GM beef not for dinner any time soon

Consumers will not likely have genetically modified beef on their plates any time soon, a committee tasked by the federal agriculture minister to study GM animals has reported.

Andrea Brocklebank, executive director of the Beef Cattle Research Council, told the committee that GM cattle have been developed to produce antibodies for rheumatoid arthritis treatment and treat organ rejection in people.

She said peer-reviewed research has shown that beef from GM cattle is not measurably different from conventional beef in terms of nutritional value or adverse health implications.

However, Brocklebank said the main advantages to GM technology for beef cattle are mainly in the areas of identifying genes for factors like tenderness.

“We don’t see huge potential for huge GMO use within cattle and the primary reason for that is the environment we work in,” she told Guelph Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield.

“If you select a trait for feed efficiency it can have negative impacts on reproductive efficiency.

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“We’re not inserting traits from other plants or animals. We are selecting traits and then accelerating it.”

The committee is studying genetically modified animals at the request of federal minister Lawrence MacAulay.

Ottawa earlier this year approved the first GM animal for human consumption, a salmon, but it won’t be available until the company that developed it takes it to market.

Brocklebank said differences in production systems and climates within the beef industry mean genetic enhancements offer more potential than a move to market GM beef.

“Beef from GMO cattle is not likely to be on the store shelves soon,” she said.

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Federal officials agreed there will be a limited number of GM animals submitted for approval. There are none in the pipeline now.

Andrea Johnston, director general of sector development at the market and industry service branch of Agriculture Canada, said the process is expensive and developers must be sure the market is ready for them.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada all have a role in the approval process.

Paul Meyers, CFIA’s vice-president of policy and programs, said Canadians have been eating GM foods since 1993 and all the studies indicate no nutritional or health concerns.

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