Seed World

CropLife Canada says New Guidance on Livestock Feed Offers the Clarity our Industry Needs

Ian Affleck is VP Biotechnology for CropLife Canada

The seed industry is applauding the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for issuing its recent guidance that confirms that gene edited plants are safe for use in livestock feed. The new guidance lays out when a pre-market assessment is needed in novel feeds derived from plant sources.

In May, the CFIA released an appendix to its “Guidelines for the assessment of novel feeds: Plant sources” document on its website. The appendix, titled “Guidance on how to determine when a plant-derived ingredient requires a feed pre-market evaluation”, clarifies what plant-derived feed ingredients require a pre-market evaluation, as per the Feeds Act and Feeds Regulations, including how to make a novelty determination of ingredients derived through plant breeding techniques destined for use in livestock feeds.

“The CFIA’s opinion of the scientific literature is that gene editing technologies do not pose unique risks of harm to human or animal health or the environment compared to other plant breeding technologies. As a result, feed ingredients derived from gene-edited plants are regulated like all other products of plant breeding under the Feeds Act and Feeds Regulations, with regulation based on the traits or characteristics of the product, regardless of its development method,” the guidance states.

The new guidance concerning livestock feed follows guidance issued last year, when CFIA confirmed that new plant varieties and products for human consumption developed through gene editing will not face additional regulatory hurdles so long as they don’t contain foreign DNA and don’t express a commercially viable herbicide tolerance trait.

According to Ian Affleck, vice-president biotechnology for CropLife Canada, plant breeders now have the clarity they need to begin developing gene edited products for Canada and bring them to market.

“This guidance will create a lot of opportunities for assisting plant breeders in their ongoing work across a wide variety of crops. We’ve seen advancements with GM technology in core crops like corn, soybeans, and canola. Now, this opens opportunities for other crops, such as pulses, oats, and barley, to address the challenges they face in their agricultural systems,” Affleck says. 

“We’ve been concentrating for years on the question of when a pre-market assessment is required when it comes to both human food and livestock feed. With that clarified, we can return to focusing on what is required when a pre-market assessment is needed. Now that we know when we need to engage with the government for a review, we can get back to the core work of navigating that process.”

Lauren Comin, policy director for Seeds Canada, says although it’s unlikely the new guidance will lead to an immediate surge in gene edited crop development, it will be indispensable down the road as Canada’s gene editing landscape evolves. 

“In agriculture, we always aim to be as efficient as possible — that’s crucial for sustainability. I think we’re going to see gene editing emerge first in crops where we’re already familiar with transgenics. Even if these crops aren’t traditionally grown for feed, there are byproducts that end up in the feed market,” she says. 

“For example, in the case of canola or soy, the meal left after oil extraction often ends up as feed. So, this guidance and clarity are important. Of course, when you plant any crop, you can’t guarantee where it will end up. Feed is an important market opportunity to have available.”

Chris Davison, president of the Canola Council of Canada, said with the new guidance now published, Canada is also better equipped to encourage investment in support of development of gene-edited crops. New varieties will help make Canada’s canola crop more resilient in the face of pest pressures and climate volatility, support higher yields on each acre of farmland and enhance resource use efficiency, he said.

“Plant breeding innovation is central to the industry’s innovation strategy and a longstanding priority for the Canola Council. With this regulatory pathway established, we look forward to our next phase of work with the entire canola value chain to drive innovation, investment and economic growth for the industry.”

Affleck adds there’s more our industry can do to establish Canada as a leader in an innovative and predictable regulatory environment for technologies that require regulatory assessments, whether they involve GM, gene editing, or conventional breeding. 

“So, it’s kind of back to the meat and potatoes of our work now,” he adds.