Here are 4 simple “DDDD uhhhh” reasons to label GM foods. With backup.

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  • Only GM companies are at the table

    A company that wants to sell a “novel food” is supposed to establish the food is “safe for consumption” (Food and Drug Regs, Div 28). But the process only requires the company to make a submission under the Guidelines for the Safety Assessment of Novel Foods. No third party is asked for information or involved in the process.

  • No government tests for safety

    The feds don’t do their own tests, or even require testing. They just ask the company to provide information used to establish the safety of the novel food. The process deems a food safe if it is “substantially equivalent” to its natural counterpart, based on certain criteria. After that, there is no risk assessment and the differences aren’t looked at.

  • Company tests are secret & too short

    Even if the company does provide tests, they are inadequate to establish safety. The tests follow the 2003 CODEX Guidelines, which require 90 day tests: but at least 2 years are needed to show toxicity.

    Further, the feds say the information can’t be reviewed by the public because it is “Confidential Business Information”. This is questionable because Access to Information Act (in 20(6)) allows disclosure if it’s in the public interest as it relates to health.. and this outweighs the business importance to the company.

    For more info: CBAN’s “Are GM Crops and Foods Well Regulated?”


  • GM foods are different

    GM foods aren’t equivalent to their natural counterparts. The GM process forces a gene from a different species plus other “make it work” components into the product. This does not occur in nature or with historical techniques of plant breeding. Also typical methods are very crude: the gene cassettes are either “blasted” into a substance or transferred by a bacterium, in the hopes that something will stick.

    With GM, the expression of proteins and the pathways in a substance are altered, sometimes completely new substances are created, and there can be an increase or decrease in certain properties.  The GM Salmon had higher levels of the growth hormone IGF-1 (tied to several common cancers), and showed a statistically significant increase in allergen content.  These changes aren’t predictable per se and proper long-term testing is needed to assess them. But “substantial equivalence” prevents this.

  • Unintended, adverse effects can happen

    The fact that unintended effects do occur is not disputed.  Even gene editing with the new CRISPR Cas-9 tool admits to “off-target” effects. Proponents say don’t worry about it  because “no harm has been shown for 20 years, so GM is safe”. But this misses the point:

    1. First, the law says it is for the proponents to establish safety of the product, not for safety groups to prove there has been harm.
    2. Second, it is not easy to show harm and health problems if GM foods aren’t traceable, and haven’t been for 20 years.
    3.  Third, harm has been shown. There is strong evidence that genetic modification of the supplement L-Tryptophan caused many deaths.


  • Canadians are intelligent

    Health Canada recently commissioned a report to “gauge Canadians views” on GM foods, and it was found that: “[c]onsumers’ understanding and impressions of GM foods could be described as not that well formed, as demonstrated by the lack of detailed knowledge that was evident in the focus groups” (at p.6).

    But perhaps Canadians ARE intelligent when it comes to GM, and we don’t need “detailed knowledge”. The Report was clear:
    (1) “Consumers are simply not convinced that GM foods are as safe or safer, as tasty or tastier, or as nutritious or more nutritious relative to comparable non-GM foods (at p.5); and
    (2) that unless there is an answer to the question “Why GM foods?”, “consumers see little need to take what they view as unnecessary risks to their health, and the environment, without a solid case being made in regards to the benefits….” (at p.4).

  • We want to know what’s in our food

    The Report indicated participants want to “be able to make informed choices, based on information”(at 6). We want the information.

  • Support transparency & consumer choice

    The Report indicated “[t]here was a prevailing belief …that  there should be greater transparency to consumers and… many questioned why government … should be resistant to providing consumers with more information that would help them make more informed decisions” (at 6). We want the information to make our own intelligent decisions for ourselves.

    4. DO YOUR JOB

  • Canadians want labelling (over 80%)

    Over 80% of Canadians want mandatory labelling of GM foods, and polls show this has been the case for over 20 years. The job of government is to serve Canadians. The Prime Minister, in his “Real Change” platform document, stated “Liberal Caucus members in a government led by Justin Trudeau will only be required to vote with the Cabinet on three different measures”, which did not include mandatory labelling.  So Members of Parliament should do their jobs and vote for mandatory labelling because Canadians want it.

  • Ensure safety is established

    In the first debate on labelling this year, on March 10, 2017, some MPs argued that GM is not a health or safety issue, and that it is therefore not the government’s job to get companies to label. But we have seen that safety has not been established adequately, so it is a safety issue. Further, labelling has been required even when safety has not been at stake: eg. irradiated beef got a label just because consumers had concerns about irradiation.

  • Or label as an ingredient

    Also, the Food and Drugs Act requires that labels disclose all ingredients and components of foods, and Section 5.1 requires labelling in a way that is not “misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding .. character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety”. The essential facts about the properties or composition of a food are to be disclosed. A GM ingredient is a different ingredient, and an essential fact about a food’s character and composition. It should be labelled.