Canola! Seeds of Innovation - A Conversation Starter

Canola! Seeds of Innovation

What are people saying about genetically engineered (GE) crops and . . .

  1. Health
  2. Farming
  3. The Environment

1. What people are saying about genetically engineered (GE) crops and health?

A.
Since the introduction of GE crops some 20 years ago, more than 900 studies have been published by scientists, researchers, and agricultural and industry experts. According to this data, current GE foods pose no greater health risk than non-GE foods.

Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2016)
Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects
http://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/

B.
The federal government is responsible for food safety in Canada, including review and approval of new GE foods.

Source: Health Canada (2015)
Frequently Asked Questions—Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Foods
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/

C.
When assessing GE crops, the federal government relies on research generated by academia and industry; it does not conduct its own independent studies.

Source: Thomas Moran, Nola M. Ries and David Castle (2009)
“A Cause of Action for Regulatory Negligence? The Regulatory Framework for Genetically Modified Crops in Canada and the Potential for Regulator Liability,” University of Ottawa Law & Technology Journal, 6/1-2:1-21.
http://www.uoltj.ca/articles/vol6.1-2/2009.6.1-2.uoltj.Moran .1-23.pdf

2. What are people saying about genetically engineered (GE) crops and farming?

A.
Herbicides eliminate weeds, allowing herbicide-tolerant crops to flourish. This allows farmers to use the land more efficiently. In 2007, data from nearly 600 Canadian farmers showed that the use of herbicide-tolerant varieties of canola had dramatically reduced both tillage and herbicide use.

Sources:
Canola Council of Canada (2016)
Canadian Canola Biotechnology
http://www.canolacouncil.org/css/innovation-biotech/assets/Canola-Biotech-Report.pdf

S.J. Smyth, Michael Gusta, Kenneth Belcher, Peter W.B. Phillips, and David Castle (2011)
“Environmental impacts from herbicide tolerant canola production in Western Canada,” Agricultural Systems, 104/5:403-410.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227411166

G. Brookes and P. Barfoot (April 2015)
“Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2013: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions,” GM Crops & Food, 6/2:103–133.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21645698.2015.1025193

B.
Industry funds research into new GE crops: an investment that pays off in the licensing of specialty seed for sale to farmers.

Source: Jeremy Rifkin (1998)
The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World. New York: Penguin Putnam.

C.
GE crops can be patented. Large companies dominate the GE canola-seed market, which can lead to reduced competition and less choice for farmers.

Source: Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) (November 2015)
Are GM Crops Better for Farmers?
http://gmoinquiry.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/

D.
When GE crops were first introduced, supporters claimed that they would solve world hunger through better farming and increased crop yields. Hunger isn't caused by poor farming practices, however—it is caused by poverty and inequality.

Source: United Nations World Food Program
http://www.wfp.org/hunger/causes

3. What are people saying about genetically engineered (GE) crops and the environment?

A.
GE crops have improved economic returns for Canadian canola farmers, by increasing yields while reducing herbicide use and tillage, or the process of turning the soil. Reduced tillage means less soil erosion, less consumption of diesel fuel, and less carbon being released into the atmosphere—all resulting in a lower impact on our environment.

Sources:
S.J. Smyth, Michael Gusta, Kenneth Belcher, Peter W.B. Phillips, and David Castle (2011)
“Environmental impacts from herbicide tolerant canola production in Western Canada,” Agricultural Systems, 104/5:403-410.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227411166

2016 Census of Agriculture
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/ca2016

B.
Herbicide-tolerant crops have not reduced the number of weed species in any significant way. However, farmers and agronomists are monitoring “weed shifts” (changes in the types of weeds found within a field) and “superweeds” (plants that have developed a resistance to certain herbicides), as possible unintended consequences of both natural and GE-related causes.

Source:
Hugh J. Beckie, K. Neil Harker, Linda May Hall, S.I. Warwick, A. Légère, P.H. Sikkema, G.W. Clayton, A.G.  Thomas, J.Y. Leeson, G. Séguin-Swartz and M.J. Simard (October 2006)
“A Decade of Herbicide-Resistant Crops in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Plant Science 86/4: 1243–1264.
http://www.usask.ca/soilsncrops/

C.
Genetically engineered (GE) crops may pose a threat to biodiversity. Since there is no foolproof way to prevent their dissemination into the environment, their cross-pollination with other plants, or their migration into the food chain, it is hard to predict what the long-term effects may be.

Source: David Suzuki Foundation (2016)
« Understanding GMO »
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/understanding-gmo/