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GMO Wizardry

Tinkering with nature to market perfection

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GMO Wizardry

Want just the perfect fresh fillet of salmon for your special dinner? Looking for that perfect, unblemished fruit for dessert? Well, it may soon be possible, thanks to GMO wizardry, to have both. But do we really want this kind of “perfection”?

We’ve all been schooled about how to carefully inspect each item in the produce display case so we can be sure we’re buying only the most perfect. Well, soon enough, if biotech agri-companies with their genetically modified wares have their way, we won’t have to choose—because it’ll all be “perfect.”

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What exactly is GM wizardry?

Genetic modification, or engineering, means that scientists change the traits of plants and animals by inserting new genetic material, often from many different organisms, or by deleting or moving DNA sequences around.

Directly changing the genetic makeup of organisms is dramatically different from traditional breeding, and there are ongoing scientific investigations about the possible risks.

There are also public concerns about the environmental and social impacts, and even ethical questions, and yet GM products are in grocery stores now, unidentified, because in Canada there is no regulation compelling manufacturers to label GM or GM-containing foods.

How can I avoid buying GMOs?

  • Avoid processed foods with corn, canola, and soy ingredients. This will remove most GM foods.
  • Buy organic. Genetic modification is prohibited in organic farming:
  • Buy cane sugar or organic sugar, to avoid sugar from GM sugar beets.
  • Buy organic sweet corn or sweet corn from local farmers who can tell you if they plant GM.
  • Buy organic meats and dairy products (nonorganic farm animals are often fed a steady diet of GM corn, canola, and/or soy).
  • If you’re unsure, the Canada Organic logo identifies all certified organic products.
  • Avoid GM cotton: Buy organic cotton clothes and bedding where possible, as well as organic feminine hygiene products.
  • Choose products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal.
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GM crops grown in Canada

Crop
Where on shelves
corncorn flakes; corn chips; cornstarch; corn syrup; corn oil, and other corn ingredients in processed foods; sweeteners like glucose and fructose; eggs, milk, and meat*; some sweet corn
canolacanola oil; eggs, milk, and meat*
soysoy oil; soy protein; soy lecithin; tofu; soy beverages; eggs, milk, and meat*
sugar beetsugar
alfalfaeggs, milk, and meat*

*Many animals used to produce eggs, milk, and meat are fed corn, canola, soy, and/or alfalfa.

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GM foods imported to Canada

Crop
Where on shelves
cottonseed oilcottonseed oil; vegetable oil in processed foods
papayapapaya in fruit juices and other processed foods
squashsome zucchini; yellow crookneck squash; and straightneck squash
milk products (bovine growth hormone)milk solids and powder; frozen desserts with dairy; imported drinks with milk ingredients; some cheese

Details at cban.ca/gmfoods

A perfect apple?

Normally, when you cut into or bruise an apple, the process of oxidation begins. Enzymes in the apple—called polyphenol oxidase, or PPO—drive the oxidation process that will eventually cause browning.

But a Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), is betting on our need for perfection when it comes to cut or sliced apples. They’ve genetically “silenced” the PPO genes of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples to create a non-browning apple. The “Arctic Apple” has made it through regulatory approvals both here and in the US.

Now a wholly owned subsidiary of US biotechnology company Intrexon, OSF has been test marketing their Arctic Golden packaged slices in 10 US stores this year with hopes of stocking Canadian and US produce shelves in the next few years.

How will you know if those perfect apple slices you pick up are from GM apples? You won’t. Nothing on the label will identify them as GM. You’ll only know if you remember the name: Arctic Apple.

On the market now—GM salmon!

A recent press release from Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) announced the news that AquaBounty, a US-majority owned biotechnology company revealed on August 4, 2017, in its quarterly financial results, that it has sold approximately five tonnes of genetically modified Atlantic salmon fillets in Canada.

This is the world’s first sale of GM fish for human consumption and has occurred without GM product labelling for Canadian consumers.

According to CBAN, the salmon has been genetically engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature). The company says its “AquAdvantage” salmon grow to market-size twice as fast as other farmed salmon.

“No one except AquaBounty knows where the GM salmon are,” says Sharratt. “The company did not disclose where the GM salmon fillets were sold or for what purpose, and we’re shocked to discover that they’ve entered the market at this time.”

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