A recent letter asserted that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – involving mostly plants – provide safe food sources. Food quality is vitally important to our health; a sceptical view of such assertions is wise. GMO examples are herbicide (e.g. Roundup) resistance in canola, allowing weed competition to be eliminated by crop spraying with herbicide; others occur in soya and corn. GMOs are produced by very different technology from conventional cross-breeding and selection. A gene is transferred, with an antibiotic resistance marker plus a powerful ‘on’ switch, from one species into a second. Inserted herbicide resistance is then inherited in the recipient’s future generations.
Note that crosses between different species are virtually impossible in conventional breeding.
Claims that there are no other GMO vs non-GMO differences are contradicted by independent studies. Changes causing, for example allergic effects, organ damage, or transfer of inserted genetic material to microbes in the consumer, are currently unscreened; no independent, rigorous human safety testing occurs. Herbicide residues in GMO crops/products, and herbicide impacts on the whole farm and neighbouring environments, are unscreened. GMO yield superiority is very contentious, and well-documented transfer of herbicide resistance to weeds occurs. Cross pollination by wind/insects of adjacent non-GMO crops results in contamination of these crops, seriously affecting non-GMO growers’ stocks and businesses. Government GMO licensing decisions rely solely on biotechnology industry data; detailed information on industry procedures/results is unavailable for independent public scrutiny. Much more can be said, particularly about glaring conflicts of interest.
Given the value of scepticism in many areas today, the mandatory labelling in Canada of food products from GMO sources – already available for masses of consumers elsewhere – will be a progressive move. Consumer choice is apparently a cornerstone of free market capitalism.