Ontario Agri-Food Technologies – FAQs

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What is “Biotechnology”?

Sometimes, this word is used to refer to methods used by modern plant
breeders. However, for the purposes of this section, we define
biotechnology as the transfer of genes using the techniques of molecular
biology to generate transgenic plants.

Plant biotechnology is so new –
can we determine any problems that might be associated with it?

The transfer of genes to plants (plant transformation) became routine
almost twenty years ago and since that time thousands of independent
transgenic plants have been made using numerous genes and different
species of plant. Problems should have shown up by now.

Field trials of transgenic crops started in Canada in 1988 and to date
over 3,000 trials have occurred. A large percentage of the canola, soybean
and potato crops are transgenic. So far, there have been no really
unpleasant surprises.

Agriculture has changed dramatically over the last twenty to thirty
years and will change even more as the new technologies take effect. It is
moving from a low-tech commodity based economy to a high-tech
specialty-based resource. New management strategies are being introduced
as are new monitoring procedures. In this new agriculture, an essential
role for government agencies such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
will be to supervise and implement procedures as they are required.

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