Chia Seeds ... Who knew?

Monday, March 17, 2014

What is the GM Salmon?
The U.S. company AquaBounty has genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically modified or GM) Atlantic salmon. The company claims its “AquAdvantage” salmon grow to market-size twice as fast as other farmed salmon. That’s because the Atlantic salmon are engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature).
AquaBounty wants to produce all the GE Atlantic salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, ship them to Panama to grow out and then ship the processed fish to the US consumer market. This is only the first part of the company's plan - the plan they are seeking approval for now - they say they want to grow the fish in North America, Chile and other countries, in the future.
The GM Salmon is from Canada
Prince Edward Island, Canada is now home to the world's first GM fish-egg production factory. In November 2013, Environment Canada announced its decision to allow production of the GM fish eggs. The company has a research facility at Bay Fortune in Prince Edward Island which it will turn into a fish-egg factory if the U.S. and Panama also approve the fish.

No One Wants GM Fish
                     The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Association and the International Salmon Farmer's Association do not support the commercial production of GM fish.
                     Grocery stores are now pledging not to use GM seafood.
Will GM Salmon Be On Our Plate Soon?
January 2014: Environmental groups are taking the federal government to court for permitting manufacture of genetically modified salmon in Canada. Ecology Action Centre (NS) and Living Oceans Society (BC), represented by Ecojustice, assert that Canada's approval of GM fish production is unlawful because it failed to assess whether genetically modified salmon could become invasive, potentially putting ecosystems and species such as wild salmon at risk. The Canadian government approval would permit egg production and even the grow-out of GM salmon at other facilities in Canada, provided criteria in the Minister of the Environment’s November 2013 notice are met.
January 2014: The GM salmon is very close to approval in the U.S. but a timeline for a final decision is not known in the U.S. or in Canada. In Canada, Health Canada refuses to tell the public if they are currently assessing the salmon for human consumption.
November 2013: The Canadian government (Environment Canada) gave the first-ever government approval for this GM fish when it permitted the production of the GM fish eggs.
In late 2010, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the preliminary conclusion that the GE salmon is safe for to eat and does not pose a risk to the environment. But FDA meetings in September 2010 did not conclude with a recommendation to approve the salmon. Instead, the FDA’s own committee members voiced serious concerns about the quality of the data and the risks. In January 2013, the US government released its environmental assessment of the GE Atlantic salmon, a last step to approving the GE fish.
The First GM Food Animal in the World?
The GM fish was in a race with the GM pig called “Enviropig” to become the first genetically engineered animal in our food system but the campaign led by the Canadian Biotechnology stopped the GM pig in March 2012. The GM salmon would be the first GM food animal approved in the world.
Environmental Risks
Atlantic salmon are farmed in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. The escape of farmed fish from either marine net pens or hatcheries is serious, reoccurring pollution that threatens species. For example, mature escaped Atlantic salmon have been recorded in streams in B.C..
To try to avoid a full review of these risks, AquaBounty is only seeking permission to raise the fish in a land-based facility in a “remote highland area” of Panama - even though they say they want to raise the fish in the U.S. and other countries. The company also says that all the fish will be sterile females, but admits they can only guarantee 95% of the salmon will be unable to reproduce.
Any risk of GM Atlantic salmon escaping into the wild is unacceptable, especially when Atlantic salmon are already in danger of disappearing.
Also, GM salmon could put even more pressure on marine ecosystems. The fast-growing GM salmon could consume up to five times more food than other farmed salmon - because salmon are carnivorous they actually eat large amounts of wild-harvested fish like anchovies and sardines, caught just to feed them.
Health Risks and Bad Science
Critics have long warned that the process of genetic engineering itself could possibly result in increased allergenicity and AquaBounty’s own data point to this potential in their GM salmon.
Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union US, says, “The FDA is relying on woefully inadequate data. There is sloppy science, small sample sizes, and questionable practices.” For example, the company used insensitive tests to try and measure the levels of growth hormone in the GM salmon and the levels of IGF-1, a hormone linked to a number of cancers.
"Biotech Gets Fishy with GE Salmon" Common Ground Magazine, Lucy Sharratt, CBAN, October 2010.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

From Cream to Scream
By Julie Daniluk

Lynda: Why are so many people confused about GMOs, and the difference between them and hybrids?
Julie: People are told that GMO's are equivalent to hybrids when in fact the technology carries potential hazards. We need to think of whole systems instead of individual products on the market. 
My great concern about GMOs is when people said, "Oh, we just moved a gene from one plant into another plant."  
But when you insert a gene, you actually change the code that makes up these plants. 
Think of it like spelling. If you take the word "cream" and insert the letter "s" at the beginning, all of a sudden it becomes "scream". The two words have entirely different meanings.
Genetic codes are like the alphabet. We have all these chromosomes and the codes tell them how to express themselves.
Sticking in extra genetic material changes the plant on a fundamental level. The entire protein changes, and so does the way that plant reacts in your body.
Lynda: What results have shown up so far from genetically modified foods?
3 Growing Concerns about GMOs
Julie: My three biggest concerns are allergies caused by changing the protein of the GMO, antibiotic resistance, viruses that leave the plant vulnerable to molds and fungal infections, and pesticide resistance.
1. Allergies: There is a real concern that genetically modified plants have a  higher potential of causing allergies because the protein itself has been fundamentally changed. New proteins can be flagged by our immune system as unsafe and an inflammatory response is launched as an attempt to protect your body from a foreign invader.
And we're wondering why we have allergies like never before. We have people with compromised immune systems, with brand new auto-immune diseases, and a record number of people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. One in five people now suffer from severe gut problems, and we wonder why! 
2. The use of Antibiotics: If you hybridize a plant, you are simply crossing 2 varieties of the same species to create a unique new trait. 
With GMO creation, the insertion of the genes are done forcibly. For scientists to ensure the experiment worked, they insert an antibiotic resistant marker gene into the gene package. They then bathe the cells of that plant in a bath of antibiotics. If the plant survived, they know that the gene package was inserted correctly. 
But we forget that this plant now carries antibiotic resistance that may transfer to our human gut! My concern is that the government is not insisting that the cost of long term mammal testing fall on the GMO seed company, and should be carried out by a 3rd party that has no financial gain in the results.
3. Mold and viruses: The third great concern is they're using viruses to create genetic modification because viruses by nature, force their own DNA into a host.  
Scientists pry open the gene package using a virus and inserting extra material. As a result GMO crops have a weakened immune system.
It's been shown that genetically modified plants are higher in mold and have a much higher propensity of fungal infection.
That makes sense to me because if there's been a virus attack, the plant's immune system is left vulnerable. The plant is more likely to have a bacterial or fungal infection because its immune system is knocked down. In the case of GMO corn, we're gene splicing in bacteria that can harm the gut lining. 
4. Pesticide resistance
GMOs are also resistant to a dreadful pesticide which has been shown to have many negative health effects.
These plants are resistant to organophosphate pesticides, so farmers now spray much higher amounts than in the past because it no longer kills their crop.
The rest of the field may be decimated but the actual plant remains.
Instead of reducing pesticide use, it's dramatically increased the amount of pesticides in the food we consume.  Organophosphate pesticides have been proven to increase ADHD, Cancer and Parkinson's disease.
Lynda: Now that we know more about the health concerns, how can we protect ourselves and our families?
Julie: I truly avoid genetically modified food.  People think that the genie is out of the bottle. It's not - yet!
Not all our foods are genetically modified. In Canada, four major crops are genetically modified: corn, canola, soy and sugar beet.
In the US, papaya can be genetically modified. The US also has a massive cotton industry, and cotton seeds are genetically modified. And you have large test plots of rice, from which some rice has escaped, so it's a good idea to buy non-GMO rice.
Lynda: What else can we do to avoid GMOs?
Julie: You're not being force-fed this stuff. You just have to avoid certain plants.  In Canada, the only item on the produce shelf today that's genetically modified is sweet corn. The Arctic apple is soon to follow, but presently we're only dealing with corn in the produce aisle. 
Outside the produce aisle, it gets dodgy. That's why I choose to make as much of my own food as possible. I avoid processed and packaged foods which generally contain canola oil, and soybeans and corn products that have been processed into derivatives.
I do not consume genetically modified taco shells, corn flakes and any sort of taco shells, or any of those corn products.  I just don't eat them.  And I also choose not to eat soybeans that are genetically modified.  I won't put soy past my lips unless I know for a fact that it is completely organic, which means it's not genetically modified.
Lynda: What labels should people look for on packaged foods?
Julie: Look for "Non-GMO verified" products because they've got certifications.  The verification is done by a third party, from field to table. They test it all away along the tracks so there's no contamination. 
My favorite website for up to date information on GMO's is

The person who runs the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network is Lucy Sharratt and she has been with her finger on the pulse of this critical issue for over 16 years.
Check out the Non-GMO project website, which is very helpful. 
They've developed a shopping guide to help people avoid genetic modification and they really keep up to date on GMOs that are being released.   
Also remember that anything that is certified organic cannot be genetically modified.