Gene-edited crops ‘safe for human consumption and the environment,’ Health Canada finds

Credit: CBC
Credit: CBC

Health Canada is proposing new rules to deal with plant breeding innovation, including gene-edited crops.

To develop the new guidelines, Health Canada experts reviewed the science around gene-edited crops and concluded that the technology is safe for human consumption and the environment.

“We are pleased to see that Health Canada has come out clearly in support of the safety of plant breeding, and gene editing specifically, in this consultation document,” Pierre Petelle, president and chief executive officer of CropLife Canada, said in a news release.

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Supporters of gene-edited crops, including many plant breeders, believe it could revolutionize crop development. It will allow scientists to precisely change a plant’s DNA to achieve desired traits, such as improved disease resistance or healthier crops.

As an example, a Minnesota firm has used gene editing to design a soybean that produces high-oleic oil. The company produced four million bushels of the crop in the United States last year.

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“Canada needs to continue to be a leader in agricultural innovation, not a follower. If Canada is going to compete on the global stage and live up to its full potential then we’ll need to ensure that our farmers have access to the same kinds of crops improved through gene editing that their competitors do,” said Tyler Bjornson, executive vice-president of the Canada Grains Council.

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