October 22, 2014

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Tests Discover Unlabelled GM Sweet Corn in Canadian Grocery Stores and Farmers’ Markets

(Please note: No samples were tested from Metro stores)

October 23, 2013 Ottawa – Tests have found unlabelled genetically modified (GM) sweet corn in grocery stores, roadside stands and farmers’ markets across Canada, says the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN).

“Our testing clearly shows GM sweet corn is present in Canada,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN. “The high number of positive results in our small sample size alerts consumers to the fact that they could be unknowingly buying GM sweet corn. At the very least, GM sweet corn should be clearly labelled so consumers can make a choice.”

The purpose of CBAN’s test was to get an indication of the presence of genetically modified (also called genetically engineered) fresh sweet corn in Canada.

“Our sample size was small and random but shows a clear presence of GM sweet corn, across provinces and types of vendors,” said CBAN researcher Taarini Chopra. “The results don’t tell us how much of Canada’s sweet corn is GM, but they do tell us that it’s out there, in both grocery stores and farmers markets.”

CBAN tested 43 samples of conventional fresh, sweet corn. Half were from Ontario; the rest from BC, Alberta and Nova Scotia. The samples were purchased from outlets of major grocery chains (Loblaw, Walmart and Sobeys) as well as some smaller, independent grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and roadside stands.

15 of the 43 samples tested positive. This means that approximately 35% of these sweet corn samples were genetically modified.

  • GM sweet corn was discovered in samples purchased from Loblaw stores.
  • GM sweet corn was also present in samples from farmers markets and roadside stands.
  • Various samples from all 4 provinces where samples were collected - Ontario, BC, Nova Scotia and Alberta - tested positive.
  • Testing of samples from Sobeys and Walmart did not find GM sweet corn.
  • Results are not statistically significant but provide a snapshot of GM sweet corn in Canada, in the absence of mandatory GM food labelling and any government tracking, including statistics on GM crop cultivation.
  • The tests were conducted by CBAN staff, at Seeds of Diversity Canada's laboratory in Waterloo Ontario, using strip tests for the GM protein Cry1Ab.

Until recently, GM corn grown in Canada was predominantly field corn, which is used for animal feed, processed-food ingredients and biofuels. GM sweet corn is the first GM whole food grown in Canada, and raises new questions for consumers about possible health risks.

The sweet corn is genetically engineered with genes from the Bt bacteria to produce proteins that make it toxic to some insects.

“Some farmers might be planting GM sweet corn without knowing that it’s genetically modified, or being aware of the consumer concerns,” said Sharratt.

For more information: Lucy Sharratt, CBAN, 613 241 2267 ext 25; Taarini Chopra, CBAN, cell 226 606 8240. www.cban.ca/corn

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