Organic is Non-GMO
Organic agriculture prohibits the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Organic farmers must use non-GMO seed, animals eat non-GMO feed and processors use non-GMO ingredients. In Canada, GMO foods do not require labelling. Looking for the organic label guarantees that your food has been produced without GMOs.
You’re probably familiar with the term GMO; it refers to an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques developed in a laboratory. Scientists have genetically modified microorganisms, plants and animals. Some techniques involve transferring genes from one species to another while other techniques, called gene editing, involve enhancing or dampening genes already present in the organism.
Health Canada has permitted the sale of more than 140 genetically modified foods. Genetic modifications have included herbicide-tolerant crops which can survive direct application of one or more herbicides, and Bt crops which produce toxins that kill certain crop pests. As of 2020, Health Canada has permitted the sale of AquAdvantage Salmon which has been genetically modified to promote rapid growth by adding a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon into Atlantic salmon.
In 2022, Health Canada removed government regulation of many new gene-edited foods leaving “regulation” to the companies that develop them. Canadian farmers may not be aware that their seed is gene-edited, consumers will have no information on which foods are gene-edited, and the government will lose the ability to track these products or respond to possible safety issues that arise.
Organic agriculture respects the earth’s ecological balance and genetic heritage and, therefore, takes a precautionary approach to introducing lab-created organisms into nature. Genetically modified material can spread to wild relatives and non-GMO crops creating self-replicating contamination. The process of manipulating the genome can result in a range of unintended and unreported outcomes including new biochemical pathways. The implications for ecosystems are still not fully understood.
The bulk of genetically modified seeds are produced by a handful of large companies who own the intellectual rights for the genetic manipulations. A shift to widespread use of genetically modified crops puts global food production under the control of these few companies. This poses a risk to long-term food security.
Buying organic supports farmers and companies that stay away from GMOs. Certified organic ensures transparency, traceability and clear labelling letting consumers know what they are buying.
If you are concerned about genetically modified food, you can feel good about choosing Organic: Food with Principles. Guaranteed.
Did You Know?
More than 95% of canola grown in Canada is genetically modified.
The most common genetic modification in canola is herbicide-tolerance which means the genetically modified canola can survive being sprayed with herbicide. In fact, the latest “second-generation glyphosate-tolerant trait” allows farmers to spray herbicide more often and at higher rates without killing the canola crop.
Organically grown canola is now rare in Canada because of the risk of outcrossing - that is, the spread of genetically modified genes from GMO canola to organic canola through pollen drift. The Canadian Organic Standard requires a minimum 3 km buffer zone between GMO and organic canola fields. The responsibility falls to the organic farmer to keep their crop safe from contamination and most have decided that the risk is too high.
Canola oil is a common ingredient in processed food and in livestock feed.
Did You Know?
Health Canada assesses food safety based on the product not the process.
In Canada, there are no laws requiring labelling of genetically modified foods. In fact, it is not mandatory to identify the method of production used to develop a food product. (Consider the implications for future lab-grown cell-based meat products!)
Health Canada bases its assessment of food safety on analysis of the product. They conduct “a thorough safety assessment of all novel GM foods to make sure that they are as safe and nutritious as foods already sold in Canada”. The assessment is largely based on data submitted by the manufacturer, importer or developer of the food.