THE REGULATION OF rbST IN CANADA
Science and Technology Division
bovine somatotropin (rbST) is a veterinary medication produced with the assistance of
genetic engineering. When it is used on lactating cows, it can help to increase milk
production by between 10 and 15%. Approval of such a medication falls under the Food
and Drugs Act and Regulations.
Canada is the only department responsible for approving rbST in Canada. Approval would be
based on a finding that the product is harmless for both the animals and for human
consumption. Regulations also evaluate the purity, effectiveness, potency and stability of
a medication. When the medication meets the regulatory requirements, Health Canada issues
a notice of compliance. As long as rbST has not received this notice, it may not be
legally sold in Canada.
Use of rbST
is referred to in Schedule F, Part I of the Food and Drugs Regulations. A
medication included in this Schedule may be sold only by an authorized practitioner in
Canada. If rbST receives a notice of compliance, it may be sold to a dairy producer only
by an authorized veterinarian, who will be responsible for recommending to his or her
client how best to use the product. The practice of veterinary medicine is governed by the
provincial organizations responsible for issuing the licence that every veterinarian must
have in order to practise. Thus, the fact that only authorized practitioners may sell
veterinary medicines constitutes a control over the sale of these products and acts as a
means of restricting any abuse of them.
Canada is responsible for mandatory labelling requirements dealing with such health issues
as the presence of allergenic products or changes in the nutritional composition of a
product. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for any labelling that
does not relate to food safety; that is, voluntary labelling and labelling designed to
protect consumers against fraud. Thus, the CFIA ensures that Canadian and imported dairy
products comply with the regulations governing quality and labelling.
is very likely that products such as cheese and yogurt made from milk produced by
rbST-treated cows have been imported into Canada. In fact, the use of rbST has been
approved in the United States since February 1994. In that country, milk from treated cows
is considered to be as safe as milk from untreated cows and there is no labelling
requirement concerning rbST on dairy products. Furthermore, according to the CFIA, there
is no means of identifying these products.
because dairy products are identified by their country of origin, the consumer can decide
whether to purchase products from countries that have already approved rbST. On the other
hand, products in which milk is only one ingredient among many (ice cream, for example)
are classified as Canadian products, no matter where their raw materials may have
rbST is approved for use in Canada, the issue of a notice of compliance would imply that
the product had been found not to pose any particular threat to human health. When a
product does not pose a threat, Health Canada does not require any mandatory labelling,
but voluntary labelling is permitted if the information is verifiable.