under section 45, the health minister actually has a mandatory duty to conduct research and studies when any of the toxins may cause impacts to health. There are a lot of first nations, including in northern Alberta, who have been putting in a request for the last 20 years for the federal government to initiate a health study. I'm surprised that the minister has not stepped up to the plate and delivered on that, and I'm wondering if you've pursued that.
I'm going to give you a lot of questions, and then you might want to combine it together, because I only have six minutes.
I've actually requested that we get in some leading scientists to talk about cumulative impact. Under the , I think that there's an area where the federal government is really dropping the ball. Even though that's a mandatory duty, we don't seem to have had major federal engagement in cumulative impact.
I'm pleased that you're concerned about health. My final comment is that specifically, when we did the review of emissions from coal-fired power and gas and so forth in Alberta, the team actually agreed to my recommendation that we include a “hot spots” protocol, which the Government of Alberta, to its credit, has implemented. That requires that when you have a concentrated industry—it may be fracking, oil sands, or coal-fired power—there are triggers for a concerned community to request reviews. An example would be if there is new science that suggests further review of these emissions and if there's a poor compliance record.
I welcome any of your feedback on that area of health and a response to those questions regarding the various duties of the minister.
Thank you very much for all your proposals, and of course I welcome all your recommendations on enforcement and environmental rights. Thank you.
Thanks very much. That's quite a handful of questions.
In terms of Health Canada, one of the things that Health Canada has started doing in recent years is a national biomonitoring study, which is a study of which chemicals and in what concentrations are actually being found in our bodies. That's an important step forward, but there's much more that can be done.
In terms of the big picture of environmental health monitoring, what European Union countries and what the United States have done is created what they call national environmental health surveillance systems, which are comprehensive systems for monitoring the emissions and releases of toxic substances into our environment and our communities, the exposure of humans to those toxic substances, the adverse health impacts of those exposures, and finally, the policies that are in place to reduce the emissions, releases, and exposures.
Canada has pieces of that in place. In my brief, I will include a section that draws on the experiences of those other jurisdictions, as well as Quebec, which is a national leader in Canada, to create a national environmental health surveillance system. It's something that's really important, because if you don't have that information, then how do you determine what your priorities are in terms of regulation and enforcement?
I think that the issue raised about pollution hot spots is a really important one. It goes back to the issue of environmental justice, that there are marginalized and vulnerable communities and populations in Canada that are really bearing a disproportionate burden of pollution in society.
This is an area where the words “environmental justice” are not to be found in any federal law, regulation, or policy in Canada; whereas, the United States has been dealing with this for 30 to 40 years, and so have some European countries.
This is a huge opportunity that we have before us now to put environmental justice into the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in ways that really make that meaningful and that give government the tools and the mandate to protect those populations and those communities.
I've been studying and working on the right to a healthy environment for about a decade now. I've helped other countries draft constitutions, draft legislation, and I've also studied the impact on countries when they do recognize the right to a healthy environment, and the corresponding responsibility to protect the environment.
This right is now protected in the constitutions of over 100 countries worldwide. As I mentioned, it's in 100 environmental laws worldwide. Together with other researchers, I've now done quantitative statistical analysis that demonstrates a cause-and-effect relationship between the recognition of the right to live in a healthy environment and a number of things we're all striving for: stronger environmental laws, increased public participation in environmental decision-making, more rigorous enforcement of those environmental laws, and most importantly, superior environmental outcomes.
Countries where the right to a healthy environment is recognized in law or in their constitutions have been able to reduce air pollution faster, produce greenhouse gas emissions faster, and more generally perform better than countries without the recognition of that right on environmental performance indices from the famous Yale-Columbia one to the comparisons that are done by the Conference Board of Canada.
The right to a healthy environment is quite a powerful tool and it is a human right. It is something that we need to recognize in the pantheon of human rights and it does come with important responsibilities, as well, so I think it's important to have both of those elements added to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
I also find from talking to indigenous colleagues that this notion of environmental rights and responsibilities is a really important part of indigenous law and culture. It offers us the opportunity to make another step toward reconciliation by incorporating that indigenous concept into Canadian law.
To reiterate, if I may, the really important thing is that recognition of the right to a healthy environment hasn't created any kinds of economic collapse. Look at countries like Norway. Norway is doing very well economically, but has much stronger environmental rules than Canada. France is another country. France added the right to a healthy environment to its constitution in 2005, and since that time, France's rating in the Conference Board of Canada's environmental performance standings has gone from the middle of the pack to the top of the pack, so it really does have that impetus.
I think it's also interesting to note, in relation to what Mr. Bacon was saying, I agree that we should have harmonization of these systems internationally, on the condition that it is upward harmonization, so we go to the higher standard and not the lower standard.
When you're talking about pest control products, I know we're not reviewing the Pest Control Products Act here, but again, a comparison of Canadian regulation of pesticides with the European Union does not make us look very good.
There are more than 40 different active ingredients that are no longer eligible for use in the European Union because of health and environmental concerns, but they continue to be registered in Canada as pesticide active ingredients. Those 40-plus active ingredients are used in more than 1,000 different pesticide products in Canada, but you'll find none of them on a shelf in any country in the European Union, because they are applying the precautionary principle in a way that we're not.
The right to a healthy environment is part of the underlying legal infrastructure of the European Union. We need to bring that concept to Canada.
Thank you for your question.
Perhaps I can preface my answer by saying that this was a test for the act. This was the first GM food animal in the world. There are many more under development. In my opinion, it failed, so we really need to learn from this. I would look to you and others who are scholars in CEPA to find ways to fix it. I identified, from a layperson's point of view, two of the big failures.
One, I think, was just a complete disregard for the science. When it came to the science, it was like a bait and switch. They assessed a very narrow thing, and then Environment Canada went ahead. DFO did the assessment of a very narrow request, and Environment Canada went ahead and approved something much larger and, I think, destined to result in the genetic contamination of wild salmon, which is an irreversible impact. We're going to see more of this, so we need to figure this out.
Two, I'm familiar with the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and I was, to use a technical term, gobsmacked to discover that there was no opportunity for public engagement, interaction, or any kind of discussion about the pros and cons. You'll notice that the smack, or the approval, came out subsequent to the decision. It could have come out earlier in the Canada Gazette. That could trigger at least some public engagement.
The company got a waiver so that they didn't have to do an invasiveness test. They got it because the product was said to be contained. Environment Canada, for whatever reason, didn't publish that waiver until our court case was under way, at which time they also published hundreds of other waivers dating back almost 10 years, which they had forgotten to publish.
It's a difficult act to understand. It's not very transparent. People such as Dr. Meinhard Doelle at Dalhousie, yourselves, Dr. David Boyd, and others could probably identify ways in which public engagement could be better designed and brought into the act. We've actually asked for a strategic environmental assessment because we think this is going to be a big area for all of us. It may not be now, but it will become so.