Richard Wolfson, PhD
Genetically engineered super salmon are being grown in huge tanks in West Vancouver. They grow about eight times faster-and as much as 37 times larger-than normal salmon.
Frankenfish Invade Canada
Genetically engineered super salmon are being grown in huge tanks in West Vancouver. They grow about eight times faster--and as much as 37 times larger–than normal salmon. European media report that millions of fish from fish farms in Europe and North America have already escaped into the Atlantic. Environmentalists are concerned if biotech fish escape (which seems inevitable) because research shows that transgenic fish are much more aggressive and can out-eat wild stocks. "They’ve got a revved-up metabolism. They’re hungry all the time," says Dr Robert Devlin at the government lab in West Vancouver.
Illegally Exported GE Crops
Recent spot checks show that the US has been illegally shipping genetically engineered corn to Russia. Several months ago, the Russian government issued legislation requiring permits based on ecological assessment before genetically engineered (GE) crops can be imported into the country. However, a US company shipped GE corn to Russia without such a permit. The environmental group Greenpeace also reported that Canada exported biotech potatoes to Ukraine, ignoring the domestic laws, which require prior environmental impact assessment.
With the increased dependence on genetically engineered crops, the world is rapidly losing genetic diversity in crops, and this could have catastrophic effects. John Tuxill, author of the WorldWatch Genetic Diversity Study, said, "We are increasingly skilful at moving genes around, but only nature can create them. If a plant bearing a unique genetic trait disappears, there is no way to get it back."
International GE Lawsuit
Activists and farmers from 30 countries have launched an international lawsuit against the world’s biggest life science companies. The suit claims that biotech companies are unfairly exploiting genetic technology to gain control of global agricultural markets. According to professor Sebastian Pinheiro of the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil, "Transnational companies such as Monsanto and Dupont are not worried about world hunger or the quality of life of the rest of humanity. They want power, to dominate the politics of food and are merely driven by commercial interests. Genetically-modified crops represent an economic threat to agriculture and put humanity’s survival at risk."
Following consumer outcry and pressure from the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto announced that it would not commercialize the controversial "terminator" gene technology, which sterilizes seeds, forcing farmers to buy new seeds each year. To the apparent surprise of Monsanto, professor Gordon Conway, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and former vice-chancellor of Sussex University, argued that the possible adverse consequences for billions of developing world farmers outweighs any financial or social benefits from the technology.
Increased Pesticides Limits
The UK government recently increased by 200 times the allowable levels of pesticide in soy destined for consumption. Malcolm Kane, retired head of food safety at Sainsbury’s, warned that the increase in allowable pesticide residues was made solely to help the biotech industry. Biotech soy is genetically engineered to withstand higher doses of pesticide, which allows increased spraying of toxic chemicals.
Canadian Campaign Begins
Canada’s largest grocery chain, Loblaws, has been targeted by a national campaign spearheaded by Greenpeace, the Council of Canadians, and the Sierra Club. Consumers are being informed of the potential risks of genetically engineered food, and are encouraged to demand labeling. Canadians are denied the same rights as consumers in Europe, where at least 10 international food companies have removed modified ingredients from products, but refuse to do the same in Canada.
Voluntary Labeling in Canada
In response to mounting public concern about genetically engineered foods, the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors along with the Canadian General Standards Board are developing a voluntary system of labeling GE foods. Environmental and public advocacy groups, who call for mandatory labeling, recognize that allowing industry to voluntarily label GE foods is inadequate.