Why? Two reasons. First, they have discovered that 'zero' GMOs in food is impossible, even if we picked some arbitrary point in time and declared no modifications were 'allowed' after that date. If Prop 37 in California passes the only companies and stores that cannot be sued are the ones the litigation lawyers behind it declare exempt; namely their organic food clients. A rational approach is not easy in Canada either. While scientists, farmers and at least some of the Canadian public would like a rational policy, entrenched anti-science opponents are instead floating the idea of 0.1% as the limit for 'trace' GMOs, which the government in Canada calls a 'redefinition of zero', since zero is clearly unworkable.
Why 0.1%? Is that science-based? That's the same question farmers in Canada have.
No, it isn't science-based but politicians and opponents can say 'that is how Europe does it' as a rationale. Meanwhile, Dr. Anne Glover, the Science Adviser for the EU doesn't think anyone should emulate Europe's anti-science mentality - especially Europeans. She would rather Europe be more like America. But “there is a political interest in having a number,” according to the internal summary of meetings by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture Canada. In other words, it makes people feel better but clearly a number of 'zero' has drawbacks if Canada wants to be a realistic voice in world affairs.
What is the biggest benefit to more countries shucking off their anti-science mentalities and having a rational standard regarding GMOs and food in general? A consistent global approach to trade. Right now if a spot test determines a possible 'trace' amount of any GMO, a country that bans GMOs will deny imports, even though their own locally-grown food, be it 'organic' or traditional farming, may have even more genetically modified material. The companies behind Prop 37 have to exempt organic foods from their law or else the overwhelming majority of organic foods would have stickers saying both 'GM' and 'organic', and it is important for organic corporations to convince their buying public that organic food is not just a process, like being kosher is for Jews, but is actually structurally superior, nutritionally better, safer and even more ethical than the food poor plebians must consume.
The second issue is encouraging food transparency. A blanket ban is silly but so is no guideline at all, to Canadians. And they have a point. Canadians don’t trust all countries “equally” when it comes to how they approve use of genetically modified organisms, writes Sarah Schmidt at Canada.com. They mean China, and maybe India too. That part is true. 25% of the 'organic' food imported from China is just traditional food being sold as organic. Countries without solid guidelines for its food do put everyone at risk.
'Trust but verify' is the smart way to go when it comes to all food. And a level playing field for all foods is what people really want, not warning labels on GMOs; clever verbage in polls saying we should have truth regarding only GMOs is dishonest, especially when the list of organic providers who have sickened and killed people is quite long while the list of GM foods that have harmed people is still blank.
It is odd that while both Europe and now Canada are trying to embrace food science after acting like creepy weirdos during the Salem Witch Trials for a decade about it, California is trying to round up biologists and make them prove they are not in league with Lucifer.