Farmers Forum staff
OTTAWA — Gene editing is awesome and it’s too bad most Canadians don’t know what it is, says Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, professor and senior director of the agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University.
Gene editing moves to the last step in Canada’s strict approval process, which is consultation and assessment of gene editing of plants intended for livestock feed. This means that gene editing could become legal in Canada as early as this fall.
In simple terms, gene editing in food uses techniques to modify the DNA of plants, animals, or microorganisms used in food production, Charlebois explains. “Gene editing is unlike GMOs when a foreign genetic material from a different species is inserted into an organism’s genome. Gene editing allows scientists to make specific changes, tweaks if you will, to an organism’s genome, in turn potentially improving its nutritional value, disease resistance, or other desirable traits. In essence, gene editing will create crops that are more resilient to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses. It can also enhance their flavour, appearance, or shelf life.”
What’s not to love? Gene editing, for example, could make some foods agreeable to those who now have allergies or intolerances.
Charlebois argues that groups against gene editing have misled the public with fear-mongering, stating that no oversight will be provided for gene editing. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Charlebois says. “These groups often take advantage of the fact that most of us don’t fully understand the technology.”
Food in Canada is highly regulated and the science so far is telling us that the risks associated with gene editing for humans and the environment are extremely limited, Charlebois said. ” Anti-genetic engineering groups have the right to register concerns, but they shouldn’t overdo it as they have in recent decades, bordering on the ridiculous.”