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Former Civil Servant now warns of dangers of genetically engineered foods

Dr. Thierry Vrain embarks on Maritime speaking tour

by Robert Devet

Dr. Thierry Vrain.  Photo Common Ground
Dr. Thierry Vrain. Photo Common Ground

K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX -   "When I retired I was looking forward to a quiet life, traveling, gardening, that kind of thing. I think the important moment for me was when I became interested in organic agriculture. That would have been seven to eight years ago."

This is what Dr. Thierry Vrain tells the Halifax Media Co-op when asked about his transformation from a prominent soil biologist employed by Agriculture Canada to an activist who raises public awareness about what he perceives to be the long-term hazards of genetically engineered foods. 

"As I became interested in organic farming and gardening, I discovered that what I had learned in Graduate School wasn't quite accurate. And that was a revelation, and a bit of a challenge," says Vrain.

Before Vrain started reading up on organic farming, he thought of opponents of genetically engineered foods as conspiracy theorists, a bit like a cult even, people who harbour an irrational fear of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that has nothing to do with science.

Now Vrain is leading the charge against genetically engineered foods, and he is careful to refer to peer-reviewed scientific studies to back up the claims he makes during his many public appearances.

Nova Scotians will soon get a chance to hear Dr. Vrain make his case. Vrain will be visiting Nova Scotia between April 24 and April 28. He will be joined by Tony Mitra, a fellow anti-GMO activist.

"My main message for the people in Nova Scotia is that eighty per cent of the food in the grocery store is contaminated with engineered ingredients," says Vrain. "Soy beans, canola, corn, cotton seed oil, sugar beets. Those crops, engineered to be tolerant of herbicides are then sprayed with [herbicides like] Round Up."

Vrain argues that the genetically engineering of foods carries many risks. But Vrain believes that much of the harm is caused by the herbicides that are freely applied.

"There is something incredibly toxic happening, and this is what I intend to talk about on my tour," says Vrain. "My presentations are science-based, there are a lot of studies that have shown that these herbicides are incredibly toxic."

Herbicides are applied to many foods, not just foods that are genetically engineered, says Vrain.

"Potatoes are not engineered but potatoes are sprayed with herbicide before the harvest. The residues of herbicides in potatoes are extremely high. All the engineered crops, and many of the other crops as well, are sprayed with herbicides."

It is sometimes argued that benefits of genetical engineering outweigh the risks. For Vrain there are no benefits. And the risks are huge.

"I think that argument comes from the false promises made by the GMO industry ten to fifteen years ago. The promise of higher yields, that food would be more nutritious, that there would be much less use of pesticides, that it's innocuous and safe," says Vrain.

"Now we know that there is no higher yield, this is completely documented and proven. Engineered food is definitely less nutritious, and it is not innocuous and safe."

Check our events calendar for details on the Nova Scotia component of Dr. Thierry Vrain's speaking tour. More information here.


Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert



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Topics: Food
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