Category Archives: Arjan Stephens

522 Phone Bank

People who want to help support Washington’s Labelling campaign… I have good news!

You can!

From anywhere in the world even in Canada.  I’m not talking financially (although that would be appreciated go to yeson522.com so that they can fund their ads). I’m talking with your time and your wonderful God-Given Gift of the Gab!  That handful of big multinational corporations are spreading lies and waging a deceitful campaign just like they did last year in California.  In Washington however, many of these corporate donors tried to hide their identity.  They were slapped by a lawsuit by none other than Washington State’s Attorney General to get them to comply with campaign rules.

Those monster multinational corporations who oppose the measure say that “labelling is incomplete”.  That it’s not useful given that over half the food sold wouldn’t be covered.  Don’t be fooled by them – they would oppose labelling on any grounds.  The group said it is their number one priority to defeat labelling. They argue that incomplete labelling wouldn’t cover most GE foods, such as restaurants, food service.  Since when is your home delivery pizza labelled? Even in Europe food service isn’t labelled?!  522 affects the  labelling of people food you buy in a grocery store.  Close to 70 percent of the world’s population lives in a nation that requires labelling of GMOs.

Canada and the US are the only two developed countries that don’t have mandatory GMO labelling.  Can you think of anything more important than knowing what you put in the sacred temple of your body?

The ballots are out.  Washington State votes by mail.  Nov 5th is the deadline.  I’ve done phone banking several times over the last week.  It’s simple, and it doesn’t cost a cent for the phone call because the computer calls you!  Here are some happy volunteers clarifying the truth to Washingtonians last week at Nature’s Path!

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My Brother Arjan working though dinner (Non-GMO of course).

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Kyla a-phone banking with a smile.
DSC_0336My Dad Arran and Erika in deep concentration.

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Remind your Washington friends and family to Vote.  Let’s show those corporate bullies who are covering up the truth about their food.  These bullies and their deep pockets are the only thing coming between you and your right to know.  Let’s show them that their money should have gone to useful, constructive things like feeding the hungry and designing safer food.  Can you believe that they have no higher priority than preventing consumers from finding out the truth?

350, 000 Washingtonians signed the petition that brought this to ballot.   With thousands of endorsements, and thousands of contributors Yes on 522 has the backing of the people.  The question is, will the No side convince enough people who want labelling that the bill (designed along International Standards) is incomplete?  The outcome is going to be too close to call.  Next week, a local Seattle TV station has a pro GMO fairytale to tell.  If there is a time get involved, this is it.  Get involved on any and every level.  Dispel the darkness – Spread the glowing truth!

All you need is a phone and computer!  To get trained go to http://yeson522.com/volunteer-for-yes-on-522/

The deadline is Nov 5th so we have a week left to make history!

LA GMO Free

Is LA going to follow in BC’s Footsteps and declare itself GMO free?  Given that the urban vote was overwhelmingly for labelling, it is just a matter of time!  My brother Arjan, who is this morning teaching city kids about organic gardening has great faith in the urban gardening revolution.  LA councillors Koretz and O’Farrell are presenting a motion to LA council this morning.  They are also giving a press conference beforehand.  Speakers include Nisha Vida, whom I met in LA last month. (See post: GMO OMG LA Premiere.) Please click on the link below to know more about LA GMO Free and read the press release.

LA GMO Free

I’m so excited about this!  This is hot on the heels of Washington’s impending vote to label GMOs (Vote YES on 522) and the encouraging news from Kauai and Hawaii whose councils have voted just this week to restrict and declare pesticide use in GMO production.  Mahalo to Hawaii.  I see the positive vibes travel through the waters, waves and droplets.  They carry hope and tropical sunshine.  They carry the gentle Hawaii breeze, the thunderous force of 100 foot waves, the hopes and dreams of a better world.

Style-Diet Shot – CITA

“On matters of style, swim with the current. On matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

– Thomas Jefferson

You may be wondering about the provenance of the bold Compassion into Action Shirts that were in yesterday’s post.  I asked Nicole of fairware.com and here’s what she she told me.  Yes they are 100% certified organic cotton, made in Honduras.  You can read more about Anvil CSR information from the link below. You will also find their Oeko-Tex certifications and organic cotton certifications http://www.anvilknitwearcsr.com/

Here is Nicole from fairware.com with Jyoti:

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3 J’s: Jeff, Jason and Justine!

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Peggy spreading love early in the cool morning.  She wore a large shirt over her down-filled coat.DSC_0124

Arjan and Rimjhim aka The Love Crunch Couple!

DSC_0130 Rebecca, Bridgette and Carman

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Daniela and Amy serving up Que Pasa organic tortilla chips.

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 Shannon, fellow picture-taker.
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Annie and Roy thumbs up!

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“Conventionally” produced and GMO Cotton is just about the most polluting crop on the planet.  In the US, close to 90 percent is GMO production.  GMO cotton uses more pesticides and herbicides despite being engineered to produce its own pesticide.  This is because of the recent GMO induced phenomena of super-weeds and super-pests that are resistant to glyphosate.  

Big thumbs up for organic cotton which doesn’t use GMOs or harmful pesticides!

The Style-Diet Shot celebrates individuals with unique style, wearing at least one article of clothing acquired via the Stephens’ Sisters Shopping Diet. It must be local, sustainable, second-hand/re-purposed, inherited or ethically produced. If you can’t find clothing fitting that criteria then it must be from a country with stellar human rights records.

Compassion Into Action


Let’s turn our compassion for others into action. Let’s feed the hungry. Let’s do it by giving away delicious organic food. Food that’s as pure as can be. May this inspire others to open their hearts and wallets.

This is the basis for Compassion into Action that my dad Arran started a few years ago after being inspired by the Dalai Llama. All the talk of compassion fuelled him to do something about it. Let love be your rocket fuel as Robyn O’Brien says. Here’s a pictorial recap of this year’s Compassion Into Action.

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Let’s set the stage with some music: Corey from the Peak 102.7 was the Compassion Into Action dj for the day.

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Candice and John from the Greater Vancouver Food Bank:

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Let’s kick off with some Coffee from Ethical Bean! Fair trade certified.

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Maria with the Milks. Soy, Cow, Almond.
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Organic toaster waffles, courtesy of Nature’s Path.

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Cooper from Happy Planet pouring out organic juice. And Happy Vibes.DSC_0138

Volunteer with the food bank who were collecting donations.

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Arjan, Rimjhim, Jyoti, dad, et moi.

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Brent – pretend-eating a monster spoon of Chocolate chips a la Cookie Monster.DSC_0148

It was hoppingly busy!

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An organic hot and Cold Breakfast was served: From organic and fairly traded Ethical Bean Coffee to Happy Planet Organic Juices to Nature’s Path Organic Cereals and Waffles. You could come back for lunch, including Que Pasa Organic tortilla chips and salsa, Silver Hills Gluten free Grilled cheese and Save On Meats Vegetarian Chilli. Once your tummy was full, you could do your grocery shopping with a 25 dollar donation. Ons reusable bag could be filled up with organic goodness.
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Dad live on the radio with Corey from the Peak!

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Bowl of delicious Vegetarian Chilli anyone? Served with a smile from Save-On-Meats.

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Darren and Rex.

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Joes No Frills donated organic produce as did Save on Foods.

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Nature’s Path donated Love Crunch cereals, Evirokidz cereals, Bars and granolas too. Que Pasa donated their scrumptious whole grain tortilla chips.

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Arjan with Corey from 102.7 the Peak,DSC_0159

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Eatmore donated organic Sprouts – with a 25 dollar donation you could fill up a reusable bag of organic groceries.DSC_0176

Tanya and John. Tanya held several bake sales in her office to raise funds for the food bank. She presented it to John of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in an envelope. Brava! The Food Bank relies solely on donations to feed 28,000 people per week. No donation is too small.DSC_0191

Anthony from BCIT. Along with Breakfast News and the Weather Channel they were one of several Media covering the event.DSC_0196

Jyoti and Jason cooking up a storm:

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Thomas modelling an organic Pumpkin. Nice pumpkin.DSC_0206

Arjan, Rimjim, John making delicious Silver Hill bread Gluten Free Grilled Cheese.
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Silver Hills Organic Breads (also Gluten Free) was there with smiles!DSC_0232

These were amazeballs vegan and Gluten Free from Two Daughters Bakeshop http://twodaughtersbakeshop.com/DSC_0145

Organic Pears from Witzke’s Farms:

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Happy Shopper! Organic veggies galore.DSC_0175

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More Happy Shoppers – with such an array of fresh organic veggies, bread, chips, juice, and cereal who wouldn’t be happy? DSC_0177

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Positivity is infectious. Get in line, Get infected!

522 Fundraiser

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

My mother Ratana quoted Margaret Mead the other night in her acceptance speech at the  Organic Trade Association Awards. It got me thinking about how a group of concerned committed citizens are leading this charge for the Basic Democratic Right to know what’s in our food. 64 countries around the world either ban or label GMOs. The USA and Canada are the only developed nations without Labelling laws. Given that 93% of Americas want labelling, why isn’t this a reality? If the companies selling GMOs only did short-term studies safety studies why are they allowed to sell GMOs?  Especially given they are not proven safe to eat? Why are GMOs not banned or labelled – at the very least?  Coming from Europe it took me a while to figure out that most N. Americans dont know what GMOs are, dont even know that they are in 80 – 85% of processed foods.  And why would they know?  Well Duh?  They are unlabelled.  The chemical companies who own the seed companies don’t want N. Americans to know.  What have they been hiding? 500x500-Avatar-Sup

In Washington State these is an initiative to require Mandatory labelling of GMOs. Called I 522 and put to the citizens, it was be voted on this November.  If you want labelling of GMOs you will vote yes. If you don’t want to know what’s in your food, you will vote no. Already record and ridiculous amounts of money have been poured into the No side by the pesticide companies, “big agriculture”, and purveyors of junk food. To date, they’ve put in over 12 million dollars. Most of these junk food companies also own organic companies, confusing the already complex chains of ownership.

The YES side comprises the grass roots, the environmentalists, farmers who fear that export markets will dry up as GMO contamination spreads, people who care about nutrition and biodiversity, and independent organic companies that are minuscule in comparison to the NO side. Stonyfield – mostly owned by the French Group Danone, and Whole Foods a public company are notable exceptions supporting the YES side.  But compared to the NO side, the YES side companies are digging deep in their relatively tiny pockets. It is not an equal fight to begin with, simply based on resources of the NO side.

At Baltimore’s Black Olive Restaurant there was a fundraiser for the YES on Washington State’s I 522 two days ago. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be a great idea to celebrate the YES side, given that a whole group of supporters were together. So ignited the idea for this post.  Let’s put names and faces to some of the YES supporters.  This is by no means an exhaustive list of those attending the dinner nor those who support YES.  It’s just folks that I bumped into during my short time at the event.

The YES on I 522 fundraiser was organized by Living Maxwell http://livingmaxwell.com/ and Vani the Food Babe http://foodbabe.com/. Both are passionate about food and your right to know if you’re eating GMOs.  They are on a mission to inform and educate. Here is Max Goldberg (L) with Errol Schweizer of Whole Foods http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/.  Whole Foods has taken the laudable and unprecedented step by a national retailer to require labelling by all suppliers by 2018.  This is amazing.  It’s already causing ripples, nay waves.  But Whole Foods says they want to focus beyond GMO labelling and support biodynamic systems, heirloom varieties.  GMO labelling is just the starting point.

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Below here is the Food Babe (she *is* a BABE), with Mike Bronner of Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps.

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Below my brother Arjan (L) my of Nature’s Path Foods with Greg Fleishmann of Suja Organic Juice http://www.sujajuice.com/.

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Below Nutiva founder and CEO John Roulac http://nutiva.com/  posing with Kat Schuett.  Kat is a fellow jazz singer!  She’s also an international journalist, editor and community activist https://twitter.com/katschuett and –  (I’m sorry I didn’t get your name-someone please tell me so I can fix this).  Food Democracy Now’s David Murphy http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/ was in conversation with Delana Jones Campaign Manager for I 522 http://yeson522.com/.  Dave’s short term goal is a Million Members for  FOOD DEMOCRACY NOW.  Please sign up.

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Below Young Activists Birke Baehr http://www.birkeonthefarm.com/about-birke-baehr.html  and  Rachel Parent http://www.kidsrighttoknow.com/, who toppled Kevin O’Leary in a debate recently.   Kevin said “All right, Rachel,  I’ll give you labelling. With greater transparency this is going to happen.”   Do it already!  (Go YOUTH) These kids are only 14.  Birke has already given a TED Talk when we was like 12 years old.  These two have poise and charm and eloquence. GO YOUTH.

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Below, Dr Bronner’s Magical Soap team http://www.drbronner.com/.  The Bronner family cares about health and the planet, like everyone at this event.  The Bronners, Mike in the back and Dave in the hat, are big donors for the YES on I 522 and an inspiration to all fighting for your right to know what’s in your food.

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Below Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich.  They both were in the film GMO OMG.  Dennis said in the film, “If we are what we eat, then we must know what we eating so can learn what we’re going to become.  Until the year,Congressman Dennis Kucinich was the Democratic House representative for Ohio’s 10th district. A former mayor of Cleveland and Ohio state senator, Dennis has served seven terms as congressman for Ohio and in November 2010 was elected to serve an eighth.

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Below Dr Rimjhim Duggal-Stephens, my sister in law whose marriage to Arjan inspired LOVE Crunch cereal.  In a bite-for-bite program, for every bag sold of Love Crunch one is donated to the food bank. A loving person Rimjhim fell in Love with Suja Juices this last week.

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Below Darren Mahaffy, of Natures Path Foods, surrounded by delightful companions: Maria Anderson, Andrea and Randi from Naturally Savy http://www.naturallysavvy.com/

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Below Ken Roseboro below surrounded by friends. Ken is the editor of the Organic and Non-GMO report. http://www.non-gmoreport.com/organicnongmo/newslettereditor.php  He appeared in the film GMO OMG, driving around corn fields with Jeremy Seifert.  He is the one who first explained to Jeremy in the film that the GMO corn is technically a pesticide.  That pesticide companies are putting pesticides in our food.

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I wanted hoping to catch Steve Crider, regional volunteer for the YES on 522 Campaign.  He is with Amy’s Kitchen, making our family’s favourite frozen pizzas.  They also support YES with all their Heart.

In sum, you have a committed group of folks who live, sleep and breathe the YES movement for a safer, more delicious world.

The NO side is a nameless, faceless conglomeration of huge multinationals, pesticide companies with huge legal teams, infinitely bottomless wells of cash resources and shareholders who only care about protecting their bottom line.  Lest you think that this is the Organic industry versus the chemical companies it’s not so simple.  It may surprise you that not every large organic food company is fighting for your right to know.  In fact most are NOT supporting citizen’s right to know.  As Big Multinationals bought out organic companies, (like Kelloggs bought out Kashi for example), most large Organic brands are actually supporting the NO side.  What?  Say that again? How doest that work?  Well, if they hadn’t sold out I can guarantee you that they would be supporting YES. They are supporting no because they are beholden to their Giant parent companies who share a very different set of ideals than the idealists who started out wanting to grow food without poisoning the Earth.  

Organic food growers and farmers are my heroes.  They replenish the soils, purify the waters and go above and beyond the call of duty to the Earth.  Every single one I’ve met wants everyone to grow organic for the sake of our future. Long-term side-by-side comparison studies by the Rodale Institute show equivalent or greater yields.  Without poisoning the water or soil.

Why are we doing this again?

Whom would you trust?

An Isha moment at the Dr Vandana Shiva lecture at UVIC Part 1

The Growing of Food should be an act of love 

-Dr Vandana Shiva March 27, 2013

I dream of a world where we breathe healthy air and dig in healthy soil.  Where streams run clear and pure.  Where organic farmers cultivate with pride and dignity and freedom to plant the seeds they themselves sow and save for the future.

My daughter Diya holding a wild wee baby bunny.  The bunny didn’t hop out of her hands.

I will set up the first of this two-part post with an impressionistic portrait of Isha. She is my six year-old with a flair for the dramatic, like her older sister Diya.  You will remember Isha if you have ever had the – ahem – pleasure to have met her.  She is intense, loving, naughty, rambunctious (why is that so hard to spell?) and takes up a lot of energy.   She also has a iron sense of justice.  Did I mention that she is outspoken?  Even for a 6 year old.  On the ferry the other day, I met a fellow school parent who had hosted Isha at his daughter’s 7th birthday party.  “Oh, so you’re Isha’s mom?!”  he said with surprise – not quite masking his slightly apprehensive tone.  We hadn’t met.  He looked a little scared.

“HmmmUmm,” I smiled,  and murmured, brightly bracing myself and showing all teeth.

“Yeah, wow.  Hmmpf.  I know Isha, We know Isha” he said wyrly, “your daughter is a real character.”

Yyy-yep. ah.

I’m just putting that out there for you to digest while I set this up.  It’s called blunt foreshadowing.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about how Dr. Vandana Shiva shifted something inside me.  I come from a pioneering organic family.  My grandad Rupert turned to organic methods loving the lowly-earthworm when his peers on Vancouver Island were turning to synthetic pesticides and herbicides.  Rupert also was a song-writer. He loved to write songs about the beauty of the Earth and farming.

Rupert Stephens, my song-writing, organic-berry farming, pacifist grandfather.

Having grown up in and around gardens, health food stores and vegetarian restaurants, I thought I was pretty informed about agriculture.  I’ve heard about GMOs for a long time in many capacities before they crept up everywhere in food.  When I moved to London in the 1990’s, I was invited to a special session in the British Houses of Parliament to hear the various sides debate GMOs.  I got dressed well (because there is a dress code, didn’t you know? I found that out the hard way alas – and will post about that another time).  In my fancy pumps and matching grey suit, I traipsed to the room where they were having the debate.  I sat, watched, listened to the speakers, made notes, saw the data.  I came with a relatively open mind.  And I actually wanted to see the data.  I have an honors BA and an MA in Biology and started a doctorate in Spain.  I have used pipettes, sequenced genes and even co-authored a scientific article once upon a time.  The original idea of GMOs wasn’t entirely devoid of merit, if you kept in mind the following :

1) a for-profit company owning patents to life (hmm)
2) organic is better = no pesticides and herbicides yay!
3) lack of biodiversity due to the flawed mono-crop theology (boo)
4) ethical concerns about the companies themselves promoting GMOs
5) (organics is still better)

The GMO-proponents at this British debate were arguing that they significantly reduced pesticide use through this technology.  Again I was thinking, how can you compete with organic?  In organic farming the soil is enhanced, not depleted.  Pesticides and herbicides not only kill biodiversity but kill farmers.  Big-agri food business sees that side as an unfortunate but necessary by-product of food production.  Again, I reminded myself that I was there with an open mind.  If they could radically reduce pesticides and herbicides use, I might be impressed.  But I wanted to see the data.  Better, if they went organic, of course, but I again I was going with a relatively open mind. Riiight? If they were invited to give their best arguments, dressed to their corporate best (like moi, of course) at the august Houses of Parliament, they had to be bringing some  pretty gosh-darn amazing data.

I held my breath waiting for the evidence to show up on the screen.

It came.

I frowned in consternation…

Did the well-heeled Brits and Americans see what I saw?   I zoomed in on the chart proudly titled something like ‘Reduction in Pesticides and Herbicides in GMO Crop Sample study’ .  I was looking for the significant difference.  Did they make a mistake?  Was this the ‘before’?  Nope.  I checked the title again and looked at the dots and lines.  This had to be their ‘great scientific evidence’?  But was this the very best they could do?  The reduction in pesticides from ‘conventional’ to GMOs production was *minimal*.  With the variance, it seemed hardly a difference to my eyes.  The GMO proponents kept using the words “statistically  significant” and pointing to the chart.  I squinted, turned my head this way and that way. Okaaaay, like significantly lower by a bit.  But not enough to my eyes.

Nor to British eyes.

Like me, they were not persuaded.

Fast forward to recent.

Confronted with all these screaming red warmings about GMOs, I had been getting more perplexed and wrestling with my disquiet.  I still didn’t want to write a blog about this.  I thought we were doing enough.  Others were doing enough.  I thought I was doing enough to support organic and local producers with each and every meal.  My family has been supporting organic farmers in several ways for years.  My father Arran was the first to found and certify an organic breakfast food company. First my grand-parents Rupert and Gwen, then dad Arran, mom Ratana, sister Jyoti, little brother Arjan, my sister Shanti and brother-in-law Markus all produce, market and manufacture organic foods.  It have never simply been a job to provide people with delicious nutritious foods.  My family ethos is steeped to further the agenda of our planet.  Socially responsible, Environmentally Sustainable, Financially Viable.  We have been leaving the soil better than when we found it for decades.

But I still wasn’t ready to write about this on a blog.

Fast-forward to about 2 weeks ago.  Drum roll please!!

Now, if you really and truly want to know what has given me a kick in the pants to write this blog, you need to hear this amazing lecture.  Right now.

Click on it below.

Dr Vandana Shiva distinguished lecture at the Univeristy of Victoria

Click on it above if you didn’t click on it above.

Listen to the lecture.  Share it with your friends, discuss it with your children, enlighten your parents.

You will really understand what GMOs are all about from the winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize.  Dr Vandana Shiva gave this lecture at the University of Victoria on March 27, 2013 where she was awarded an honorary doctorate.

This lecture changed me.  Whereas I was quietly doing my part, after this lecture, I wanted to turbo plant seeds of understanding, knowledge and stand up and wave my arms.  Her lecture has changed my life.

Me, Mom Ratana, Diya, Dr Vandana Shiva, Dad Arran, sister Jyoti

Part 2 coming next.  In which Isha surprises even me at Dr Vandana Shiva’s lecture