Start of the Moviement

Yesterday’s University of Victoria Campus Screening of GMO OMG was my start of The Moviement.  I first heard this term used by Director Jeremy Seifert, a mix between Movie and Movement.  Kind of simple.  Kind of Brilliant.


Above I’m with Andrew Weaver, Nobel Prize Winner and MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head.  Note that this was not a premiere.  It was not a special advance screening.  It was for the University campus and for students and influencers.  The date for the Canadian release hasn’t been established.

Below is Murray Rankin, MP for Victoria.  He is an environmental Lawyer with a distinguished career.


Here I am with Nancy Turner, also on the panel.  She is a Distinguished Professor at UVic with over 20 books she has written or co-authored.  Nancy is hands down my favourite Ethnobotanist!aagmo-omg-event-051

UVIC Professor Engineer (who’s an economist, not an Engineer), who has attended many Cinecenta events over the years, said it was the best turnout he’s ever seen.  We had to turn away tons of people. It was chaos finding a seat. Kind of like musical chairs when the music stops…


I was honoured to host the campus screening of the film and Wowie Wow Wow (in the words of Junie B. Jones) we had such an amazing turnout.  On the panel we had Nancy Turner, Distinguished Professor of Ethnobotany (there are only a few Professors at UVIC who are “Distinguished”), Nathalie Chambers organic farmer and Farmland Conservation Advocate, Founder of Chef Survival Challenge that I wrote about recently, and Murray Rankin, Victoria’s very own MP and accomplished Environmental Lawyer.  Special guests included Lana Popham MLA, Andrew Weaver MLA, Adam Olsen, Mayor for North Saanich Alice Finall, and Sandra Anderson, wife of David Anderson former Minister.  Let’s not forget my Uncle Godfrey Stephens!  GMOs are an issue that unites diverse political parties.

Photo op with Andrew Weaver and Nathalie Chambers.  So sorry but I don’t know who the other lady is (help)?  Nathalie mentioned that we have to form ties in our communities with our farmers, with those who grow and provide our food.  She couldn’t be more right and she is living her words.


Adam Olsen Leader of the BC Greens:gmo-omg-event-042

After the screening, Dean Peter Keller of Social Science, Professor Eileen Van Der Flief-Keller geologist, me and their daughter Suzie. aagmo-omg-event-115 (1)

The film blew everyone’s mind – bravo Jeremy!  I was so glad to see at least a dozen kids in the audience.  They really related to the film as my friend Lisa pointed out.  I think for us mom’s and dad’s (like Jeremy) who’ve been struggling to feed our kids food without poisons, this film is a useful tool.  Kids relate to seeing other kids.  And perhaps it’s good to see other kids who are concerned about seeds and GMOs.

Most people stayed for the engaging panel discussion after the film.  Here are some snacks provided by Nature’s Path, the presenting Sponsor.


In my introduction I mentioned how I met Murray Rankin this year at the Oak Bay Tea Party.  I was inspired by Maria Emmer-Aanes telling me that if I’m upset about GMOs then I need to tell my elected representatives.  I thought what can that do?  But I kept quiet….  I was playing on the Beach with my daughters in the balmy Spring Victoria weather when I saw Murray.  I said to myself, “Why not tell my elected representative how I feel about GMOs. Like Maria advised. I suppose it can’t hurt?”  I reasoned silently.  So I went up to Murray, shook his hand (In case you’re wondering, I’m not shy) and said, “Hi I live in Victoria.  Nice to meet you.  I’m very concerned about GMOs.”  Murray didn’t know just how concerned I was or anything else about me except I was just playing in the sand with my kids.  He replied to my unorthodox opener without batting an eye lid, and said, “Well you OUGHT to be concerned.”


We need all politicians and elected officials be aware of GMOs, like Lana Popham, Andrew Weaver, Adam Olsen.  The Honorable David Anderson was at the same inspiring talk by Vandana Shiva in March that inspired this blog.  Mayor Alice Finall, props to you too.   We need all people to understand what is so wrong about GMOs as they are right now being sold in 80% of all N. American processed foods.

Below was an engaging question from Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker about maternal-fetal toxicology.  Our most vulnerable are exposed in the womb to toxins found in GMO production.  These toxins are found in our urine, our blood and in our unborn babies.  If our goal is to protect our children from the pesticides and herbicides used in GMO production, how can we choose if there isn’t mandatory labelling?  As someone said, “It’s very well for the rich, they can afford to feed their families Organic.  What about the financially challenged, the uneducated, those who are simply unaware?  Is it right that they are fed GMOs unknowingly.”aagmo-omg-event-085

Take home points from the discussion:

1) Certified organic doesn’t allow GMOs and never has.

2) Take Action in Labelling Initiatives.  Flex your citizen Muscle.  You have a choice every day to choose food that benefits the planet and health.  You have the power to effect change through your purchases.

3) Grown your own food using organic seeds.

4) Spread the MOVIEment and the issue.  Talk to your representatives.  They are obliged to listen.  Help get GMO OMG into Canadian Teatres!


PHOTOS by Simon Des Rochers

6 thoughts on “Start of the Moviement

  1. Amy Verdun

    Gurdeep — do you know for sure that certified organic does not include GMO? What about GMOs in grain that found its way into the food chain — feed that is given to cows/pigs/chickens? How can organic farmers be sure the food scraps they feed their chickens and the like are GMO free? How about GMO contaminated soil (from household composing) in which otherwise perfectly organic tomatoes would be grown in peoples backyards?

    1. Gurdeep Stephens Post author

      Hi Amy!

      You raise great questions.

      I’m afraid I didn’t answer this question well on Thursday not understanding the question. Certified Organic has very strict, legal parameters. A handful of cheaters over the past ten years have been heavily fined and even imprisoned for misusing the term, which has basically put a stop to such, thankfully rare misrepresentation. Certified organic is a traceable system which has a legal meaning.

      Back in the day,anyone could self-declare as organic. (It’s like the term “Natural” which now means anything and everything:Pesticides yep: Herbicides: yep Fungicides: yep, GMOs: yep). Back to organic, initially Nature’s Path was dependent on third party certification like Oregon Tilth before the Canadian and US governments enacted their own standards. Until the the federal standards, anybody could self – declare “organic”. In those days Nature’s Path differentiated themselves from dubious Organic self-claimants with “Third-Party Certified Organic”.

      There is zero tolerance for GMOs in organic. But GMO corn for example, being an open pollinated plant, has spread despite the buffer zones. The genie has been let out of the bottle. There is some GMO presence in corn. International Standards have zero tolerance but have a low threshold for involuntary contamination.

      The Non-GMO Project Verification tests each truckload. Even if it’s 99% Non-GMO, once it crosses the .9 percent threshold it is rejected, even if it’s organic.

      I’m going to get an answer for you about GMOs in Organic animal feed. I need to inform myself, this not being my speciality!

      Organic certification takes years to achieve when it comes to farmland, including soil testing, random testing, regular auditing of documents etc etc. It’s a lengthy process. In terms of an Organic food processor, there are tons of regulations to comply with. Like Dionne said at the discussion, recently Organic and NON-GMO Project Verified in her processing plant, Organic cannot even be stored next to non-organic. Nature’s Path was the first cereal company to be certified organic (this was back when we were third party-Certified before federal Organic labelling standards). The Federal Standards for organic were compiled with third party certifiers and in some cases even now the same people run the same Federal program. These are the idealists who started it all, who know that organic agriculture works better in the long-run than conventional. In sum, in an imperfect world, Organic Agricultural Methods are simply the highest standard. Add the NON-GMO Project Verified and this is as pure as you can get.

      I have sent your comment on to Dag Falck, head of organic programs at Nature’s Path manager for his feedback. I featured him on Purple Potatoes Post. Maybe he can further enlighten.

      As Nancy Turner said there is so much to be studied. There are simply no studies done re: GMO contamination of soil from household compost as far as I know especially here in N. America. Because GMOs are not labelled here in N.America as they are in 64 other countries. It’s only recently (2007) that Natures Path was a founding member of the non-profit, NON-GMO Verified Project….. What we can asses is the amount of groundwater contamination and soil degradation as Jeremy raises in the film. As the Seralini study showed, there is cause for concern with health. (Much criticized by big biotech scientists, the Seralini Study methods have now been adopted by the European Food Standards Agency.) However adverse health effects emerge over the long-run…. So even if it’s been studied – I’m referring to your question about GMO contaminated soil from house hold composting, I don’t expect that there will be an answer for some time, on health.

      It all starts with the seed. Let’s sow seeds of knowledge and let people know that there is a system of food production that doesn’t use untested technology with us lab rats, unable to opt out…. There is a system that replenishes the soil. Like Murray said, we must use the precautionary principle. I call for a moratorium on GMOs until we are able to assess the data fully.

  2. Lydia Olchoff

    What an awesome event. Bravo for you, Gurdeep. And, you met Nancy J Turner???!!! Wow!! She is one of the authors of “Keeping it Living”, which was our primary textbook for my ethnobotary class. I loved that book and everything I learned reading it.

  3. Elisabeth Gugl

    Dear Deepa, I have to admit I was quite disappointed in the movie. There are lots of good questions one can ask about GMO and one should make a documentary in pursuit of finding the answers. This movie did not accomplish the latter and not even ask all the important questions. I wish the film maker would have taken a more scientific approach and spared us with scenes of little kids running through a corn field.


    1. Gurdeep Stephens Post author

      Dear Elisabeth,

      I think maybe you’re at the next level already! You’re an educated accomplished European raised who knows what good food is and already worries about what she’s feeding her kids.

      Imagine you are from a small town in the midwest (for example) and have only ever eaten conventional American foods because that’s all your grocery store carries. This film would be for you perhaps, an engaging, non threatening discovery about GMOS. I think of Victoria as super ‘green”. But even today while collecting signatures for the GE FREE BC petition I met a well presented man with lovely blue eyes, well dressed who didn’t know what GMOs are! Here in Victoria. My kids, who are mostly denied GMOs loved seeing the kids and understanding that there are others similarly “suffering” from parents going on the same journey.

      Once everybody knows what GMOs are then we can get the next level discussion going. I’m going to send you by email a review of just the science.

      What in your opintion are the important questions that need to be asked?

      I’d love to get a discussion going!

      Thank you for taking the time to write 🙂


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