ARCHIVED - Information: Safety Assessment of Genetically Altered Soybean

April 1997

After careful evaluation and assessment, Health Canada has determined that Roundup Ready soybeans are as safe and nutritious as other commercially available soybean varieties, and are suitable for food use. Health Canada has accordingly notified Monsanto Canada Inc. that it has no objection to the sale of these soybeans in Canada.

Roundup Ready soybeans have been genetically modified to tolerate in-crop applications of Roundup herbicide. A single gene derived from a common soil bacterium has been inserted into the soybean. The gene produces a version of a plant enzyme that is normally blocked by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. The bacterial version of the enzyme is naturally tolerant to glyphosate, allowing the soybeans to continue to grow after being sprayed with the herbicide, while other weeds are killed and offering producers a new tool for weed control. The bacterial enzyme is a protein that is easily digested by both humans and animals.

Health Canada conducted an extensive and thorough assessment of the soybeans according to the Guidelines for Safety

Assessment of Novel Foods (September 1994). These guidelines are based on internationally accepted principles for establishing the safety of foods derived from genetically modified organisms, and were developed in consultation with other government agencies, consumers, and industry.

The assessment compared Roundup Ready soybeans with the commercial variety from which they were derived, as well as with other commercial varieties of soybeans. It determined that, apart from minute levels of the introduced protein, there was no difference between the genetically altered soybeans and other commercial varieties. The insertion of genetic information into these soybeans to confer glyphosate tolerance caused no difference in the composition or nutritional quality of the soybeans.

This evaluation applies only to food use of these soybeans. Issues related to growing these soybeans in Canada and to their use as animal feeds have been addressed separately through regulatory processes in Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada.

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