Category Archives: GMO

GMO whistleblower- Canadian federal scientist speaks out

GMO whistleblower: Canadian federal scientist speaks out

GMO whistleblower- Canadian federal scientist speaks out
Dr. Thierry Vrain

by Tsiporah Grignon

An interview with a whistle-blower doesn’t happen every day. I spoke with Dr. Thierry Vrain, a former soil biologist and genetic scientist who for 30 years worked for Agriculture Canada, and was the designated spokesperson to assure the public of the safety of GMO crops.

He retired ten years ago, and thus no longer received a paycheck dependent on a specific perspective. With time to read different viewpoints on GMO agriculture, Dr. Vrain experienced a gradual awakening, leading him to speak out passionately about the devastating effects of GMOs, both to the environment, and to the health of sentient beings.

My partner and I listened carefully as Dr. Vrain explained the basics of Genetic Engineering. Cells of every living organism consist of basically three major kinds of molecules: carbohydrates (made by plants through photosynthesis from sunlight) lipids, and proteins. The carbs and lipids do not move, but the proteins do. “Every molecule of protein can twitch, can make a movement…that molecule can twitch another molecule and can do something in the cell”. The intention of the genetic scientist is to engineer a protein in the plant to do something NEW in the plant.

For example, a new protein would be engineered to kill insects. The new gene is inserted into the plant, along with an antibiotic resistance gene. The outcome on the soil is basically that “every single engineered plant on the planet today has antibiotic resistance gene in it. That gene is in the genome, it’s in the roots, it’s in the soil and that can be picked up by the bacteria in the soil”.  This is all happening globally on several hundred million acres of farmland planted with GMO crops.

In an effort to sell the public on the benefits of genetic engineering, the biotechnology industry came up with a special term to describe their new creation. The genetically modified plant is described as being “substantially equivalent” to a conventional plant. But if DNA has been altered, isn’t the plant different, and not equivalent?

Then Dr. Vrain explained how a scientist can hold a different view of nature. He asked us to imagine if by adding a human gene to corn, we could have 10,000 acres of corn growing insulin, and wouldn’t that kind of progress be very good? So if a tomato plant has a bacterial gene, and the fruit still looks and tastes like a tomato, to a scientist it is still a tomato plant, and therefore, the principle of substantial equivalence seemed natural to describe the genetically altered plant.

Now immersed in our science lesson, we learned about the results of the Human Genome Project, completed in 2002. Its goal was to sequence the whole genome of a person. Before this research, the science of molecular biology was based on the theory that the human body functions with about 100,000 proteins. DNA codes for proteins, and it was believed that each protein is coded for by one gene. Thus, if there are 100,000 proteins in our body, then there should be 100,000 genes.

However, the Human Genome Project concluded we have only just over 20,000 genes in our body. Suddenly, the one gene, one protein hypothesis no longer applied. It was an old paradigm.  Since science is based on observation, here was a perfect example of yesterday’s scientific “fact” being obsolete.

As for the engineering process itself, Dr. Vrain told us that the scientist has absolutely NO control over where the gene will show up in the genome. Since this inserted gene doesn’t really belong there, it is impossible to predict what the gene is going to express!  The conclusion is starkly clear: genetic engineering is an imprecise technology.

More troubling information emerged in our conversation. Genetic scientists needed to test for the safety of the inserted protein, to make sure it produces no adverse effects. Dr. Vrain explained that scientists started with the pure protein, meaning they tested it in a laboratory. They did not look for the protein IN the plant to see its effects on the plant or its environment. Using the old one gene one protein paradigm, scientists simply “assumed” that if the desired protein was inserted, it would get the effect they wanted, spawning the principle of  “substantial equivalence”. We may imagine scientific research to be all about facts and evidence, but hearing about such an assumption shatters that illusion.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Vrain, scientists still believe the old paradigm, in contradiction of the evidence, because if they question the possibility of there being more than one protein in the plant other than the protein intended, that would make the plant different, and not substantially equivalent. And that would necessitate testing. Since 1996 the regulatory agencies have waived responsibility, saying “it’s completely substantially equivalent, there are no differences, we do not even need to look at them, and the companies don’t need to do any research”.

Instead, regulatory agencies trust scientific research. Dr. Vrain then shed light on the modus operandi of scientific research by explaining the expression “Publish or Perish”. Scientists need to make sure to publish their results. But in the late 80s, a significant change occurred. Scientists were allowed, and even encouraged, to seek corporate funding. Inevitably, once industry got involved, extra funding meant the scientist could enjoy a bigger lab. “If you were good and successful and you hit on a really good project, you could patent. So from Publish or Perish we went to Patent and Get Rich”.

It follows that funding will dry up if a scientist publishes results not acceptable to the scientific dogma or the corporate line. Moreover, the biotech corporations rarely do research themselves. Instead, they give very generous grants to scientists at universities, and what scientist will turn down good grants for his lab?

I had to inquire about Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, proven not to be bio-degradeable as initially advertized. The active ingredient, glyphosate, actually starves the plant by being a chelator, making minerals in the soil unavailable to the plant. Still, Monsanto insists that Roundup is much less toxic than the herbicide it replaced, and ignores proof of the spread of super-weeds and super-bugs that have become resistant to the engineered technology. Dr. Vrain gave a sigh…“Yet the madness continues.”

I brought up the continuous battles to prevent the introduction of other GMO crops, such as alfalfa, which farmers definitively do not want, and the non-browning apple, which Dr. Vrain said began in his lab when he worked in Summerland. It was apple country, and “someone got the bright idea to silence the gene that browns the apple”. Geneticist David Suzuki’s message springs to mind regarding the perils of genetic engineering:  Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do it.

A frightening example is “terminator” technology, in which the seed or pollen becomes infertile. Do terminator genes pollinate? Is it possible to pass on infertility? Dr. Vrain answered yes,  “We are talking famine here”  because infertility can spread. Monsanto did buy the technology, for if seeds were infertile, people would be forced to buy their seed. Such a serious issue demands stopping Monsanto from ever bringing this idea out again.

Our sobering conversation was ending. Dr. Vrain mentioned an important document available online, a 120 page study released in June of 2012 called GMO Myths and Truths, a compilation of articles and government reports that question the safety of GMOs.

In conclusion, it takes courage and humility to let go of preconceived ideas and accept new data. Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance. Spiritual teachers refer to the letting go as disillusionment.  Thierry Vrain has faced this most humbling human experience with dignity and grace.

But we are all being humbled now. We all eat for a living. Informed citizens worldwide know uncomfortable truths about GMOs and the biotech companies that profit from them. In this interview, we learned how genetic engineering is an imprecise technology, that safety tests are faulty, and that scientists abuse the scientific method for money by ignoring major sources of information. The informed also know that GMO crops contaminate other crops, and see it as a duty to resist Big Biotech’s techno/chemical war against nature. Dr. Thierry Vrain is now an organic farmer, a kindred spirit with peasant farmers worldwide, who know that the way to feed the world is to create and support small sustainable farms working with nature.


Are 'Frankenfish' Swimming Your Way? FDA Debates GM Salmon

Are ‘Frankenfish’ Swimming Your Way? FDA Debates GM Salmon


The seemingly straightforward question, “What are we having for dinner?” may get trickier to answer, due to a revolution in science. Many people call it “frankenfood” when the answer to the dinner question could be, “Salmon with a dash of eel genes”!

This genetic manipulation isn’t some pie-in-the-sky notion. In December, the US Food and Drug Administration moved one step closer to approving Massachusetts-based AquaBounty’s application to sell genetically modified (GM) salmon. The agency found the company’s AquAdvantage GM salmon is safe for human consumption and does not pose a significant risk to the environment. Yet both AquaBounty’s product and numerous other GMO foods have raised serious concerns from many different groups.

Technology is moving so far ahead of common understanding that the language of “trans-genes” is not yet in our vocabulary, but it should be. If you ask most Canadians what genetic engineering (GE), or genetic modification mean, most people don’t even understand the question, let alone have an answer.

As a primer for anyone who is bewildered by the idea of designer plants and animals, genetic modification is a technology that scientists use to bring genetic information from different species together in unnatural combinations. Think of it as a Rubik’s cube where you can twist in genes from unrelated species, adding spider genes to a goat, or genes from bacteria and viruses into corn.

Despite the general lack of knowledge about genetically modified organisms (GMO) our Federal government is promoting transgenic technologies using taxpayers’ money. As recently as January 2010, AquaBounty was given $2.9 million for research purposes. The company wants to produce all the GM salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, and then ship the eggs to Panama for growing-out and processing, for export to North America as “table-ready” fish.

What is the difference between genetically modified (GMO) salmon and natural salmon? AquaBounty’s gene-altered salmon are artificially given genes from an eel-like creature called ocean pout and genes from Chinook salmon.

These salmon have been genetically re-structured to produce growth hormones throughout the year and therefore grow unnaturally quickly. The gene-altered salmon are also nutritionally inferior to wild Atlantic salmon. According to data supplied by AquaBounty, gene-modified salmon contain less beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than other farmed salmon.

Of major concern about gene-altered salmon is escape and harm to wild salmon populations. What would happen if GE fish were to escape into the wild? The biotech company created the fish to be sterile, but admits that 5% could be fertile. I wonder whose job it will be to determine if fish are fertile?! Wild Atlantic salmon stock could be cross-contaminated and the already endangered natural species could be severely affected.


Another major issue is the health risks to humans who would eat this product. The health data supplied by the company has been summarized as “sloppy science, with woefully inadequate data, small sample sizes, and questionable practices”, according to Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union.

AquaBounty’s research includes testing seemingly designed to obscure potential problems rather than reveal them. Take for instance the sample sizes. Common sense would tell you that when studying something as revolutionary as the world’s first GMO fish, which steadily pumps out growth hormones, that studies must be very broad and rigorous. Yet the actual sample size of the study to test for changes in morphology of the salmon involved only 12 fish.

Data published in the British newspaper, the Guardian, revealed that the AquaBounty salmon had an elevated level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is a hormone linked to a number of cancers. The FDA, which is also in the process of approving this ‘animal-drug’ (as it is classified), dismissed the fact that there was a high rate of physical deformity among the modified salmon.

Another disturbing fact is that government officials in the US and Canada have not asked the company for data from long-term feeding trials. Without this testing, the public has no way of knowing if this modified salmon is safe to eat. Does that leave humans as the actual test animals? If approved, will the fish be labeled as being genetically modified? Currently there is no mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods in North America.

In the USA, over 300 environmental, consumer, health and animal welfare organizations, including salmon and fishing groups and associations, chefs and restaurants signed joint letters to the FDA requesting that the approval be denied.

Even the farmed fish industry is in opposition. The executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance told CBC, “The Canadian aquaculture industry does not support the commercial production of transgenic fish for human consumption.”

In North America, people are still largely unaware of any threat to the wild natural Atlantic salmon. Those who are aware have planned demonstrations, are writing letters to the editor, talking to their government officials and telling their fish suppliers that they will stop eating salmon entirely if modified salmon goes to market and is unlabeled.

Consumers are not demanding designer fish, nor did they ask for the taxpayers’ money to be used to re-create plants and animals into patented name brands. Citizens content with the natural plants and animals are increasingly disturbed that public involvement has been entirely bypassed on a subject as important as the future of the food supply.

The FDA is now accepting public comments on AqauBounty’s application until February 25, 2013, after which it will render its decision of whether or not to approve the production and sale of this GM fish.

Take action on AquaBounty’s applications through:

Heidi Osterman is a Kelowna-based certified nutritionist and President of the True Food Foundation.

Monsanto and Cargill’s Plan for Soy-based Factory Aquaculture Industry

Monsanto and Cargill’s Plan for Soy-based Factory Aquaculture Industry


Read this story from on corporate food behemoths Monsanto and Cargill’s plans for a large-scale, GMO soy-based aquaculture industry. (July 2, 2012)

Agribusiness behemoths including Monsanto and Cargill are set to cash in big from industrial fish farming or “aquaculture” as the soy industry spreads its reign to the seas, a new report from environmental and consumer watchdogs shows.

The new report, “Factory-Fed Fish: How the Soy Industry is Expanding Into the Sea” from Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe, shows how the use of soy as feed in aquaculture — branded as “sustainable” — is an environmental disaster, harming fish both wild and farmed as it pollutes the oceans and brings unknown effects to consumers eating the soy-fed fish.

“Our seas are not Roundup ready,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, referring to the 93 to 94 percent of soybeans produced in the United States that are genetically modified by Monsanto to tolerate the application of its Roundup herbicide.

The growing of Monsanto’s soy has led to an increase in the use of herbicides, the report states, and its planting on large scales has led to massive deforestation, which exacerbates climate change and displaces indigenous communities.

“Soy is being promoted as a better alternative to feed made from wild fish, but this model will not help the environment, and it will transfer massive industrial farming models into our oceans and further exacerbate the havoc wreaked by the soy industry on land—including massive amounts of dangerous herbicide use and massive deforestation,” stated Hauter.

Once grown, the soy feed continues its adverse effects. Not being the natural food for fish, the farmed fish excrete more waste, which pollutes the open waters.  In addition, some of these soy-fed fish will escape and breed with wild fish, affecting natural populations.  Excess feed will escape as well, causing unknown damage to wild populations.

Despite these risks, soy has been touted as a more ecologically-sound alternative to feed in aquaculture, notably by the American Soy Association.

According to the report, “the rising use of soy in fish farming industries will mean that notorious agribusinesses like Monsanto, which has sponsored feed trials with genetically modified soy and salmon, and Cargill, which has an aquaculture feed division, will play a hand in seafood production.” The report notes that half of the seafood consumed globally is through aquaculture, creating a potential gold mine in profits for these companies.

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Attack of the Biotech Guys


In the late 1980s, executives at Monsanto were told,genetic engineering offered the best prospect of preserving the commercial life of Monsanto’s most important product, Roundup, in the face of the challenges Monsanto would encounter once the patent expired.”

Monsanto’s guys in lab coats began working wildly to modify as many crops as possible to survive saturation in Roundup (trade name for the herbicide glysophate). Meanwhile, guys in lab coats at corporations like Bayer and Syngenta were splicing bacillus thuringiensis (Bt – a naturally occurring bacterium previously used in organic agriculture) into corn and other crops. 

Canada and the US were asleep at the switch. By the time activists in Europe were ripping out field trials of GM crops and the EU was implementing a ban, GM canola, corn and soya were in widespread commercial production in North America. How did this happen? Merda taurorum animas conturbit. (Google it.)

Our regulators bought the biotech industry’s argument of “substantial equivalence”. In other words, if it looks and tastes like its non-GM predecessor, it must be the same thing. Therefore, the industry implied, there could be no environmental or health risks. Great – except the tests used to establish this supposed equivalence dealt only with known toxicants and could not properly address potential allergic reactions and other issues of concern.

In 1999 substantial equivalence was dismissed in Nature as a “pseudo-scientific concept” and “a commercial and political judgement masquerading as if it were scientific. It is, moreover, inherently anti-scientific because it was created primarily to provide an excuse for not requiring biochemical or toxicological tests. It therefore serves to discourage and inhibit potentially informative scientific research.”

By 1999, potential environmental risks associated with GM crops (e.g. cross pollination) identified by the Union of Concerned Scientists were already happening. Ongoing biotech industry claims that there could never be any human health consequences failed to persuade the British Medical Association which, in the same year, recommended a moratorium on the planting of GM organisms. This repeated call, reflected the BMA’s concerns “about the impact GM foodstuffs may have on our long-term health”.

Ten years later, as evidence about human health threats continued to mount, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued this warning: “Because GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health – and are without benefit – the AAEM believes it is imperative to adopt the precautionary principle.”

Chemical and biotech (or, as they prefer to be called, “life science”) companies view the precautionary principle as an annoying impediment to quick profits. Without the precautionary principle, it is left to university and (in Canada increasingly endangered) government scientists to do this research – after the genie is out of the bottle and the damage is already being done.

In 2010, Watershed Sentinel reported that multiple and increasing allergies associated with GM crops have come to light since the guys in lab coats started running amok with Roundup and Bt. Links have also been made with organ failure and infertility.

Now, as Anne Sherrod reports in the current issue, scientists from the University of Caen report that the Bt toxin Cry1Ab from GM plants kills human cells. Previous research from the university documented DNA damage and endocrine disruption caused by exposure to Roundup/glysophate at concentrations currently permitted in food. 

Meanwhile, doctors from Sherbrooke Hospital in Quebec have found Cry1Ab in the bloodstream of nearly 80% of women tested. In the absence of any other identifiable exposure route, the doctors speculate that contamination may be the result of consuming beef fed on GM corn.

Nearly 20 years ago, geneticist Steve Jones warned: “The triumph of human ingenuity has not been unalloyed: because living organisms can deal with new challenges by evolving to cope, genetic engineers, unlike those who build bridges, must face the prospect that their new toys will fight back.”


An aerial view of farms in Kansas - from Wikimedia Commons

GMO Food – An Experiment on You?


Republished from Watershed Sentinel

the late ’90s and early 2000s, genetically modified (GM) or
genetically engineered (GE) crops were a hot-button issue around the
world. They were originally developed by corporations like Monsanto
to increase yield by keeping crops insect repellent and tolerant of
herbicides. Companies spoke of crops that would feed impoverished
countries, manufacture pharmaceuticals and clean up the environment.
Critics called GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) a multi-pronged
threat to human health, the environment, and even democracy.

the National Film Board of Canada documentary, The
Genetic Takeover,

made in 2000, the biologist and author Arnaud Apoteker asks, “How
can we know the long-term effects when these products were only put
on the market four or five years ago? I believe a handful of
multinationals are conducting a health and epidemiological experiment
on the whole human race.”

Barely a peep from the populace.

Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, and other “Ag biotech”
companies have continued to create GM crops that flood the
marketplace. These Ag biotech companies own over 35 percent of the
international seed market. Their four largest crops, cotton, canola,
soy, and corn, take up over 99 percent of GM crop land. The
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications (ISAAA) claims that GMO crops cover over 282 million
acres worldwide. Greenpeace says 60 percent of processed foods
include some GMO.

decreased public interest, researchers have continued to look into
the effects of GMO foods on health, some with startling results. The
evidence for ill health effects caused by GM foods is limited, but so
are independent studies themselves, largely due to lack of government
funding. However, the startling evidence for GM health effects
available, from animal experiments done since the late ’90s, as
well as anecdotes from around the world, suggest that GM foods can
indeed have serious wide-ranging health effects.

Clark, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture
at Guelph University says health issues of GM crops have emerged
numerous times, starting with Arpad Pusztai in the late ’90s, who
was “crucified” for speaking out about his research on the health
effects of GM crops on animals. The regulatory bodies “just aren’t
paying any attention,” she says. Clark started researching GMOs on
her own time in the late ’90s, and has since become an outspoken
critic in Canada.

M. Smith’s book, Genetic
published in 2007, is a painstakingly-researched account of the
health effects of GM foods. Smith claims that up until 2007 there had
only been about 20 independent, peer-reviewed animal feeding studies
on the health effects of GM crops. That’s a tiny number considering
the size of the Ag biotech business and its impacts. According to
Clark and Smith, the studies Ag biotech companies conducted to gain
approval from governments are poor. They do not investigate long-term
effects, use dubious statistical methods, and fail to measure many
relevant factors, such as inflammatory reaction and organ damage to
the test animals.

his book, Smith recounts several key observations and experiments
that suggest GM foods indeed cause serious health effects.

to Bt Crops

reactions associated with GM Bt products have been found in humans
and animals. Bt is an insecticidal protein incorporated into the
genome of Bt plants by genetic engineering. In theory, Bt allows
farmers to use less insecticides on their crops. In 2004 and 2005,
cotton pickers in India suffered allergic reactions, some severe, to
Bt cotton. They did not show this response to non-Bt cotton. These
reactions have been reported in many Bt cotton workers at several
cotton factories across India. Four villages also reported a quarter
of their sheep died after grazing in Bt cotton fields. The crop’s
pollen reportedly also produced symptoms of inflammation in about 100
people in the Philippines who were living near Bt cotton fields.
These people also had antibodies to Bt-toxin in their blood.

experiments have also shown negative impacts of GM Bt crops. Rats fed
Monsanto’s MON 863 Bt corn in a 90-day trail showed significantly
increased immune cell counts and blood sugar, and significantly
decreased kidney weight, compared to the control group. A scientist
who assessed these findings for the French Commission For
Biomolecular Genetics, Gilles-Eric Séralini, said that the rats’
reactions were similar to those caused by pesticides.

Bt insecticide gene was also incorporated into potatoes. A study on
mice compared the effects of these GM potatoes with non-GM potatoes
which had Bt added to them. Results were similar between the groups,
with animals from both groups displaying abnormally high cell
proliferation in the intestines, as well as abnormality of cells in
the intestinal lining. These effects suggest that the GM Bt potatoes
may act as a carcinogen on the intestinal lining.

together, this evidence shows that Bt products may not actually
reduce the effects of pesticides on the consumer, but may be just as
harmful, causing problems from serious inflammation, to toxic organ
damage, to cancer.

and Roundup Ready Soy

feeding trials of GM soy, 12 female rats fed Roundup Ready soy, a GM
soy crop which has herbicide tolerance genes incorporated into its
genome, showed liver problems commonly associated with higher liver
function. Their livers seemed to have been working harder to detoxify
the effects of the GM soy compared to the rats who were fed non-GM
soy. These effects mostly disappeared after researchers replaced the
GM soy with non-GM soy in the rats’ diets.

another experiment, mice fed Roundup Ready soy experienced reduced
activity of their testicular cells. This result could have serious
implications on human fertility.

the dramatic results of a series of experiments, 25 of 45 rat
offspring died after their mothers were fed GM soy prior to and
during pregnancy. Compare this to three deaths out of 33 for non-GM
soy-fed rats, and three out of 44 for non-soy-fed rats. Many of the
organs of the GM-soy-fed offspring were much smaller than those of
the non-GM groups. Even the young rats themselves were much smaller.
[See “She Fed the Rats GM Soy,” WS, January-February 2006].


of other GM crops have suggested other health effects, including
infertility, allergies, and stunted growth in young animals. Farmers
in Iowa found that their pigs and cows had lower fertility coinciding
with feeding of GM corn. Upswings in fertility coincided with use of
non-GM corn.

GM developers cancelled release of their GM peas after they triggered
allergic inflammation in mice. The kidney beans that the inserted
gene had come from did not produce an inflammatory reaction. It
appears that the way the gene reacted with the pea genome and
metabolism changed the body’s reaction to the gene’s protein

rats fed a version of Calgene’s FlavrSavr tomato developed bleeding
stomachs. Many more rats that ate FlavrSavr died during the 28-day
study compared to the control group.

examples of eyewitness reports and news stories are not scientific
experiments, so they are inconclusive. However, they point to major
health effects that GM foods might cause, leading to potentially
catastrophic human health issues. At the very least Smith’s
anecdotal evidence shows that the health effects of GMOs desperately
need international attention, regulation, and further study.

writes that, in 1999, a study done on over 4000 people in the U.K.
showed humans had increased allergic response to soy after GM soy was
introduced into the food system.

a more recent experiment published in 2009, Séralini and his
colleagues compared the effects of three GM corn varieties on rat
health over 15 weeks. The animals showed signs of exposure to
toxicity in several organs, especially their livers and kidneys. The
researchers proposed these organs were reacting to the toxicity of
the pesticides the GM corn varieties had been modified to produce.

another twist, scientists are just beginning to investigate whether
GM foods can transmit their GM genes to human gut bacteria.

results from these animal experiments should be taken with a grain of
salt when applied to humans. Our bodies are similar, but not the
same, as those of rats and other lab animals. And unlike lab rats, we
control our own diets. Most people eat a large variety of foods, not
all of them containing genetically modified organisms. Increasing
numbers of us are choosing unprocessed and organic foods that
presumably don’t contain GMOs. Nevertheless, the proportion of GMOs
in the North American diet is high, especially for people who eat a
lot of processed food. And labeling of GM foods is not mandatory in
Canada, despite two private member’s bills in Canadian parliament
in 2001 and 2008 calling for GM food labeling. Both bills were

Case of LY038 Corn

Renessen, a joint venture between Monsanto and Cargill, produced a
high-lysine GM corn called LY038 for livestock feed. It was approved
in Canada in 2006, but when the European Food Safety Authority
(EFSA), the organization that recommends regulations for foods to the
EU Commission, looked deeper at Monsanto’s animal feeding trial and
asked questions in fall 2009, Monsanto withdrew their application.

including Clark, and Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian
Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), are asking why Canada did not
have the same safety concerns about Renessen’s application.

an email, EFSA told Watershed Sentinel they requested the company use
a different comparison corn variety than the ones used in the studies
– a major change in the experiment’s design that could
drastically affect results. “The panel considered that the tests
were not sufficient to conclude on safety and this issue needed
further attention,” EFSA stated..

response to why they had withdrawn the application of LY038, Monsanto
told Watershed
an email that they had, “Absolutely NO safety concerns whatsoever,”
over LY038 corn, and that they did not withdraw their application due
to health concerns. “There is no reason [for withdrawal], other
than Renessen’s decision not to commercialize due to decreased
commercial value.”

Genetic Model

says the Canadian government’s oversight of the health implications
of GMO foods is based on “an outdated and refuted view of gene
function.” She laughs that the Canadian government’s GMO
regulations treat genetics as she was taught them in school, decades
earlier, when her class made necklaces with beads to mimic DNA.
Genetics doesn’t work like that, she says, as other scientists, and
anyone who has taken an introductory genetics class, know.

now know that when you insert a gene – when you randomly throw this
thing in there, they don’t know ahead of time where it’s going to
land,” says Clark. The researchers don’t know how many copies
will be inserted, or what other genes it will affect, or will affect
it. We now know that the position of a gene is critical to how it
functions, and side effects of this are unpredictable and could be
drastic, Clark and Smith both say.

uses the words “ludicrous,” “embarrassing,” and “painful”
to describe Canada’s regulatory system, and calls it “a very
circular, very unscientific kind of reasoning.” The system relies
on companies to provide their own experiments and risk assessment. To
determine safety of a product, Health Canada uses a concept called
substantial equivalence. “If it looks like a duck and it quacks
like a duck then it’s not any different than a duck,” says Clark.
No Canadian GM submissions have ever been rejected.

is Canadian regulation transparent to the public, says Sharratt. She
says the Canadian public has no say in approval of GMOs. Independent
scientists can’t evaluate feeding studies the Ag Biotech companies
submit because they are deemed confidential. “The Canadian
regulatory system is supporting the biotechnology industry ahead of
the health and welfare of Canadian consumers and farmers,” Sharratt

does CBAN suggest Canada change? By letting the public have a say,
and by introducing mechanisms to reassess a previous approval
decision, says Sharratt.

consequences of the Canadian government’s method of dealing with
GMOs could be dire, say Sharratt and Clark. The current evidence on
the negative effects GM foods have on human and animal health signals
a grave need for the Canadian government to take a closer look at GM
foods and how they’re regulated.

Orford has a BSc in Behavioural Neuroscience from SFU, and is excited
to help change the face of journalism.

Guide to GE Foods
or Say No to GMO

typical Canadian kitchen is likely to contain many ingredients or
foods that have been genetically engineered (GE). While very few
fresh fruits and vegetables are genetically modified, and certified
organic products are GMO free, products made with corn, soy, cotton
or canola account for nearly 100 per cent of the GE crops grown in
North America. In fact, 60 per cent of our processed foods contain
some genetic modifications, but consumers in Canada would be hard
pressed to find out what is and isn’t altered.

there are many environmental risks associated with GE food, the
consequences for human health are still unknown. Even though GE food
has been in grocery stores since 1996, there have been no long-term
tests done on the impacts of GE food on human health. Advocacy groups
such as Greenpeace and the Council of Canadians argue GE foods are a
health risk and want an independent testing agency to monitor the
effects of modified foods. Mandatory labelling is law in more than 40
countries, but Canada has opted for voluntary labelling – a
practice that has yet to be adopted.

the meantime consumers can advocate for a GE ban, insist on mandatory
GE labelling, eat organic and, with the help of Greenpeace Canada’s
GE shoppers’ list, get to know their food.

the full guide, How to Avoid Genetically Engineered Food, at