[When I posted the article today, I was inundated with responses. Here is what the Vice Chair of Toronto Public Health had to say in his personal message for readers.]
I want to respond to the article entitled “the growing pains” in the print version of the FP Today section (whole paper) and the livestream at FP Now:
During the consultation on CoVID-19 and in the public sessions (as well as online) I have explained that eDNA has been around for over 25 years. It used to be a raw material for gene sequencing research. It is now common practice for other research purposes, such as medicine, microbiology, and environmental health monitoring to sequence E. coli as part of their research.
Since the invention of commercial DNA sequencing equipment, “eDNA” has become the most accurate and readily available genetic tool available for both clinical and commercial applications. The average commercial sequencing package costs a couple of hundred dollars. As of December 31, 2017, there were more than 570 000 commercial CRISPR sequencing boxes in use globally.
In this context, the discussion on the needs of the Alberta province in relation to her dairy industry is very relevant. At the recent public session, issues such as “testing, storage, inspection, monitoring and enforcement” were not discussed. Instead, priorities such as data collection, health outcomes, and stewardship have been identified. There was no talk about what guarantees were to be given. A major safety issue was not mentioned. Instead, it was set aside for a separate and prolonged period of discussion. After it was brought up at the public session, there was a subsequent closed door discussion.
In my personal view, the definition of “safeguards” does not need to be detailed. It does not require exhaustive detail. I do however believe that clear accountability, transparent discussion, and open debate are critical to a sustained public process.