Most GM crops are genetically modified to improve their resistance to pests or herbicides. Apart from these properties, some of them are modified to improve the nutrient composition or processing characteristics to reduce wastage and costs.
Health Canada is responsible for assessing the human health safety of food products including GM food. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the environmental assessment, import permission and registration of different GM food products including plants, animal feeds and animal feed ingredients.
Under the Novel Foods Regulations, pre-market assessment is required before genetically modified (GM) food can be sold in Canada.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the primary agency responsible for ensuring safety and wholesomeness of food (except meat and poultry, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)), including GM food, in the United States. On the other hand, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have the responsibility for food safety consideration when the GM plant that the food derived from produces any pesticidal substances. If the GM plant would be grown in the open environment, it has to be further assessed by USDA and/or EPA for any environmental implications.
In 1992, FDA issued its policy statement regarding the regulation of GM food. In 1994, FDA concluded that the first GM food, the Flavr SavrTM tomato, was as safe as other commercial varieties of tomato after its thorough safety and nutritional evaluation. Following that decision, all GM food produced in the US has consulted with the FDA before commercialisation.
Australia and New Zealand
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is responsible for conducting safety assessment on GM food in Australia and New Zealand. Starting from May 1999, all GM foods are required to go through a safety assessment by the FSANZ before they are allowed for sale in the market.
Starting from April 2004, GM crops and products intended for food use are required to go through safety assessment before they are allowed to be imported into Mainland China. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health are authorities responsible for GM food regulation.