A bill that would have made labelling of GMO-containing foods mandatory in Canada was voted down by an overwhelming majority in the country’s parliament on 17 May.

Members of Parliament voted 216-67 against the private members bill C-291, which was introduced by MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault of the New Democratic Party (NDP).

The bill would have amended the Canadian Food and Drugs act so that “no person shall sell any food that is genetically modified unless its label contains information … to prevent the purchaser or the consumer of the food from being deceived or misled in respect of its composition”.

Dusseault told the Parliament that by introducing the bill, he wished to respond to consumers who “have repeatedly expressed their desire to know more about what they eat”.

According to Dusseault, 80% of Canadians had asked for, and were in favour of, information on a food’s GMO-content on their labels.

However, the bill faced opposition from several MPs on the grounds that it did not define the term “genetically modified” in sufficient detail and that it could fuel unfounded fear of GMOs.

The Liberal Party’s Jean-Claude Poissant, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, said that while he was aware the bill was “not positioned as anti-GMO”, it could send out “the wrong message that there is something wrong with [GMO]”.

“GM food is simply food derived from an organism that has had some of its inherited traits changed. GM foods that have been approved by Health Canada are as safe and nutritious to consume as their non-GM counterparts … this bill does not make an immediate differentiation,” Poissant said.

Conservative MP Robert Sopuck was more direct in his criticism and called the bill “anti-science, anti-development, inhumane and anti-environmental”.

“GMO labelling … stokes the fear of genetically engineered crops. These kinds of bills are merely Trojan Horses for an anti-GMO approach,” he summarised.