GMO-free news from Canada

04.10.2019 |

Highlight negative results to improve science

Publishers, reviewers and other members of the scientific community must fight science’s preference for positive results — for the benefit of all, says Devang Mehta.

Near the end of April, my colleagues and I published an unusual scientific paper — one reporting a failed experiment — in Genome Biology. Publishing my work in a well-regarded peer-reviewed journal should’ve been a joyous, celebratory event for a newly minted PhD holder like me. Instead, trying to navigate through three other journals and countless revisions before finding it a home at Genome Biology has revealed to me one of the worst aspects of science today: its toxic definitions of ‘success’.

Our work started as an attempt to use the much-hyped CRISPR gene-editing tool to make cassava (Manihot esculenta) resistant to an incredibly damaging viral disease, cassava mosaic disease. (Cassava is a tropical root crop that is a staple food for almost one billion people.) However, despite previous reports that CRISPR could provide viral immunity to plants by disrupting viral DNA, our experiments consistently showed the opposite result.

In fact, our paper also showed that using CRISPR as an ‘immune system’ in plants probably led to the evolution of viruses that were more resistant to CRISPR. And although this result was scientifically interesting, it wasn’t the ‘positive’ result that applied scientists like me are taught to value. I had set off on my PhD trying to engineer plants to be resistant to viral diseases, and instead, four years later, I had good news for only the virus.

11.06.2019 |

First Canadian case of insect resistance to GM Bt corn discovered

Farmers in Nova Scotia have found that the European corn borer has developed resistance to the GM trait designed to kill it

In Nova Scotia, corn farmers are observing that the European corn borer, an insect pest, has developed resistance to the genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) trait designed to kill it.

This is the first report in the world of the European corn borer (ECB) developing resistance to a genetically engineered trait used to confer insect resistance. It is also the first report in Canada of any insect pest developing resistance to a genetically engineered trait. The development of resistance in other insect pests targeted by Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) traits in corn has been observed in the US, South Africa and Brazil. Additionally, in the US and other countries, some cotton pests have also developed resistance to Bt cotton traits.

“This is an important reminder that nature can adapt to and overcome genetically engineered traits,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

The Canadian Corn Pest Coalition reported that some ECB populations have developed resistance to the Cry1F protein, which is one of at least eight genetically engineered Bt proteins used in Canada in genetically engineered insect-resistant corn.

31.05.2019 |

Are New Genetically Modified Techniques the Future of Food and Farming?

I first met Jim Thomas, Co-Director of the ETC Group, at a Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Funders conference. Jim had been tracking emerging technologies and their intersection with food and agriculture for some time. When I first heard him speak, in his lilting almost playful cadence, about something called “synthetic biology,” my ears perked up.

He was talking about a new form of genetic engineering that can alter genetics on a worldwide scale – one with little or no government oversight.

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Gene Drives is a controversial technology that changes an organism so that it will ALWAYS pass on those genetically engineered traits to all future generations. Future generations, in turn, will pass it on until it changes the entire population forever.

Imagine the power to change the genetics of entire populations – we now have that power.

With gene drives, we can change or even eradicate entire species from the planet.

29.03.2019 |

Canada doesn’t label GMO foods even though 88% of us say we should

GMOs are on the market, but not labelled in Canada

In the late 1990s, the first genetically modified organisms (GMOs) came on the market. They were genetically engineered for two main reasons: to create insecticidal crops (i.e. plants that produce their own insecticide) and to make plants that can survive herbicide spraying.

My mom was skeptical about the industry’s promise of higher yields and reduced need for pesticides. She wanted to learn more, and her insatiable curiosity was contagious. I soon found myself exchanging books with her, attending conferences and learning as much as I could about these new foods. But it was only after living in Europe for two years, where the law mandates that GMOs be clearly labelled on food products, that I began to ask why, if they are labelled in 64 countries around the world, we don’t do the same here in Canada.

26.03.2019 |

Media Release: New Report Documents Impacts of GM Contamination in Canada

New Report Documents Impacts of GM Contamination in Canada

Groups call for deregistration of genetically modified alfalfa

March 26, 2019 – Regina.

Since genetically modified (GM) crops were introduced into Canadian agriculture almost 25 years ago, GM contamination has had significant economic consequences, according to a report published today by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and the SaskOrganics’ Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF) Committee. The report calls for action to prevent future contamination incidents.

“GM Contamination in Canada: The failure to contain living modified organisms – incidents and impacts” documents the details and impacts of all the known contamination incidents in Canada involving GM crops and animals. The costs of GM contamination and escape incidents include the temporary or permanent loss of export markets, lower crop prices, the loss of access to grow a particular crop, and the loss of some farm-saved seed.

22.03.2019 |

Weed killer residues found in 98 percent of Canadian honey samples

Study is the latest evidence that glyphosate herbicides are so pervasive that residues can be found in foods not produced by farmers using glyphosate.

As U.S. regulators continue to dance around the issue of testing foods for residues of glyphosate weed killers, government scientists in Canada have found the pesticide in 197 of 200 samples of honey they examined.

The authors of the study, all of whom work for Agri-Food Laboratories at the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, said the prevalence of glyphosate residues in honey samples - 98.5 percent - was higher than what was reported in several similar studies done over the last five years in other countries.

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The Canadian report, published in a journal called Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, said that glyphosate is currently an active ingredient in 181 herbicides registered for use in Canada and its widespread use has made it commonly found in the environment.

The study authors pointed out that Canada, like the United States, does not have a legal standard for how much of the herbicide is considered safe in honey. Regulators in different countries set what are referred to as "maximum residue limits" (MRLs) and tell consumers their food is safe if pesticide residues remain below the MRLs. In Europe, the MRL for glyphosate in honey is 0.05 mg/kg, also expressed as 50 μg/kg.

14.03.2019 |

New cause for concern over weedkiller glyphosate

Study examines how herbicide adds to phosphorus levels in soil and waterways

New research from McGill University reveals an overlooked impact that the widely used herbicide glyphosate may be having on the environment.

First commercialized by Monsanto under the name Roundup, glyphosate has come under scrutiny in the past, mostly in relation to its potential toxicity. This new research, published recently in the Ecological Society of America’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, focuses not on direct health risks associated with the herbicide, but on its contribution to environmental phosphorus levels, an issue that has yet to receive much attention.

“No one has thus far investigated the impact of glyphosate use on phosphorus loads in agricultural areas, most likely because pesticides have always been considered a negligible source of nutrients,” says Marie-Pier Hébert, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Biology at McGill University.

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“Our study argues that the recent and rapid rise in glyphosate use has magnified its relative importance as a source of anthropogenic phosphorus, especially in areas of intensive corn, soybean and cotton cultivation,” Hébert says.

07.12.2018 |

GMO-free food and drinks launches up 366% in Canada - research

The number of food and drinks products claiming GMO-free status has risen dramatically over the last ten years in the Canadian market.

According to Mintel's Global New Product Database, there was a 366% increase in 'GMO-free' claims on natural food/drink launches in Canada from 2007-17. Products claiming 'no additives/preservatives' grew 21%.

At the same time, Mintel said less specific claims such as 'all natural product' declined 62% in the same time period.

07.12.2018 |

GMO-free food & drinks launches up 366% in Canada

The number of food and drinks products claiming GMO-free status has risen dramatically over the last ten years in the Canadian market.

According to Mintel's Global New Product Database, there was a 366% increase in 'GMO-free' claims on natural food/drink launches in Canada from 2007-17. Products claiming 'no additives/preservatives' grew 21%.

At the same time, Mintel said less specific claims such as 'all natural product' declined 62% in the same time period.

26.11.2018 |

KAP resolution says keep glyphosate-tolerant wheat out

Monsanto shelved Roundup Ready wheat in 2004 but its spectre still haunts some Manitoba farmers.

Delegates attending the Keystone Agriculture Producers’ (KAP) advisory council meeting here Nov. 12 passed a resolution for KAP to lobby the federal government to “disallow the testing, funding, importation and introduction of glyphosate-tolerant wheat in Canada.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) June announcement that a few wheat plants genetically modified (GM) to tolerate glyphosate were discovered in a ditch in Alberta prompted the resolution from KAP’s District 3, Starbuck farmer Doug Livingston explained when moving the resolution.

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