Mr. Speaker, on March 26 I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, when would Canada ratify the biosafety protocol, given that we signed it, but not ratified it, in the year 2001?
In his reply the minister indicated that 45 countries had ratified the agreement. Actually, at the time, 89 nations had ratified the agreement and today, as we speak, the current number stands at 96.
Furthermore, the minister did not indicate when Canada would ratify. As his predecessor had, he mentioned an action plan leading to ratification after stakeholder consultations. This would be good news were it not for the fact that consultations have been dragging on for years.
Consultations surrounding Canada's involvement with the protocol have been discussed as late as February in international meetings. By now, Canada should be on the verge of ratification.
Let me add at this point the following observation. First, 96 countries, including Mexico, Japan and the European Union have already ratified the biosafety protocol. They have adopted the precautionary principle dealing with the risks posed by importing genetically engineered organisms.
Canada currently exports approximately 22 million metric tonnes of grain annually, 80% of which may have trace levels of genetically modified organisms. Our exports will be greatly affected by the standards set by countries which have ratified the biosafety protocol.
Second, on March 31 of this year Mr. Stemshorn, the assistant deputy minister of the Environmental Protection Service at Environment Canada, informed the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development that Canada will be subject to the regulations imposed by importing countries.
By not ratifying the protocol we have very little influence in the decision making process on import regulations. In addition, further delays would damage Canada's access to foreign markets because genetically modified grain continues to be sold unlabelled.
As the purity of genetic stock of grain is affected, Canadian farmers will have an increasing uphill battle maintaining access and penetrating international markets.
For all these reasons, delaying ratification of the biosafety protocol is not in Canada's best interests. The next round of international meetings will take place next spring. Canada needs to participate fully in these discussions. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Government of Canada should take into full account Canada's long term interests in growing global markets, and also ensure Canada's voice is in the international fora.
This evening, could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food tell us when Canada will ratify the biosafety protocol?