Biotechnology and Food Safety
Biotechnology has been around for thousands of years. The term is a broad term that encompasses a variety of scientific techniques including genetic modification and genetic engineering. Organisms including viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, can be modified by these methods.
Biotechnology is used to produce
- industrial enzymes
- novel and genetically modified foods
- crops and other agricultural products
- biologicals and environmental products
The phrase "genetically modified organisms" (GMOs) can be confusing.
- Genetic modification includes any process that alters the genetic make-up of an organism, including conventional breeding.
- Genetic engineering involves the specific transfer, removal, or modification of one or more genes in an organism.
Genetically engineered papaya is an example of a food developed to withstand a papaya virus.
Animal cloning is considered to be a genetic modification.
Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe?
There is considerable debate about the potential risks of biotech products, including foods and crops. The concerns focus mainly on the potential impact of biotech related to:
Health Canada plays an important role in regulating biotech foods and gets input from various stakeholders.
- industry and industry groups, such as CropLife
- government and agencies
- expert committees, such as the Royal Society of Canada
- the scientific community (examples supporting and against)
- special interest groups, such as the Centre for Science in the Public Interest
and Bioscience Resource Project
The debate continues and may relate to:
- the use of substantial equivalency
- how the precautionary principle is applied
- the risk analysis (i.e. the balance among risk assessment, management and communication)
Even if the risk assessment were the same, the management and communication of risk may be considerably different from peron to person or country to country. So, what's acceptable for one may be unacceptable to another.
Date modified: 2012-07-31