The Engineers Canada Board has approved a new National Position Statement on professional practice in biotechnology. It states that Engineers Canada supports a regulatory framework for biotechnology that integrates social, ethical, health, economic, engineering, science, and environmental considerations within a public safety framework.

Biotechnology is the branch of applied science that uses living organisms and their derivatives to produce processes and products. Biotechnology has undergone exponential growth over the last few decades and is used in many sectors across Canada, including agriculture, food, pharmaceuticals, industry, and health. The engineering profession has made key contributions to the evolution of the biotechnology sector, especially in areas that involve the application of engineering principles when contributing to the development of engineered organisms, biotechnology related products, and other associated projects. The benefits of biotechnology can positively impact Canada both in terms of meeting its own needs and supporting the economy.

But like any new technological developments, there are benefits and risks associated with biotechnology. These can include a lack of public understanding and transparency from the field, a perceived lack of expert advice and participation from the public in the regulation of biotechnology, and the inappropriate and unsafe use of biotechnology. The development and enforcement of standards are therefore important elements in mitigating these risks. With the growing demand for biotechnology professionals and critical biotechnology infrastructure, it is important that the federal government remain vigilant in ensuring that individuals performing engineering work in this field are licensed with provincial or territorial engineering regulators.

The National Position Statement thus makes two recommendations for the federal government. The federal government should:

  • Ensure that any legislation or regulations that refer to engineering work in the development or implementation of biotechnology require the involvement of a professional engineer in accordance with provincial and territorial engineering acts.
  • Ensure that there is a legislative requirement that when engineering work is being performed, individuals involved in the development or implementation of biotechnology at the federal level be engineers who are licensed to do so.

Engineers Canada’s National Position Statements are consensus positions of the provincial and territorial engineering regulators on key issues that relate to the public interest. They are not only meant to provide information about the issue to members of the engineering profession, but are also meant to facilitate discussion with government and influence public policy.

Read the full National Position Statement on Engineers Canada’s website.