Pesticides, GMOs and Health: 5 Facts You May Not Know
You may have seen some headlines about pesticide residues on food, or the health impact of GMOs that caused you some concern. But what does the science say? We’ve rounded up some key facts about how these plant science innovations are regulated, and why they are important tools for the health and well-being of our population.
1. FACT: Canada has one of the most stringent regulatory systems in the world.
It is natural to have questions about how some of the innovations used to grow our food may impact our health. Thankfully, Canada has one of the most stringent regulatory systems in the world for pesticides and crops enhanced through biotechnology. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency ensures that all pesticides approved for use in Canada are safe for both people and the environment. For plants developed through biotechnology, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ensure they are safe for food, feed, and the environment.
2. FACT: Glyphosate does not cause cancer.
There has been a lot of media attention about glyphosate, particularly in recent years. One of the main reasons for its wide-spread adoption by farmers is the fact that it is extremely effective in controlling weeds while being very low risk for humans or the environment. In fact, many items commonly found in your kitchen have higher levels of toxicity than glyphosate, for example, table salt.
When it comes to the safety of this product, every major regulatory agency around the world, including Health Canada, has concluded that glyphosate does not cause cancer. In 2017, Health Canada did a full re-evaluation of glyphosate where it declared “products containing glyphosate do not present risks of concern to human health or the environment”.
3. FACT: Pesticides and biotech crops help to keep healthy foods available and affordable.
Growing food is demanding work and there are many challenges which can lead to smaller harvests and higher food costs. Thankfully, pesticides and biotech crops are key tools that farmers can use to protect their crops from insects, weeds, fungi, and other challenges. Without plant science innovations, prices would be 45% HIGHER on average for many food staples, an increase of $4,500 annually per Canadian household.
4. FACT: No matter what type of produce you buy; you don’t have to worry about pesticide residues.
While lists like the Dirty Dozen try to instill fear around pesticide residues on food, the reality is that produce in Canada is safe. The latest data shows that 99.9% of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada test well below pesticide residue limits set by Health Canada and tested for by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
We are extremely fortunate in Canada that we have many choices in the produce aisle, and both conventional and organically grown food are safe. In fact, Health Canada states that “to date, there is no scientific evidence to show that there is a health risk from eating conventionally grown produce because of pesticide residues, or that organic foods are safer to eat than conventionally produced foods”.
5. FACT: Biotechnology can make our food even healthier.
Biotechnology has allowed scientists to develop crops that can help improve our health and reduce food waste – for example: soybeans and canola with higher levels of healthy monounsaturated oleic acid as well as higher levels of healthy omega 3s, and non-browning potatoes and apples. Innovative technology, like gene editing has the potential for even more health applications using precise changes to a plant’s own DNA (similar to what happens in conventional plant breeding). Soon we could have wheat with three times more dietary fiber and foods with lower or removed allergens, like peanuts.
BONUS FACT: 98% of farms in Canada are family owned and operated.
One of the most important facts to remember is that the Canadian farmers who grow food for you are also growing it for their own families. Farmers are passionate about producing bountiful, safe food for all of us to enjoy. Plant science innovations like pesticides, GMOs, and gene editing help them to produce more food, on less land, in more challenging conditions (e.g., climate change). So, the next time you’re enjoying a crisp apple, juicy peach or satisfying salad, remember all the reasons why you’re making a safe, nutritious choice.
For more information on plant science innovations, visit www.croplife.ca