Sixteen-year-old Rachel Parent knows all the angles of campaigning against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and even debated the subject on TV with CBC business commentator Kevin O'Leary.
As well as building a credible website to reach kids (kidsrighttoknow.com), her outreach takes the form of speaking engagements, guest columns, TV appearances and worldwide travels to meet with thought leaders on GMOs. Her trips have taken her to Australia as a speaker, to South America to learn more about the increasing problems associated with GM soy agriculture, and to India, where she attended a 10-day course on Gandhi's teachings.
The Ontario teen, who first drew attention to the topic in a school presentation at age 11, says awareness of GMO issues is "growing exponentially.
"I believe that no matter what age, no matter what religion or ethnic background, every kid and every person has the power to make incredible changes in this world. I also want to reach out to kids because, first of all, it's our future," she adds.
This passion has prompted Parent to make mandatory labelling of GMO foods an issue during the current Canadian election campaign – she has asked party leaders to state their positions.
"I've spoken to Tom Mulcair of the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green Party and both are huge supporters of labelling GMOs. I did ask Justin Trudeau the question and he responded that the Liberal Party believes in giving consumers the most information possible about what they are purchasing and putting in their own bodies."
On the other hand, she has not been getting a positive response to GMO labelling from the Conservatives, says Parent. She met privately with federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose, but emerged from the session with more questions than answers, particularly about who was responsible for labelling food products.
"[GMOs] are affecting us on every single level and we can no longer wait for our elected officials to make our decisions for us," says Parent, who fervently believes kids have a "huge influence" over parents' choices of the foods their kids eat.
Examples are the response by General Mills, adding a non-GMO version of Cheerios, and the growth of other non-GMO products in the grocery food aisles. "One of the best ways to get food companies to change what they put in their food is for consumers to stop buying products that contain these (GMO) ingredients."
Purchasing organics limits GE exposure, sends message to government
Much of the public debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has focused on health and ecological concerns, yet advocates are increasingly drawing attention to the threat of contamination faced by organic farmers and growers.
“We believe it is important to be aware of the environmental and potential long-term, unknown health risks of consuming GMOs,” says Helen Long, president of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA). “And more attention needs to be given to the economic risk for those small to mid-sized businesses and farms devoted to providing certified organic food to Canadians.”
CHFA supports the farmers and producers of organic food and is concerned about the high level of risk GMO crops pose for the organic industry, Long explains. As a result, CHFA is focused on educating Canadians about the importance of informed choice, while also raising awareness about the benefits of choosing organic. “We believe Canadians concerned about GMOs should understand that organic foods have been grown and handled according to strict procedures and without the use of GMOs,” she adds.
Rochelle Eisen, president of Canadian Organic Growers (COG), also draws attention to the fact that the use of genetic engineering (GE) is prohibited in organic production. “The organic community has not wavered on that commitment,” she says. “In fact, in the new version of the Canada Organic Standard, the concept of isolation distances is being introduced as a means to sustain organic integrity where drift from known genetically engineered contaminants is possible.”
For consumers who are concerned about the negative impacts genetic engineering has on their food and the environment, Eisen advises, “The best way to avoid GE is to buy organic, as certified organic foods will minimize GE exposure and simultaneously send a message to government. Consumers have the power to influence public policy with each food purchase.”
Think about starting your own National Organic Week event. Visit organicweek.ca for ideas.
Organic Barbecue at TAU
BBQs at TAU with vegan options, gift baskets for a draw and bags filled with surprises. In addition, TAU promotes organic products at incredible prices at all stores during Organic Week.
Interested in organics?
Presentations from local organic farmers about market gardening, livestock production and organic grain growing.
ORGANIC WEEK AT DOLMA FOOD
Local and organic salad bar with farmer Susan Linkletter from Earth Friendly Farm.
Organic Food Fair
Samples of different organic selections available throughout the store, plus organic prizes and gift baskets.
This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.