Fire / Feu

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 alimentaire.



What can we do?
Listing of contacts
to write, fax and email

Genetically Engineered
Foods are Here
What can we do?

Richard Wolfson, PhD
Biotech writer for Alive magazine,
Director of the Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
May 1999


h.gif (298 bytes)undreds 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.


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(photo: unknown)


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 human genes.

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 engineered foods.

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.

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(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 effects.

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.


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(photo: Mothers for Natural Law)

Further information on genetically engineering and its hazards.
Visit this website by clicking here

Or click here for recent genetic engineering news articles.

For a more scientific discussion with references, see the article "Will genetically engineered crops mean infected food, bodies, and ecosystems?"   by Dr. Michael W. Fox, Senior Scholar in Bioethics, at the website of  The Humane Society of the United States.


What Canadians Can Do:
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