Dr. Thierry Vrain, a former soil biologist and genetic scientist, worked for Agriculture Canada for 30 years. He was the designated spokesperson to assure the public of the safety of GMO crops. Since retiring 10 years ago, after taking into account scientific evidence ignored by most of the bio-tech industry promoters and government regulators, Dr. Vrain has reversed that position and now warns of the dangers from GMOs.
Tsiporah Grignon: Was there a pivotal event when you reversed your position on GMOs?
Dr. Thierry Vrain: As a scientist working for the government, I didn’t question the status quo or dogma. I just did my work and was the person designated from the institute to reassure the public, so I was very busy. When I retired, my wife and I began an organic farm where I started to discover new things about soil biology never taught in graduate school. Not being on the payroll anymore, I had the freedom to read different sources and look at genetic engineering from new perspectives. That is how I first became aware of the possibility that GMOs were not all rosy and perfect.
Q: It is astounding that people don’t question the very idea of altering DNA. When Monsanto or others claim a genetically modified organism is “substantially equivalent” to the conventional plant, it’s illogical to me because when DNA is altered, the plant is altered. It’s not the same and it’s certainly not natural.
A: That depends on your view of the world. As a scientist, when you add a bacteria gene to a plant, or a plant gene to a fish, or a human gene to corn, or 10,000 acres of corn growing insulin – they consider it progress. So if a tomato plant has a bacterial gene, it still looks very much like a tomato plant. You couldn’t tell very much from the taste of the tomato so there is something easy about believing in “substantial equivalence.”