Letters to the editor – June 25, 2020

Non-GMO claims cause confusion

Non-transgenic organisms are increasingly being represented as “non-GMO” (Transgenic crops: end of an era, June 4 The Western Producer) but this is more wishful public relations than reflective of reality.

Firstly, the federal government defines GMOs very broadly, to even include products of conventional plant breeding. However confusing and out of step the Canadian government’s use of the term “genetic modification” is, it means that all genetically engineered products, including gene-edited products (transgenic or not), are called “GMOs” by our regulators (and most will be regulated as “Plants with Novel Traits”).

Further, and more relevant perhaps, the North American marketplace so far classifies gene-edited products as GMOs (and this is definitely the case in Europe).

For example, the widely-used “Non-GMO Project” does not accept gene-edited foods as non-GMO. At a technical level as well, some gene editing techniques actually result in transgenic organisms. This is important because it means that gene editing techniques cannot also be automatically assumed as non-transgenic.

The bottom line is that new gene editing techniques are techniques of genetic engineering, whether we call them GM or not.

Lucy Sharratt

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

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