Golden Rice gets OK from Canada

Health Canada has approved the sale of a genetically modified crop that isn’t intended for sale in this country, and that has a GMO critic wondering what is going on.

On March 16, the federal department gave the regulatory nod to Provitamin A Biofortified Rice Event GR2E, otherwise known as Golden Rice.

“It was determined that the changes made in this rice variety did not pose a greater risk to human health than rice varieties currently available on the Canadian market,” the department said in its decision document.

Golden Rice was created to help children in developing countries suffering from vitamin A deficiency. The rice contains high levels of provitamin A.

The International Rice Research Institute has received regulatory approval for the product in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, despite declaring it has no intention to sell Golden Rice in those markets.

The institute’s real goal is to achieve regulatory approval to grow and sell the rice in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia, but it has yet to submit applications in those markets.

Proponents of biotechnology believe Golden Rice can help them in the publicity battle over genetically modified crops because it is designed to help address child malnutrition in developing countries rather than controlling weeds or insects.

Critics of GM crops such as Greenpeace don’t want to see Golden Rice commercialized in developing countries because it could pave the way for the cultivation of other GM crops.

Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), can’t fathom why Canada is weighing in on the issue at all.

“What is the rationale behind Health Canada assessing genetically engineered products that are not designed for Canada?” she said.

A spokesperson for Health Canada said the department is obligated by law to review all novel food submissions it receives.

Sharratt said she received a different response in a letter from Health Canada, which said developers of GM crops often seek authorization in Canada as a first step, even if they do not to plan to sell the product in Canada.

“This answer raises new questions and concerns about what the purpose of our regulatory system is,” said Sharratt.

“Are we providing a global regulatory service for developers even when there is no direct benefit to Canadians?”

CBAN has heard from a farmer network in the Philippines that a loophole in that country’s regulatory system would allow proponents of Golden Rice to use the Health Canada ruling as a “safety stamp” to start feeding trials with children and pregnant women and get the ball rolling on a regulatory submission.

“There should be some criteria that the Canadian government puts in place such that Health Canada is not spending precious financial and human resources on products that are just not going to be part of Canadian food and farming,” Sharratt said.

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  • Tom Taman

    when did Monsanto buy Health Canada ?

    • Nafta 1986

    • Happy Farmer

      There is no evidence proving your statement.
      Seriously, why would you deny a basic human dignity to people that would greatly benefit from this crop? Especially when it is clear from a scientific viewpoint this product is safe.

    • Harold

      The same time that he bought the USDA.

    • Keith Duhaime

      Tom Taman, you must be one of [those who] will ‘march against Monsanto’ in a month or so.
      1. There is no evidence to support your wild conspiracy theory any more than there is evidence that GMOs pose a safety or health concern.
      2. Even if in some alternate reality where Monsanto did ‘own’ Health Canada, the USDA, etc. – reality check: Monsanto is a PUBLICLY LISTED company. Think about that before you swallow another ounce of the kool-aid that PRIVATE companies, etc. like those wielded by parasites like Joseph Mercola. the Health Ranger, or your neighbourhood bottom feeder with his/her ‘Registered Holistic Nutritionist’ designation.

      • Harold

        You have to be joking aren’t you? “When did Monsanto buy Health Canada”? Have you never heard the phrase “it is the corporations who own the government? What do think that the phrase is really implying? That the Corporations actually do own the government? Let me break something to you; you can control somebody by providing them with a large quantity of cash; in the real world it is called a BRIBE. If you can bribe many top ranking officials then the results are the same had you owned the “business” yourself. Is this rocket science? There is no question of whose Kool-Aid you are consuming if you can create such a rant over something so very, very simple to understand.
        Joseph Mercola and the Health Ranger? Wow, does your research ever run deep and now I can see why you chose those two as bottom feeders. Your bird bath is only one inch deep.
        In regards to your first point; there is no evidence to support that organic poses any safety or a health concerns either when consumed so exactly what conspiracy exists? Did you need to manufacture one? Those who consume non-GMO or non-GE are not conspiring against anybody. Are the supermarkets involved in a conspiracy when they are providing choices to the consumer? Am I your conspiracy? Are you my conspiracy? Is Tom your conspiracy? Let’s find a real one shall we, or do you believe that they just don’t really exist in modern times: industry fed Kool-Aid will do that to you.

      • richard

        ….or the bombastic aggie who’s so addicted to glyphosate that he hasn’t had an original thought for forty years…. Its obsolete pal….change channels, your getting boring down to a fine art….

  • Claudia Victoria González Lare

    Very bad news for our native rice and it’s valuable market. Although rice is primarily self-pollinating, its transgenes are going to disperse to the weedy and wild relatives through pollen gene flow. This means gene contamination that could disrupt exports and affect the native gene stock. On the other hand, the supposed benefit of extra Vit A is meaningless in a diet without enough fat to absorb it. Malnutrition needs another approach, this is just about royalties and seedy power from corporations.


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