GMOs in Canada: Facts at a Glance

July 26, 2013 Updated: July 27, 2013

Are genetically modified organisms GMOs allowed in Canada? Are they grown?

GMOs in Canada have been allowed since the mid 1990s. Canada is one of the top-five producers of GMO crops in the world. The major GM crops produced in Canada include canola, corn, soy, and to a lesser extent, sugar beet. Canada also imports GM varieties of cottonseed oil, papaya, and squash, among others.

Are GMOs labeled in any way?

In Canada, GM foods do not require labels advising that the product contains GMOs. Currently, any labeling advising of GMO contents is voluntary. 

How many hectares/acres of land are GM crops grown on?

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), there were 11.6 million hectares (28.6 acres) of GM crops grown in Canada in 2012. 

Are these crops for domestic use or mostly exported?

This varies by crop, but they are used for both domestic and export. 

Although there is official data available on the amount of exports of different crops, according to Statistics Canada, no official data is available on what percentage of the exports are GM. 

Genetically engineered canola form a major component of Canada’s export of this crop, the most profitable of the GM crops.

Andreas Boecker, an associate professor in the department of food, agriculture, and resource economics at the University of Guelph, says:

“This varies by crop. But we have to acknowledge that most of corn serves as feed for domestic production. Canola meal and soybean meal, which are by-products of crushing, also serve as feed ingredients. Markets for non-GM or identity-preserved crops are mostly abroad but they are relatively small compared to the markets where GM or non-GM does not influence buyers’ choice.

“About half of soybean production is exported. But not all non-GM soybeans are exported. Overall, probably more than half of it is used in Canada. Canada also imports a lot of soybean meal from the US. 

“About 10 percent of corn production is exported so most of the GM corn production is used in Canada, however, probably most of it as feed. 

“Canada exports about 85 percent of its canola production, so most of GM canola production is exported.”