GM Oh No!

October 2015 - Community & Environment

We’ve been encouraged to think that modifying the genetic material of a plant to be insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant is an essential component of a food system that will sustain growing populations.

We’ve been encouraged to think that modifying the genetic material of a plant to be insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant is an essential component of a food system that will sustain growing populations.
But, what if biotech’s claim to our need for bigger, faster, stronger is hokum? Is it possible that a resilient and productive food system could be built by place-based knowledge, networks, policies, and people without all the chemical intervention that is putting our food supply, health, and environment at risk?
Yes! Please allow us this opportunity to introduce you (many times!) to the practices of organic farming, and perhaps for the first time, agroecology and seed diversity.

“Agroecology takes a whole systems approach to agriculture, and seeds are at the heart of a healthy food system. We see genetic modification as unnecessary. Farmers’ stewardship of nature has given us tens of thousands of varieties to work with, 20,000 in the corn plant alone, which doesn’t need to be genetically modified (to produce a viable crop,” says Dana Stefov with USC Canada, one of the oldest international non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Canada (founded in 1945).

In addition to working in 11 countries in the Global South, USC’s Canadian programming, the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security is coordinated here in BC by Farm Folk City Folk. It supports farmers in the field through training and networking, applied research, public access to seed, and seed grants. The initiative is also helping organic farmers in Canada source organic seeds from Canada, to increase our seed production and reduce the vulnerability of our food supply.

Oh, Canada
The United States is the world’s leading producer of biotech crops. Runners up include Brazil, India, Argentina, and in fifth place, home-sweet-home, Canada.
Oh, Canada.

It has only been a little over two decades since the first genetically modified (GM) food and glyphosate (Roundup) tolerant crops were introduced. Studies show chemically intensive farming practices are harmful to the building blocks of our natural world. Soil quality and the health of beneficial insects are at risk. In addition to the impacts of a biotech oligopoly on farmers’ and consumers’ rights, agrochemicals have also been linked to chronic health concerns in humans.

As for the designer food genetic engineering aims to market, Greenpeace’s Shoppers Guide to GE food says “Unintended effects could create human health risks such as the development of antibiotic resistance, allergic reactions, nutritional changes, and the creation of toxins.”

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) reports that during the last 20 years, polls have shown over 80 percent of Canadians want mandatory labelling of GE/GM foods. Just this past summer Health Canada approved the sale of the Arctic Apple (manipulated to stop browning once cut) against public consensus. Lying in wait is the homegrown and genetically modified AquAdvantage salmon (the genetic material of an Atlantic salmon and eel-like species make it grow twice as fast). If approved, the Frankenfish has the potential to contaminate the natural ecosystem and impact wild salmon populations.

You will not know you are eating the GM apple or fish either, because here in the land of the free we do not have policies in place that make the labelling of GM foods mandatory. It has become a worthy election issue through Kids Right to Know, and the Just Label It! Campaign.

The United States recently approved a voluntary (not affirmative) GMO labelling bill, even though nine out of ten Americans support labelling. Meanwhile 60 countries around the world, including all of those in the European Union, have either imposed significant restrictions on, or outright banned the production of, GM organisms.

The Good News
The best way to avoid GM food is to buy certified organic products; rigorous standards ensure the product is free of genetically engineered material.

There’s also the Non-GMO Project10, which works with GlobalID, the world’s largest GMO testing body. Products certified to be GMO-free are labelled with the Non-GMO Project seal-you’ll spot the certification on many of the products on our shelves.

“There are more than 30,000 Non-GMO Project Verified products. Moreover, in 2014 more than 2,000 retailers across the US and Canada participated in October’s Non-GMO Month campaign. It’s an impressive movement, showing that together we can create a non-GMO future,” says Caroline Kinsman with the Non-GMO Project.

Our commitment to you: “We will reduce or discontinue support for those companies that choose not to label GMOs or remove GMOs from their product ingredients,” says Nature’s Fare Markets Director of Purchasing and Vendor Relations, Roland Siegmund.

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