Genetically Modified Food

This is position of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environement on genetically modified food:


The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) recognizes that the use of genetic engineering and genetically engineered organisms under carefully controlled conditions (e.g., in closed laboratory environments, or within individual persons) offers considerable benefit for human health, both now and in the future.

However, CAPE has grave concerns about the environmental release of genetically modified (GM) crops and products; we call for the immediate suspension of all such releases, and for current patents on such life forms and living processes to be suspended or rescinded.

CAPE calls for an immediate and comprehensive public enquiry into the effect of GM organisms on ecosystem stability, food security and human health.

Patents on life-forms and living processes threaten equitable food distribution, encourage biopiracy of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources, violate fundamental human rights, and impede medical and scientific research. Patented GM crops intensify corporate control over food production, curtail biodiversity, and limit the autonomy of farmers, obstructing the development of sustainable, community-based agriculture that is the cornerstone of a stable food supply around the world.

We believe, in any case, that existing life forms such as organisms, seeds, cell lines and genes are discoveries and therefore cannot and should not be patented. Further, we believe that such living entities are part of the common heritage of humankind; we do not believe that any person or persons should be allowed to genetically modify any organism, seed, or cell line to obstruct their propagation in any way.

Current techniques for genetic modification produce novel organisms, but these techniques are unreliable and unpredictable; many life forms generated by them are inherently dysfunctional and disruptive. Furthermore, the expression of any viable organisms is highly dependent on ecological context; to date, no comprehensive analysis has been carried out examining the influence of context on any GM organism.

Current analyses of GM crops show that they generally yield less than conventional crops.

The real hazards of GM organisms to human and ecosystem health are becoming ever more apparent. For example, the horizontal spread of antibiotic resistance marker genes from GM crops can compromise the treatment of life-threatening infectious diseases. The cauliflower mosaic viral promoter, widely used in GM crops, may enhance horizontal gene transfer and has the potential to generate new pathogenic viruses. GM crops containing natural biocides (e.g., Bt toxin) harm beneficial insects, and leave residues deep in the soil, which can selectively encourage resistance among predator species.

We urge the Canadian government to take into account all scientific evidence related to GM organisms, and to act in accordance with the precautionary principle in regulating their production and use. We urge the Canadian government to negotiate a strong and effective International Biosafety Protocol. We urge the Canadian government to ensure that biosafety considerations, at both the national and international level, take precedence over trade and financial agreements established by the World Trade Organization.

Finally, we urge that research into sustainable, organic agricultural methods and techniques be intensified and extended on a global scale. Many sustainable, community-based agricultural systems already exist around the world, completely adapted to local ecosystems; they generate high and sustained yields, and have neutral or positive ecological impacts. Ongoing research reveals that organic growing methods, using conventional seeds and crop lines, can enhance soil structure, reduce nitrogen pollution, and generate adequate and secure income for farmers while freeing them from dependency on costly external inputs.

We believe that the enhancement, expansion, and promotion of these methods and techniques offers the single best hope to our global culture of engendering a safe, equitably distributed, and secure food supply for present and future generations. It also promises to demonstrate, once and for all, that the creation of GM organisms is entirely unnecessary.