From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail – Martin Mittelstaedt
Next spring, farmers in Canada will be able to sow one of the most complicated genetically engineered plants ever designed, a futuristic type of corn containing eight foreign genes.
With so much crammed into one seed, the modified corn will be able to confer multiple benefits, such as resistance to corn borers and rootworms, two caterpillar-like pests that infest the valuable grain crop, as well as withstanding applications of glyphosate, a weed killer better known by its commercial name, Roundup.
But a controversy has arisen over the new seeds, which were approved for use last month by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Health Canada hasn’t assessed their safety.
The health agency said in response to questions from The Globe and Mail that it didn’t have to do so, because it is relying on the two companies making the seeds, agriculture giants Monsanto Co. and Dow AgroSciences LLC, to flag any safety concerns. But the companies haven’t tested the seeds either, because they say they aren’t required to.
The companies have checked the safety of each of the eight genes one at a time in individual corn plants, but haven’t done so when they combined the foreign matter together in one seed, says Trish Jordan, a spokesperson for Monsanto Canada Inc.