GMO-free news from Canada

05.06.2018 |

Genetically-modified salmon is now in Canada, but no one will say where

Canadians ate 4.5 tonnes of unlabelled GM salmon without knowing it this past year

The world’s first shipment of genetically-modified salmon arrived in Montreal last year. After that, it’s impossible to track where it went. Why all the secrecy?

Perched on the coast of Prince Edward Island, in Bay Fortune, a biotechnology company breeds the world’s first genetically modified fish—an Atlantic salmon containing a fish gene that allows it to grow twice as fast as its non-GM cousins. In the past year, without knowing it, Canadians ate 4.5 tonnes of the unlabelled GM fish—the world’s first batches of GM animal sold for human consumption. Where exactly? No one knew, until recently, when Vigilance OGM, a food watchdog in Quebec, obtained import documents via access to information. In a $170-billion global aquaculture industry, Canada in 2016 became the first country to allow human consumption of genetically engineered salmon. Fish-farming companies and consumer groups remained wary, partly because of the controversy around labelling and the secrecy that’s shrouded the fish since research began in Canada in the early 1990s. Since then, taxpayers have forked over $8.2 million in federal grants for the fish’s development, and the Canadian government negotiated a 10 per cent royalty for itself on GM salmon sales.

22.03.2018 |

The Bayer-Monsanto Merger is Bad News for Farmers and Everyone Else

A Bayer-Monsanto merger would mean four companies would control about 70 per cent of the world's seed markets. This is bad news for farmers, seed diversity and humanity's capacity to adapt to climate change.

This week, the European Union approved the merger between agribusiness giants Bayer and Monsanto, taking the controversial union one step closer to a reality.

A Bayer-Monsanto merger would mean four companies – accountable only to their shareholders – would control about 70 per cent of the world's seed markets. This is bad news for farmers, seed diversity and humanity's capacity to adapt to climate change.

"Seeds are the heart of our food system. If you control seeds, you control farmers and you control food," says Martin Settle, Executive Director of USC Canada. "This has repercussions for what lands on our plates. But increased corporate control over seeds also has dire consequences for seed diversity and humanity's ability to adapt to climate change."

19.03.2018 |

Health Canada gives all clear for GMO Golden Rice

After a thorough scientific assessment, the Canadian government has ruled that Golden Rice poses no greater risk to human health than rice varieties currently available on the Canadian market.

Golden Rice is the name of a rice that has been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. This beta-carotene gives the rice grains the yellowish color that has inspired its name.

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While this news is a positive step forward for Golden Rice, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has indicated that this product is not intended to be sold in Canada at this time.

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.”

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