GMO-free news from Canada

14.12.2017

Playing God: are we prepared to use gene drive technology?

New biotech advancement allows scientists to reduce and even eradicate certain species, such as weeds or disease-causing insects, prompting a significant environmental debate.

It’s a technology with incredible potential.

It’s a technology with tremendous risks.

It might put an end to malaria.

It might eliminate the need for insecticides and possibly herbicides.

It could also have tragic consequences for bats and birds.

It could have unpredictable impacts on entire ecosystems.

The technology is called gene drive.

“It is arguably the genetic technology with more social, ethical and policy implications than any other to emerge in the last decade,” Sally Otto, a University of British Columbia zoologist, wrote on the Royal Society of Canada website.

03.12.2017

Gene Drive Files reveal covert lobbying tactics to influence UN expert group

This week, a UN expert group is meeting to address issues around so-called gene drives, a highly controversial genetic extinction technology with potential applications for agricultural, conservation or military use. The expert group (officially the Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group, AHTEG, on Synthetic Biology) is convened by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

One day ahead of the meeting, a large set of documents has been released, which show how this UN expert group process is being influenced by a covert operation run by a Gates-funded lobby firm. Following Freedom of Information requests by U.S.-based researcher Edward Hammond of Prickly Research, a large set of emails, the Gene Drive Files, was obtained. The correspondence reveals how external actors with a vested interest in the development of gene drives have organised amomg themselves to influence the work of the relevant UN expert group. The publication of the Gene Drive Files provides crucial and very worrying insights into these influencing attempts of the only UN process adressing this controversial but rapidly developing new technology.

Civil society organisations, including Corporate Europe Observatory, have sent a letter to Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, calling for urgent measures to address conflict of interest in the CBD, its Protocols and subsidiary bodies.

09.11.2017

Food is culture, food is life, food is ritual: Conference examines ethics of synthetic biology

What if scientists could code DNA as easily as engineers code software? If everything from veggie burgers to opiates could be grown and synthesized completely in a lab? If data could be uploaded and stored on a strand of DNA?

With the advent of new genetic technologies, these questions are no longer hypothetical.

A conference hosted by the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches that ran from November 2-4 in Toronto, Ont., aimed to address new technologies and examine the ethics of the field of “synthetic biology.”

A panel discussion, entitled “Redesigning Life: Synthetic Biology, New Genetic Engineering and Ethics,” took place Friday evening, November 3, as part of the conference, “Redesigning the Tree of Life: Synthetic Biology and the Future of Food.”

11.08.2017

Canada: 4.5 tonnes of unmarked genetically modified salmon fillets sold

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- It appears Canadians were among the first diners in the world to eat a genetically modified animal -- and they likely didn't know it.

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Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, said news of the sales without advance public notice is alarming.

"It's shocking," she said from Ottawa. "Canadians are the first in the world to eat this genetically modified fish, the world's first genetically modified food animal, and they did so unknowingly. And even now that we know (it's) on the market in Canada, we don't know where or how much."

Sharratt said genetically modified foods aren't linked to specific health issues. Still, she described a gaping lack of public information.

"For 20 years, genetically modified foods have been introduced with no transparency in the marketplace but, equally, no transparency in regulation. There's very little public science. There's very little government science.

"Canadians are being asked to trust corporate data and a process that is not open for them to look at."

Sharratt said AquaBounty has moved to expand its research and egg production site in P.E.I. with a new "genetically modified fish factory" at Rollo Bay in the province.

10.08.2017

Guinea pig Canadians offered ‘world’s first’ GMO salmon

Food safety activists and environmentalists are concerned over the potential risks from a new US brand of genetically-modified salmon, which has just hit Canadian shelves. Some believe Canadians are being used as guinea pigs for potentially harmful technology.

After trying for two decades, AquaBounty Technologies’ GM salmon was finally approved for sale in Canada in 2016, which led to the most recent developments.

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IGA and Costco supermarkets posted on their websites that they do not intend to sell the salmon.

Environmentalist groups are outraged by the new product.

The Montreal-based organization GMO Vigilance has stated on their website that the sale of the salmon in Canada makes Canadians “guinea pigs,” and they believe that the government should introduce legislation that requires GM foods to be labeled appropriately.

"It's a world first … The first genetically modified animal is on the market, and consumers in Quebec and Canada will become the first guinea-pigs unknowingly. In the absence of mandatory labeling we still cannot make an informed choice,” Thibault Rehn, a coordinator at GMO Vigilance, said, according to CNBC.

09.08.2017

Canadians unknowingly eating GM food 

Canada has become the first country where a genetically modified animal is sold for human consumption, and Canadians may have unwittingly been eating it over the past year.

In its latest earnings statement, AquaBounty Technologies Inc., a U.S.-based biotechnology company that holds the licence to produce the GM fish at a hatchery in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, reported that about 4.5 tonnes of "fresh AquAdvantage Salmon fillets” have been sold in Canada in the second quarter of 2017.

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The company did not indicate where the fish is sold or respond to an interview request.

Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Ottawa-based Canadian Biotechnology Action Network that has called for mandatory labelling of genetically engineered food, said that while some major Canadian grocery chains have no plans to sell the GM salmon, it could have ended up in smaller stores or on restaurant menus.

“Because there’s no labelling in Canada, Canadians who have been buying salmon, haven’t had a choice,’ she said. “There’s no transparency in the grocery store for Canadians. Canada is an easy market for GM salmon.”

28.06.2017

World’s First GM Fish Factory Needs Risk Assessment

PEI Approval of Rollo Bay facility puts wild salmon at risk, groups say

Charlottetown, June 27, 2017: Today, local and national environmental groups expressed profound concern over a decision by the Government of Prince Edward Island to approve construction of the world’s first factory to grow genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) fish.

“GM salmon poses a major risk to wild salmon, yet there has been no federal scientific assessment of the commercial production of this organism,” said Mark Butler of Ecology Action Centre. “A recent parliamentary report raised serious concerns about the approval process for GM animals and the federal minister of the Environment needs to step in right away.”

23.05.2017

GMO potatoes will not be grown commercially on P.E.I. this season - Prince Edward Island

There will be no commercially grown GMO potatoes on Prince Edward Island this year, according to Simplot Plant Sciences, the company that developed the Innate potato.

Innate potatoes bruise less and have less black spots than conventional potatoes.

New genetically engineered potato approved for Canada

Doug Cole, director of marketing and communications, said the company is holding off allowing commercial growth of Innate potatoes in Canada until there's a proven market for them.

"There is strong interest from the grower community and retailers are also interested. But it's a very involved purchase decision," said Cole.

17.05.2017

Groups Call on Grocery Stores to Reject GM Fish and Produce as Parliament Votes Down Mandatory Labelling for GM Foods

Ottawa, May 17, 2017 – Public interest groups the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and Vigilance OGM, are expressing profound disappointment that Members of Parliament voted down Private Member’s Bill C-291 for mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) foods.

Polls over twenty years consistently show that over 75 percent of Canadians want GM foods labelled. Health Canada’s 2016 survey put this number at 78 percent.

“Transparency and traceability are missing in Canada when it comes to GM foods,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. “The continued lack of mandatory labelling is an untenable situation for consumers.”

07.05.2017

U of S, prof under fire for Monsanto ties Documents show agri-business coached Peter Phillips, edited academic articles

The University of Saskatchewan and one of its well-known professors are acting like "sock puppets" for agri-business giant Monsanto, says a U.S. researcher.

Gary Ruskin of U.S. Right to Know has obtained thousands of pages documenting North American university ties to corporations involved in genetic engineering.

Ruskin recently shared with CBC News nearly 700 pages of U of S emails and other material. Ruskin said the documents show Monsanto has recruited a team of top academics in a "Machiavellian" effort to sway public opinion.