2, 1999, Gazette)
support of biotechnology
note: On Nov. 1, scientists from across Canada launched a national
coalition to support the responsible development and application
of biotechnology. In support of this effort, more than 100 leading
Canadian scientists signed the statement reprinted here.
scientists involved with the research and development of biotechnology
and supporters of its use to provide better health and nutrition
to people around the world, we urge Canadians to participate
in a dialogue about the technologys potential. We strongly
encourage Canadians to base that dialogue on sound science, on
facts and on the results of peer-reviewed research.
hope that Canadians will not be influenced by those who resort
to unfounded speculation and discredited science to alarm them
about the safety of the foods they eat, the system that regulates
those foods or the potential of new technologies to improve and
expand the food supply.
knowledge continues to grow at a rapid rate. The advances in
genetics over the last 20 years are remarkable and impressive.
As working scientists who have devoted our careers to participating
in and learning from these developments, we believe the understanding
of the process of genetic modification is sufficient to be confident
about its outcomes. In fact, the transfer of genes between species
and the creation of new drugs and plant varieties by genetic
enhancement have been part of medical and agricultural improvements
for at least a decade with no proven negative effects on people.
Of course, we are constantly reviewing and assessing new scientific
information. We understand that those who have not kept abreast
of these advances might find the sheer volume of new knowledge
daunting. But we expect anyone who chooses to communicate to
Canadians about science will do so responsibly, using facts and
the best available information rather than unsubstantiated allegations
and rhetoric as their platform.
believe Canada has a regulatory system for the assessment and
approval of all foods and drugs marketed in this country that
ranks with the very best in the world. Health Canada demands
that extensive data be submitted on the detailed chemical and
biochemical composition of crops and drugs produced through biotechnology.
When a genetic enhancement produces new plants resistant to insects
and diseases, all of the altered plant proteins and other constituents,
including secondary metabolites, are analysed for toxicological
effects. This includes animal feeding trials. These tests are
similar to those used to evaluate pharmaceutical products. Published
research shows that these tests for safety are so rigorous that
many natural food ingredients would actually fail to comply.
important for Canadians to understand that food biotechnology
uses the same tool that has provided more than 100 medical products,
including insulin, hepatitis vaccine and products for counteracting
cardiovascular disease. It has the potential for equally impressive
results in crops. In developing countries, for example, at least
400 million women of child-bearing age suffer from anemia as
a result of iron deficiency. This can lead to physical and mental
retardation, premature births and natal mortality. About two
million children die each year as a result of vitamin A deficiency.
These illnesses could potentially be eradicated thanks to a new
variety of genetically improved rice that dramatically enhances
the dietary supply of vitamin A and iron.
believe biotechnology will be needed to help us meet an even
greater challenge. By the year 2035, the worlds population
is expected to grow to at least eight billion. To feed that population,
agricultural yield will have to at least triple. It is widely
acknowledged that conventional growing techniques are not adequate
to meet the need for self-sufficiency, food security or environmental
sustainability. To quote Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller
Foundation, an organization whose mandate is to enrich and sustain
the lives and livelihoods of the poor and excluded throughout
the world: The tools of biotechnology are going to be essential
if crop-yield ceilings are to be raised, the environment preserved
through reduction of pesticide use, the nutrient value of basic
foods increased and farmers on less-favoured lands provided with
varieties better able to tolerate drought and lack of soil nutrients.
We agree wholeheartedly.
cannot afford to let this potential be put at risk through misinformation
or fear disseminated by those with other agendas. We have formed
a national coalition of scientists who support the development
of the tools of biotechnology to improve and enhance the quality
and quantity of our food supply, based on the best available
scientific knowledge. We invite responsible scientists from across
the country to join with us in standing up for this important
technology and for the integrity of the system that regulates