By vast

Published: January 28, 2020

Category: GMO 2.0, The Organic & Non-GMO Report Newsletter

Genetically modified foods splashed on the market in the 1990s, promising solutions to world hunger, yield shortfalls, and pesticide overuse. Although Health Canada and the World Health Organization insist they are not harmful, only 37 percent of Canadians agreed strongly in a 2018 poll, and an overwhelming majority wants GMO labeling. Now gene-editing technology has emerged with similar promises; instead of adding foreign material, the tool “cuts” or “turns off” genes in a plant to produce a desired trait.

“With gene editing, we now have the ability to fine-tune at will,” said Zach Lippman, who grows cherry tomatoes for urban agriculture using the CRISPR tool. “So instead of having black or white…you can have everything in between.”

The only gene-edited product currently available is a soybean oil used in a U.S. restaurant, boasting a longer shelf life and no trans fats.

Ian Affleck of CropLife Canada sees the need to turn the tide on public attitudes disfavoring gene-edited foods. But critics including Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network are adamant that caution is imperative.

“The new techniques of gene editing are clearly techniques of genetic engineering,” she said. “They are all invasive methods of changing a genome directly at the molecular level. There can be many unintended effects.”

Canada has no plans to require mandatory labeling of gene-edited foods (and GMOs are not labeled). Jonathan Latham of the Bioscience Resource Project sees that as a mistake. “If you want people to make informed decisions …the more information you give them, the better. “To deny people information about the content of their food is to violate a very basic democratic right.”

Sharratt is doubtful that gene editing will fulfill its promises, just as GMO has failed to do.

Source: CBC Radio

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