In 1996, the first genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were introduced in Canada. Today, there are more than 81 genetically modified foods approved for sale and use in our food products — but you’d never know from reading their labels.
In Modified, a documentary from CBC Docs POV, filmmaker Aube Giroux goes on a personal journey to understand more about how GMOs have changed farming and why GMOs aren’t labeled on food products in Canada. “While many countries around the world were choosing to label them, Canada and the United States decided against it,” says Giroux in the film, remembering when the first GMOs came on the market. “So if you wanted to avoid GMOs, you had to become a bit of a detective.”
Essentially, GMOs are created when genes are transferred between organisms that cannot normally breed, creating brand new genetic sequences that do not exist in nature. A well-known example of genetic manipulation is when scientists inserted jellyfish DNA into rabbit embryos while studying hereditary illness, an experiment which made the rabbits glow in the dark.
According to the World Health Organization, future genetic modification could be directed at making food more nutritious, reducing exposure to allergens and improving the efficiency of food production.
Health Canada is responsible for monitoring all GMOs entering the Canadian marketplace and states that it is not aware of any evidence that suggests that genetically modified foods are unsafe for us to eat. However, Giroux remains skeptical of GMO safety, and concerns from the public still remain.
In a U.S. survey polling the public and scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, subjects were asked whether they “think it is generally safe or unsafe to eat genetically modified foods.” Only 37 percent of the public reported feeling “generally safe” about these foods compared to 88 percent of scientists.
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