Stop Genetically Modifying Foods

Stop Genetically Modifying Foods

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Stop Genetically Modifying Foods
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Will those genetically modified soy beans make you sick?

by  on Monday, July 11, 2011 as in macleans.ca
Photo by Karen Eliot/Flickr

The Statement: “To date, Health Canada has not identified health risks associated with GM foods that have been approved for sale in Canada.” (Stephane Shank, Health Canada spokesperson, 07/05/2011)

Codex Alimentarius Commission—a group of the world’s food safety regulatory agencies—reached consensus last week on new guidelines that will make it easier for food makers to label products with genetically-modified ingredients. The new guidelines are voluntary, though, so don’t expect advertisements about GMOs on the box of your favourite breakfast cereal anytime soon. And part of the reason Canada has not moved to mandatory labeling of GM foods is because, as Stephane Shank put it, “To date, Health Canada has not identified health risks associated with GM foods.”

So, is GM food really safe?

We called Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, a researcher in food distribution and safety at the University of Guelph, to find out. He told Science-ish, “There is no scientific evidence out there that would suggest GM seeds or foods that contain GMOs have health risks to consumers.” Dr. Charlebois did add this note of caution: the key phrase in Shank’s statement was ‘to date.’ “GMOs have only been accessible or readily available to consumers since 1994, so that’s 17 years ago. That’s not a whole lot of time for us to fully appreciate the risks around GMOs.”

Discourse around genetically modified organisms—defined by the WHO as “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally”—has been a political and scientific battlefield. As a 2009 Nature news feature pointed out, “No one gets into research on genetically modified (GM) crops looking for a quiet life. Those who develop such crops face the wrath of anti-biotech activists who vandalize field trials and send hate mail… [Those] who suggest that biotech crops might have harmful environmental effects are learning to expect attacks of a different kind. These strikes are launched from within the scientific community and can sometimes be emotional and personal…” [more]

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