What exactly are GMO’s and do I have to worry about them?
As a consumer you also have important choices to make about genetically engineered (GE) foods. Below you will find many answers to your questions. There is also a link at the end of this page where you can find more resources.
WHAT IS GENETIC ENGINEERING?
Unlike conventional breeding which relies on, and is constrained by, the existing reproductive systems of plants and animals, genetic engineering takes genes from organisms such as bacteria or plants and inserts them directly into the cells of other, often unrelated species. GE is also commonly called genetic modification or GM.
WHY IS GENETIC ENGINEERING PROHIBITED IN ORGANIC FARMING?
Genetic engineering and organics are two different visions for farming. Genetically engineered plants are new species created in laboratories that could never be produced in nature. Because large corporations
produce GE seeds for profit, they are patented (privately owned) and companies can sue farmers for using the seeds without their authorization. Organic farmers reject genetic engineering as unnecessary and highly risky. They also reject corporate control over seeds. Instead, organic farmers work with the diversity that nature already offers and save and exchange seeds and knowledge.
ARE GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS SAFE TO EAT?
All GE foods on the market have been approved for safe eating by Health Canada. However Health Canada does not conduct independent tests but relies on privately owned data submitted by the companies applying for product approval. Because the Canadian government has not set up a “post-market surveillance” system to monitor long-term health impacts and because there is no mandatory labeling of GE foods, our government has no way to find or track health effects if any occur. (More than 40 countries around the world have labeling laws.)
WHAT GE FOODS ARE WE EATING?
Many consumers believe that GE foods are everywhere but this is only true in processed foods. You will not find any GE vegetables at your local farmers’ markets for example. You may have heard the estimation that up to 70% of processed foods could contain GE ingredients – because the three major GE crops of soy, canola and corn are widely used as ingredients. The Canadian government has approved over 50 varieties of 12 different GE foods. Eight GE foods are currently on the market in Canada. Four GE crops – corn, canola, soy and sugarbeet – are grown in Canada. (GE sugarbeet - the type used for processing into sugar - came on the market in 2008 and is grown in a few counties in Ontario.) GE cotton, papaya and squash are grown in the US and can be imported into Canada. Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) was never approved for use in Canada but some imported milk products from the US may have been produced with BGH, though it is being phased out. Other crops like GE tomatoes and potatoes are not currently grown anywhere in the world. 86% of the world’s GE crops are planted in only four countries: U.S. (50%), Argentina and Brazil (30%), Canada (6%).
Information compiled with the support of Canadian Biotechnology Action Network:
Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario:
National Farmers Union Ontario:
• is the largest seed company in the world (accounted for 23% of the world’s commercial seed market in 2007). (ETC Group)
• Owns the seed planted on approximately 90% of the GE crop acres planted in the world
• sells the top selling global herbicide Roundup (glyphosate).
• Owns the patent and research on Terminator technology (Monsanto bought Delta & Pine Land in 2006) - Terminator seeds are genetically engineered to be sterile after first harvest to stop farmers from saving and reusing seed.
• Monsanto now accounts for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. (ETC Group)