An Important Plea from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Will Canadians Stomach Genetically Modified Foods?

Here’s an important plea from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)


Take action before November 25, 2011: Stop the Canadian Government from legalizing contamination from unapproved GM food (“Low Level Presence“).

Stop Canada from legalizing contamination from unapproved GM foods.

Write to Agriculture Canada.
The Canadian Government is proposing to allow contamination of our food supply with genetically engineered foods that have not been approved for safe eating in Canada. Agriculture Canada has opened a comment period until November 25, 2011.

The Canadian government wants to allow a percent, 0.1% or higher, of our food to be contaminated with genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) foods that have not been approved by Health Canada for safe human consumption. The GM foods will have been approved for safety in at least one other country but not yet evaluated as safe by our own regulators. The federal government calls this “Low Level Presence” or LLP and argues that this “low level” of contamination from unapproved GM foods is not harmful.

LLP is unacceptable and unjustifiable:
– LLP is trade policy at the expense of public health. The goal of LLP is to facilitate the free flow of goods into Canada, without the restriction of safety assessment.
– LLP overthrows public health policy. LLP rejects Canada’s “science-based” regulation of GMOs because LLP assumes that GMOs are safe before evaluating the available data.
– LLP makes safety regulation irrelevant. LLP establishes an exception to the (already highly criticized and woefully inadequate) process whereby government regulators review scientific data to determine human health safety. The introduction of LLP will further undermine our international reputation for food safety as well as the confidence of Canadians in our food system.
– If LLP is introduced, it will be clear that the Canadian Government has no interest in protecting the health and safety of Canadians.

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
CBAN’s office has moved!
Suite 206, 180 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 1P5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext. 25
Fax: 613 241 2506

And here is why I am so concerned


I can’t help feeling anxious about the future of food. It’s no secret that biotech corporations are working in cahoots with governments to feed the world with genetically modified (GM) food. GM foods were introduced in 1996 and 15 years later where I live 7 out of 10 of the processed foods on the supermarket shelves contain GM ingredients.

As of January 2003 there are three GM crops grown and consumed in Canada – corn, canola and soy. These appear as ingredients such as canola oil in frozen dinners and soy lethicin in chocolate bars, and are also used for animal feed. GE soy appears as a major ingredient in infant formula, as well as an ingredient in baby cereals and baby biscuits. As yet, there are no genetically engineered animals on the food market. However, the US company A/F Protein, with research facilities in P.E.I., is genetically engineering salmon to grow faster (Pacific salmon engineered with a growth hormone from Atlantic salmon), and professors at the University of Guelph have developed the “EnviroPig” to produce less phosphorous in its excrement.

To date there is only one independent human health safety assessment of a GM food (a potato that is not on the market) that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. This is the study by Arpad Pusztai of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen that was eventually published in The Lancet. In 1998, Pusztai found that the genetically engineered potatoes he was testing severely damaged the immune system and organs of rats, showing these potatoes were significantly different from non-GE potatoes and indicating that they may be toxic. After being interviewed on British television saying that it was “very, very unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs” he was suspended and was silenced with a lawsuit.

In the case of Monsanto’s MON 88017 glyphosate-tolerant corn, Health Canada and the Canada Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA) deemed studies undertaken by Monsanto to be “a full, comprehensive and rigorous safety assessment” on which to permit “unconfined release into the environment and livestock feed use.” How can I feel reassured when I know that the corporations themselves conduct required scientific safety assessments?

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development report, authored by more than 400 scientists and backed by 58 governments, stated that “Assessment of the technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable.” My greatest concern is that it has been shown that GMOs cross-pollinate with wild species and their seeds travel, making it impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Our ancestors would turn in their graves if they knew that thousands of years of careful plant domestication was now being threatened forever.

Claims that GM crops increase yield and are needed to feed the world’s increasing population have been decried in the Union of Concerned Scientist’s 2009 report Failure to Yield. That’s because the focus is not on feeding people. GM plants have been modified in large part to withstand applications of the herbicide Roundup, and to produce Bt insecticide in plant cells, including pollen. We eat Bt toxin with every bite of Bt corn or processed food containing Bt corn.

Health problems have increased severely since GMOs were introduced. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from seven to thirteen per cent in nine years; food allergies have skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders and digestive problems are on the rise. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine tells us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.

Claims that GM crops result in less pesticide use are also false. Between 1996 and 2008 US farmers increased their use of herbicide by 383-million pounds, with 46 per cent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008. (The Organic Center, the Union for Concerned Scientists and the Center for Food Safety). Overuse of Roundup results in “super weeds,” that are resistant to the herbicide, which causes farmers to use more Roundup every year.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup is a strong immobilizer (chelator) of essential plant nutrients, as well as a powerful biocide that harms beneficial soil organisms important for nutrient recycling, N-fixation, nutrient availability and natural disease control. Consequently glyphosate has deleterious effects on the nutritional quality of the crop produced and increases disease susceptibility. (Kremer & Means, 2009; Zobiole et al, 2010). The widespread use of glyphosate is causing negative impacts on soil and plants, as well as on animal and human health.

RR soybeans treated with glyphosate showed:
Calcium 26% mineral reduction in mature grain
Magnesium 13% mineral reduction in mature grain
Iron 49% mineral reduction in mature grain
Manganese 45% mineral reduction in mature grain
(Cakmak et al 2009)

Public education campaigns have succeeded in confining almost 80 percent of GMO planting to just three countries: the United States, Brazil and Argentina. GM crops are also grown in Canada, China, Australia, Bulgaria, Colombia, Honduras, India, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, and Uruguay. (Source: National Environmental Research Council). “In more than two dozen countries, and in the European Union, they’ve passed mandatory GMO labeling. Even China requires it”. (Lappe) The Codex Alimentarius Commission of the UN has just passed a new agreement that “any country wishing to adopt GM food labeling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization.” (Consumer International, July 5, 2011).

We must take a stand and join communities around the world to declare our community a “GE-Free Zone.” Demand that your right to know what you are eating means grocery stores put “GMO-free” stickers on processed food. The GE-Free Canada campaign is a nationwide, grassroots effort by farmers, environmentalists, and Canadian citizens concerned with issues of food safety and food sovereignty. TIP: Get to know what’s being dished up on your dinner plate today by using the true food shoppers’ guide.

Carolyn Herriot is author of The ‘Zero Mile Diet’,  ‘A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food’ and ‘A Year On The Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide’ (Harbour Publishing). She grows Seeds of Victoria at The Garden Path Centre in Victoria, B.C. and is currently cooking up T’he Zero-Mile Diet Cookbook, a Seasonal Guide to Delicious Homegrown Food.