Former academic supports Comox councillor’s genetically modified comments

Dear editor,

I read the comments made by Tom Grant, Comox councillor, about genetically modified food.

Dear editor,

I read the comments made by Tom Grant, Comox councillor, about genetically modified food.

I must say that I agreed with his comments.

I have been involved with biotechnology since the early 1980s. My last role as a faculty member at the University of Toronto was as director of their Biotechnology Graduate Program.

I have followed and taught graduate students and undergraduate students at the university about biotechnology, and all aspects of molecular genetics. I have also given a course in biotechnology to seniors at ElderCollege.

The issue of genetic engineering is complex.

More care is given to food security now than ever in the past. The level of regulations that now exist, especially in Canada, are the envy of the world. This is due to the level of caution used in the analysis and release of all new foods we eat.

I also read Dr. Thierry Vrain’s  letter and must say that if he can substantiate his claims, we should be concerned.

I as a research scientist and educator, however, do not believe he can. Food choice is personal and I believe we can make decisions based on our own analysis.

With a library available to all of us on our computers, we can check most statements. I am wary about undocumented statements.

You can virtually check every statement made in Dr. Vrain’s letter if you wish and draw your own conclusions. Use the Internet, ask people that you know with an appropriate background, and ask your physician about the safety of food in Canada.

As past director of the Biotechnology Program at the University of Toronto, I am not aware of any creditable report of any GM food affecting human health of any kind.

Individuals should be encouraged to make their decisions on food safety based on scientific evidence and personal choice, not on emotion or personal opinions of others.

There are individuals with scientific credentials who make claims and post them on the Internet, but I know of none of these claims that have been accepted by the  scientific community that subject their own studies to peer review in good journals.

Below is a statement from the American Medical Association (AMA) on GM foods released in 2012:

“The AMA recognizes the continuing validity of the three major conclusions contained in the 1987 National Academy of Sciences white paper, “Introduction of Recombinant DNA-Engineered Organisms into the Environment.”

The three major conclusions are:

(a)There is no evidence that unique hazards exist either in the use of recombinant techniques or in the movement of genes between unrelated organisms;

(b) The risks associated with the introduction of recombinant -engineered organisms are the The same in kind as those associated with the introduction of unmodified organisms and organisms modified by other methods;

(c) Assessment of the risk of introducing recombinant -engineered organisms into the environment should be based on the nature of the organism and the environment into which it is introduced, not on the method by which it was produced.

Do your checking with reliable sources. For example, you can Google an article in the U.K. Guardian in 2012 on GMO Golden Rice and get a valid scientific opinion.

Search the Internet for what the  Canadian Food  Inspection Agency and Health Canada say about Roundup in 2013. Check the facts.

Check out the information on one gene one protein online. Does it make sense with respect to what has been published in our local papers?

What I cannot support are unfounded claims that the world’s scientific community has not shown care in food production, and the use of scare tactics to influence food security issues.

We have and will continue to have a major shortage of food worldwide. I personally believe that anything we can do to increase food and food choices for people are a positive thing.

We must remember that the organic food industry as well as the traditional food industry is there to make money and feed the hungry people of the world. Our government has the responsibility to insure our food safety and as far as I can determine, it has done an excellent job.

Paul A. Horgen,

Comox Valley

 

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