The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)


Assuring quality in the commodity grain and oilseed trade:
Standards and procedures in the Canadian grains regulatory system

Ira Altman,
Peter W.B. Phillips
University of Saskatchewan

The advent of GM varieties in the commodity grains and oilseeds industry has renewed discussion about the quality assurance systems for internationally traded commodities. Consumers domestically and internationally have put pressure on industry and regulators everywhere to specify more finely the attributes of the products for which they are responsible. This need for clearly articulated and verifiable systems is rising as countries adopt labeling systems for GM or GM free food (e.g. EU, Canada, Japan, US) and will become essential when the BioSafety Protocol becomes operational.

Quality assurance is fundamentally a product of the efforts of both regulators and industry participants. This paper will investigate three aspects of the system. First, the paper will develop a conceptual framework, building on Picciotto (1995), to identify the theoretical base for the roles for public, private and not-for-profit institutions in assuring quality. Second, the paper will use data and evidence from the Canadian regulatory and commodity export system to investigate the current allocation of responsibilities for assuring quality within the trading system. Evidence from the five major grains and oilseeds sectors—wheat, durum, malt barley, canola, and field peas—will be used. Third, the paper will review the current system against the theoretical optimum.

Keywords: quality assurance, GM foods, and institutions

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