Les produits alimentaires nés de la génétique sont dans les magasins. Que peut-on faire
Des centaines de produits qui comprennent des ingrédients manipulés par la
génétique ont trouvé leur place sur les étagères des magasins canadiens. Il n'y a
aucun renseignement sur les emballages pour nous en avertir. Richard Wolfson explique ce
qu'est le génie génétique, traite des effets inconnus des processus de production
anormaux et nous dit comment nous pouvons éviter les produits alimentaires qui en
découlent. M. Wolfson nous donne également des indications utiles qui nous aideront - et
qui aideront nos générations futures - à nous protéger contre ce phénomène
What can we do?
Listing of contacts
to write, fax and email
Foods are Here
What can we do?
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Biotech writer for Alive magazine,
Director of the Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
of foods with genetically engineered ingredients are already in Canadian stores. There is
no way for consumers to identify them, as these foods are not labelled.
Genetic engineering in agriculture (also called biotechnology) is fundamentally
different from traditional agricultural methods, such as hybridization of plants or
selective breeding with animals.
Genetic engineering is genetic surgery. This high tech process allows taking genes from
one species and inserting them into an entirely different species, even transferring genes
between plants and animals. Genes from bacteria, viruses, animals, and even humans have
been inserted into plants. In Calgary, scientists are growing canola plants that contain
Once they hear about genetic engineering, many people are adverse to it. A major
concern from scientists is that we do not know the long-term effects of eating genetically
These scientists, such as Dr. David Suzuki, recommend that it would be wiser to test
genetically engineered foods for their long-term effects on human health and on the
environment before allowing them on the market. Yet, due to pressure from industry, many
genetically engineered foods have been approved for sale in Canada.
In Europe, the British Medical Association (115,000 physicians) has urged a moratorium
on all genetically engineered foods until more research can be done to determine their
safety. Many major food chains in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, have removed
genetically engineered foods from their stores or from their own brands. The stores did
this in response to concerns from consumers, scientists, doctors, and environmentalists.
Scientists are concerned about increased allergenicity or toxicity from eating
genetically engineered foods. In genetically engineered foods, genes and proteins are
combined in ways that have never before been part of the human diet. Therefore, no one can
predict the long-term effects.
As genes interact with each other in unknown ways, inserted foreign genes could
interfere with normal biological processes. Perhaps carcinogens will be produced, or the
nutritional value will be reduced.
In one case, a genetically engineered soybean turned out to be highly allergenic to
people with nut allergies. This soybean, which looked exactly like any other soybean,
could have killed people if it had not been, by chance, tested, recognized as harmful, and
then kept off the market.
(photo: Consumers Association of Canada)
The main genetically engineered foods
already on the market in Canada are soy, corn, canola, potatoes, and tomatoes.
In 1989, a genetically engineered food supplement (tryptophan) that was put on the market
turned out to be toxic. About fifty people in United States of America died, and thousands
were permanently disabled. There is still debate about exactly what went wrong. Rather
than playing roulette, why not test biotech foods first rather than fast-tracking them to
the market for the sake of industry profit?
The unknown effects of biotech foods on the environment are another major concern.
Recently, pollen from genetically engineered corn was seen to kill monarch butterflies
that fed on the pollen. (Milkweed, which the monarchs feed on, is often dusted with pollen
from nearby corn plants.)
In another case, genetically engineered bacteria escaped into the environment and made
a whole field infertile, so nothing would grow. Another problem is herbicide-resistant
weeds that result from the cross-pollination of (herbicide-resistant) genetically
engineered crops with wild weeds, and create ecological havoc.
Insect-resistant biotech crops have backfired and resulted in pesticide-resistant
super-bugs, insect pests that are immune to pesticides and cannot be controlled. The
potential for ecological damage from the irresponsible introduction of genetically
engineered crops is virtually unlimited.
As pointed out by Prince Charles, a very vocal opponent of genetic engineering, through
this unnatural process we are playing God. Through genetic engineering, we are essentially
creating entirely new species of plants and animals, and we just do not know the long-term
The main genetically engineered foods already on the market in Canada are soy, corn,
canola, potatoes, and tomatoes. These are the main cash crops. From soybeans, soy flour,
soy oil, and other soy products are produced, which are then used in hundreds of other
foods ranging from bread and cereals to infant formulas. From corn, corn starch, corn
meal, and corn sweeteners are produced, which go into hundreds of other foods. Canola oil
is also used in hundreds of prepackaged products.
One way to avoid genetically engineered foods is to buy certified organic foods.
Organic regulations forbid the use of genetically engineered seeds.
Consumers are also encouraged to contact their local food outlets and national food
chains, write letters to newspapers, and contact their political and community leaders,
saying that they do not want to eat genetically engineered foods. As this type of campaign
was very successful in Europe in getting genetically engineered foods off the market, it
can also work here.
We need to be vocal, not placid. We need to stand up for what we believe, and protect
the safety of our food supply -- for the sake of ourselves and for future generations. We
are the only ones that can do it.
What Canadians Can