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Is regulation of genetically modified food up to snuff?

Since the introduction of the first genetically modified food, the "Flavr Savr" tomato in 1994, "GM" products can now be found in thousands of foods, from bagels to butter tarts to soy milk. While the biotech industry points to the safety and benefits of genetic modifications, environmentalists are quick to denounce it as potentially harmful "frankenfood." And that has left the consumer caught in the middle of this emotionally charged debate.

In an attempt to quell the growing public concern over GM food, the federal government commissioned a report from the Royal Society of Canada, the country's top scientific body. A year later their report is out and the CBC's Bob McDonald talks to Brian Ellis, the associate director of University of British Columbia's Biotechnology Laboratory and co-chair of the report. The society blasts Canada's approach to regulating GM food, concluding that government's assumption that GM food is the same as conventional food is scientifically unsound. 
• The Royal Society of Canada's report, Regulation of Food Biotechnology of Canada, made over 50 recommendations. Some of the key suggestions include:
- testing of GM foods should be conducted in a transparent and open environment
- the outcome of all tests are to be monitored by an independent expert panel who report to the public
- clearer definitions of the types of toxicological studies required to ensure the safety of GM foods.

• The Royal Society of Canada was founded in 1882 to promote learning and research in the arts and sciences. The society has 1,700 distinguished Canadian scientists and scholars who have been recognized by their peers for their outstanding contributions.

• A 2004 study, authored by Dr. Peter Andrée of Trent University and the Polaris Institute, concluded that the Canadian government has failed to respond seriously to the 58 recommendations made by the Royal Society of Canada. The study accused the Canadian government of dawdling and being unwilling to butt heads with the powerful biotech industry.
• The Ottawa-based Polaris Institute is a public interest group founded in 1997 to assist citizen movements challenging corporate power.
Medium: Radio
Program: Quirks & Quarks
Broadcast Date: Feb. 10, 2001
Guest(s): Brian Ellis
Host: Bob McDonald
Duration: 9:19

Last updated: April 5, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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