Category Archives: Sustainable Business

Academy Awards of Organic Food

Last night, I attended the OTA awards recognizing Leadership in the Organic Foods Industry.  Organic became an industry started by idealists like my father, as a response to farming with toxic chemicals. These committed few believe, as I do, that poisons don’t belong in the food supply.  Ask any mother and she’ll tell you that she doesn’t want to feed even trace amounts of carcinogens and hormone disrupters to her children.   Several joined the caravan and the few became an “industry”.  Fast forward several years and things are looking brighter as the industry has grown from a seed into a sapling.  But we now have to contend with unsustainable GMO agriculture. Instead of decreasing their use, GMOs have exponentially increased pesticide and herbicide use in a misguided mono-crop disaster.

But here is hope for our planet and our health.  Side by side studies with “Conventional” Vs Organic show that Organic yields are equivalent and organic yields are greater in times of Drought.  Organic methods are the gold standard for healthy soil, clean water, and the food Mother Earth intended for us to eat.  For those of you wondering about organic standards, please see my blog post with answers from Dag Falck. https://thedeepersideblog.com/2013/09/15/dag-falck-replies/

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The first award was presented to my parents Arran and Ratana Stephens, of Nature’s Path Foods.  They were honoured with the Growing Organic Industry Award.  When recently asked if Nature’s Path was a non-profit activist group or a consumer foods company, Dad answered “Both”.  I’ve copied his and mom’s inspired acceptance speeches below.

The Second Award was presented to Kyle Mathison of Stemlit Growers for Organic Farmer of the Year Award.  In a rousing speech which made my mouth water, Kyle spoke about his quest to grow the best, most juicy, luscious fruits.  He has helped advance solutions in orchard weed control, organic fertilizer, integrated pest control etc etc.  Kyle, a fourth generation farmer from Washington, made me salivate as I flashed though my most memorable fruit experiences.  That peach I bought in Montreal, those figs from Florence, the sweet muscat grapes from France that tasted like candy, ripe mangoes from India that defy description.  The Apples dad has espalliered.  I wish I had the text of his speech so I could make you salivate too.

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The third and last award of the evening was presented to Karen and Colin Archipley: the Rising Star Award.  Colin is a war veteran who founded the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program.  Helping veterans, who face employment hurdles after leaving the military, Karen and Colin create a link between jobs for vets and organic agriculture on Archi’s Acres in California, their organic hydroponic farm.  Talk about literally turning swords into ploughshares!  They recently helped plant the White House’s Organic garden.

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During their acceptance speech, Colin made everyone in the crowded room raise their hand and pledge to be Semper Fidelis.  This is a Marine Motto.  Always Loyal.  It was a lovely gesture.  From a former marine leading the pledge (whose opening I solemnly swear reminded me of the marauders map), it was powerful.  If anyone had been unsure about the zealous commitment to Organic farming, this dispelled any doubts.

I saw Bob Quinn the KAMUT grower on my way out.  Bob and I spent many years bumping and into each other at European Trade shows.  No matter where I was or what my mood was, Bob made me smile with his killer smile dressed in his cowboy boots and hat with two sprigs of Kamut in its band.  Kamut (heirloom wheat found in an Egyptian tomb and subsequently planted in the midwest) has higher protein content and superior nutritional content to modern wheat.  It also doesn’t cause bloating.  Only organically grown, Kamut, which is trademarked, is growing literally by leaps and bounds since I last saw Bob.  Bob tells me that over 70,000 acres are dedicated to the organic sowing of Kamut!  That is great news for Kamut growers, happy tummies and the planet.

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Below is the inspiring speech mom and dad gave:

OTA Growing Organic Leadership Award ACCEPTANCE SPEECH, Sept 26, 2013, Baltimore, MD:

RATANA:
Dear friends, family, OTA Board Members and Fellow Travelers,

Thank you for bestowing this honor upon us. We are privileged to be recognized.   This journey has been a labor of love. It is to create a better world for our children, grandchildren, and the children of the universe.

This has not been a solo play. So wonderful to see many familiar faces who have been a vital part of the organic movement for years, and together we have nurtured and grown this into an industry. What is the power of a committed few? According to Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Rather than talking about what has happened over the past 45 years that Arran and I have been together (and believe me, we have seen a lot), I would like to pass along some advice in building a successful legacy enterprise, and what we have learned from our mentors:

Never sacrifice quality for money or for any other consideration

Always do your best, and leave the rest

A success is a failure that never gave up. There’s no substitute for patience and persistence.

Never compromise core values and principles. Business and the market are in constant flux, VALUES never change.

Be humble.

Now, I’m going to turn this over to Arran…

ARRAN:

On behalf of the many, Thanks for the Award!

Because of the visible stand that i and my family have taken against the artificial genetic modification of our food supply, And our fight to have GMO foods properly labeled in California and Washington State so people can make an informed decision about whether or not they wish to feed this stuff to their families, I received a tongue-in-cheek question, “Are you a packaged consumer goods company, or an activist group?” I happily answered, “Both!”

2 1/2 years ago, lying in the ICU ward, my life was dangling from a very slender thread, hovering somewhere in the void between life and death. It seemed then, in some strange way that I had a choice—to go into the Beyond or stay on and complete some unfinished aspects of this existence. I chose, or so it seemed, to live on.

Having been granted a life extension, I re-dedicated whatever time was left to serve the Creation in some small way—on the one hand to nurture and protect the fragile earth, to help fulfill the destiny of our enterprise, Nature’s Path and ensure its smooth succession to the next generation, to be there as a loving father and husband, and on the other hand, to continue to evolve as a human and spiritual being.

In ancient times, it was said, “Honor your heavenly Father and your earthly Mother that your days may be long upon the earth, for from one mother proceeds all that lives; therefore he that kills, kills his brother, and from him will the earthly mother pluck her quickening breast.”

I have always felt a kinship with this spiritual, but non-religious Father-Mother aspect of existence.

Over the past seven decades. I have been much blessed to have been raised by loving parents on the family farm on Vancouver Island; to have lived in India; to have married one of her daughters; to have been blessed by her Saints, to have been constantly involved in the organic movement since 1967, before there was an industry, to have, with my dear wife of 44 years, and our four children–Shanti, Gurdeep, Jyoti and Arjan) built an inter-generational legacy of Nature’s Path, without selling out!  For our friends in the investment community, no part of NP is for sale, just to save your and our time.

We have made many good friends over these decades, many of whom are in this hall tonight. We honor you all, we love you all.  To all who are part of the burgeoning organic industry, starting with our unsung heroes: family farmers, suppliers, the hundreds of Valued Nature’s Path Team Members, wholesalers, retailers and last but not least, our millions of customers, we salute you, for without you, we wouldn’t be here.

The world we all share and love, is in crisis. Nature is under serious attack, and she’s beginning to revolt. It’s up to us to nurture and care for what is left. Our generation has made a terrible mess of polluting the nest; let us hope and pray the next generation is wiser. My dad told me, his ten year old son, as we hand planted a field of corn together to “Always leave the soil better than you found it.”

With modern methods of chemical agriculture, using fossil fuel based fertilizers and attacking pests with massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides, we are short-sightedly destroying the long-term fertility of our soil bank, depleting it at the expense of future generations. In less than 20 years, since the first GMO crops were introduced, more than 90% of soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, and Hawaiian papayas now contain alien gene traits. There have been no long-term safety GMO trials, which makes us part of an unprecedented feeding study, but we are not lab rats! Nor are GMOs even labeled, yet they are in 80% of supermarket foods. GMO crops are failing their maker’s promise to provide greater yields, toxic herbicide use has gone up 15 fold, allergies have increased three fold in the short two decades since GMOs were introduced into the North American agricultural system. Predicted super weeds have developed resistance to herbicides, contaminating more than seventy million acres in North America, now requiring even more deadly chemicals to eradicate them. Thousands of unique species of plants and creatures are lost every year.  Instead of cooperating with nature as we should, as guardians or trustees of our land bank, modern science and short-sighted consumerism is waging war against Nature. And this has many of us disturbed.

Biotech companies are interfering with evolutionary processes that have taken thousands—even millions of years to perfect. Genetic modification is not a continuation of selective breeding, but the significant alteration of life forms. And the outcomes are haphazard and unpredictable.

Organic agriculture and soil conservation is the only bulwark against this tsunami of ecological mismanagement.

Because we are concerned that good organic farmland is being lost due to ageing farmers retiring with no heirs to take their place, we have begun to buy good farmland, with a cooperative crop-sharing model. It is working, but with the rate of demand exceeding supply, we desperately need more young organic farmers. We are grateful to be a part of the organic solution. You are, or can also be a part of the solution. A new, caring economy is needed. A fresh paradigm of conscious capitalism, if I may borrow the term, a new generation of idealist-entrepreneurs is much needed. There is hope, and I am an optimist.  I will fight for the good of the earth so long as I live, and until the I that is my body becomes the earth, while the I that is my soul soars free from its temporal fetters to merge the lesser light with its Source in the greater Light.

Let me share one of my farmer/songwriter/father’s songs:

Across the plain, my yellow grain
Lies restless as the sea,
How could this all be given to a guy like me?

To fill my need I sowed the seed,
And now repaid I’ll be,
How could this all be given to a guy like me?

The seasons change with splendor,
My ceiling is the sky,
The earth, my master, happy man am I

Two arms that gladly share my toil
Or hold me tenderly,
How could this all be given to a guy like me?

BC GE FREE PASSED BY UBCM

This morning, in an unprecedented step, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), at their Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, passed a resolution “that UBCM ask the British Columbia government to legislate the prohibition of importing, exporting and growing plants and seeds containing genetically engineered DNA, and raising GE animals within BC, and to declare, through legislation, that BC is a GE Free area in respect to all plant and animal species.”

Gojiccino


As ‘new’ super foods enter the mainstream, new uses are found for them. Such as gojiccino!
In case you haven’t heard about gojiccino (I certainly hadn’t until now) it is the love child between a cappuccino and the Goji berry. My sister Jyoti grew a goji on her patio a few years ago. Shrivelled up Goji berries are Full of vitamins and antioxidants. 15 times the amount of iron as spinach. They are unique among fruit have all essential amino acids (like soy). Used in Chinese and Tibetan cultures for thousands of years, they are only recently known here in N. America.
I drank this gojiccino at Fresh in Toronto. It was unlike anything I’d ever tasted: a mix between coffee, chocolate, orzo (an Italian grain coffee found in every Italian cafe), rooibus and of course goji.
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It got me thinking about superfoods and food intolerances and Robyn O’Brian whose book the best-selling number one book on GMOs on Amazon, “The Unhealthy Truth” talks about the link between GMOs and allergies. Her premise is ‘how on earth can we be allergic to food?’ Unless, of course it’s been altered.
As food becomes industrialized and bred for corporate efficiency, food loses nutritional value: what made it good for us to begin with. Fabio Picchi, famous Florentine Chef and Author told me once that the role of food isn’t to NOT harm ( sorry about he double negatives) ‘non e di Non fa male’ On the contrary food should be proven to do good ‘Deve far bene’. He wasn’t even talking about GMOs at the time. Rather veggies such as tomatoes that are bred to have an extended shelf life at the expense of flavour. I know what Fabio thinks about GMOS without even asking. He wants food to be proven to do GOOD. GMOs are actually proven to do harm. In many ways. Mamma mia!
With GMOs now rampant and unlabelled in N. America , not only are food staples such as corn and soy losing nutritional value but they are also made to express pesticides. The food we are eating in copious amounts, is actually designed with a pesticide to kill insects. In high concentrations these pesticides kill us too. Should food kill? In low doses this food poisons us slowly. I think of it like arsenic. Or putting a drop of Glyphosate (known as Round Up Weedkiller) everyday in a glass of drinking water. Why would we want to feed ourselves or our precious children trace amounts of nasty toxins?
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So back to the new superfoods and superberries. I’m referring to things like quinoa, amaranth, goji berries, acai berries. Plants like spelt have shown to be superior to wheat for example. We know that the ancient varieties of wheat like Spelt and kamut and red fife are nutritionally far superior to over 95% of GMO wheat. GMO wheat is a monoculture crop bred to grow fast, resist pesticides and grow despite being sprayed a toxic cocktail. It isn’t cultivated with nutrition in mind. But profits. Devoid of nutrition, sprayed with toxins and spiced with bacterial genes, modern GMO wheat is to be avoided at all costs.
Until we demand large corporations to change their recipes to exclude GMOs (like they have done in Europe and South Africa) and eliminate round-up and toxic pesticides, we must avoid N. American grown sugar, soy, canola, corn. It’s the buycott. If we stop purchasing these poisons, ignore the advertising, corporations will have no power, no choice but to change for the better.
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Until traditional varieties are re cultivated en masse and the GMOs erased from our food supply we must seek out Organic, GMO free, and Pesticide free foods. we must turn into hunter-gatherers at the supermarket. Armed with the ability to read and recognize labels, we can sniff out what we should put in our bodies. We can even use our smartphones which sort out the GMO chaff from the Organic wheat with apps that can tell you which products are NON GMO project verified.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/06/11/watch-forbes-test-buycott-app-on-anti-gmo-and-koch-products-in-supermarket-aisle/
And long live the Gojiccino! I hope to see it at cafes everywhere.

Dag Falck, the Expert, Replies

As the saying goes, let other people advise but never let them decide for you.

Yesterday, while gathering signatures for the GE FREE BC Petition, I met a working scientist with 3 biology degrees including a PhD, who only bought organic local food and was carrying his precious sleeping baby in a baby bjorn.  Guess what?  He was reluctant to sign the petition.  He knows the data about fertilizers creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the data about glyphosate toxins in fetal blood, the poisoning of water by atrazine, the death of bees by GMOs since the seeds are coated in neonictinoid pesticides.  He knows that and accepts that but was still unwilling to sign.  The GMOs we accept and grow right now in N. America – not the theory of them, not the hope of them, not the promise of them – are terribly catastrophically wrong for our planet, bees, health and society.    This scientist holding his baby said that he was holding out for the possibility that GE technology was in theory helpful (for Africans, Asians, for a remote possibility that they would solve future problems).  Again, we said that GMOS that are grown right now were not solving anything especially given that over the long-run organic yields are higher that GMOs!  He hummed and hawed.

But Victory!  After a 10 minute debate – we convinced him to sign.  It was the hardest-earned signature from yesterday!

I wanted to formally address Amy’s reply from yesterday.  Not only Amy brought this up but several others too – Amy is a political scientist.  She asked important questions that were also asked by thinkers and scholars, University Professors who are using their powerful logic and splendid gifts of deduction to understand GMOs (as they are currently grown in N.America for N. Americans).  I asked Dag Falk, Organic programs manager at Nature’s Path if he would respond to questions several of you asked me following the film screening about Organic.  He has spent his entire life advocating for organic methods. He answers Amy’s questions point by point.

Dag Falck, Organic Programs Manager, Nature's Path Foods

Dag Falck, Organic Programs Manager, Nature’s Path Foods

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?

What we know for sure is that Organic does not contain any GMO that was knowingly allowed to enter the product either through growing or handling.  Unfortunately we live in a polluted world where these pollutants in the last 17 years have started to include GMOs.  Imagine whale fat containing DDT which was banned in most developed countries decades ago?  So there is no safe place, there is no way to build a wall tall enough, As Arran Stephens said many years ago, “there is no wall tall enough to keep out GMO”.  We are all very sad that this is the case, and after we grieve for this most terrible and unforgivable fact, we need to shake our heads and take a hard look around and ask ourselves, what is the best protection I can give myself and my family from GMOs?  And the answer is that certified organic food, and food with credible standards and oversight like the Non GMO Project, are the best ways to do that.  Is it perfect? — no, but it’s the best there is, and let me tell you exactly how much better it is than conventional non organic food, or food where no effort has gone into protecting it.  Organic food production has strict rules about not using prohibited materials like pesticides, herbicides GMOs etc. ect.  Buffers are required towards any neighboring crop that uses any of these.  Harvesting equipment, silos, trucks etc used to handle crops must be either used exclusively for organic, or it must be cleaned and documented according to a very high standard.

Can contamination still happen?  Yes it can, and there is pesticides in millions of public wells in America, groundwater is polluted many places, rainwater contains industrial particles that fall out in rain.  It just simply cannot be avoided 100%, even if we really really want to.  But what organic does do is two things: A) it does not add any more to the pollution, because its forbidden to use any of the materials that pollute like pesticides, herbicides, GMO’s etc.  B) the contamination of organic products is miniscule compared to conventional crops.  Consider potatoes, sprayed routinely 12 times between planting and harvest, consider GMO corn or soy that is “stacked” and contain both BT toxin (a pesticide) in each cell of the plant including the corn and soy we eat, and Round Up Ready®, which means that every cell of the plant including what we eat is impervious to the pesticide Round Up ® or Glyphosate.  And it’s not just a little bit, it’s 100% present in entire fields- as a matter of fact it’s in 100% of over 80% of all cotton, corn, soy, canola and sugarbeet that is grown in North America.

If you’re not paying attention, it’s a foregone conclusion that each and every meal you eat contains large portions of 100% GMO ingredients.  The EU, and the Non GMO Project agrees on a threshold of 0.9% GMO contamination.  Anything above that is not allowed.  Organic foods don’t have the threshold, but attain a similar level through all the practices mentioned above.  It’s actually pretty good that we can limit our exposure by 99.1% just by choosing organic.

But I agree, it’s a crime and a terribly sad world to live in where there is no way to escape even this.  That’s why (besides eating organic) that I’m doing everything I can to set this straight,.

On a practical point, organic standards prohibit feeding animals anything that is GMO, so the only thing that could get into an animal feed would be unwanted contamination at the low levels mentioned.

 How can organic farmers be sure the food scraps they feed their chickens and the like are GMO free? 

Organic standards do not allow food scraps or anything else to be fed to certified organic animals unless it can be demonstrated and documented that the feed is not GMO.  So for instance a bakery could not have their waste used by an organic farmer as feed if the bakery used non certified organic corn soy or Canola oil at all.

How about GMO contaminated soil (from household composing) in which otherwise perfectly organic tomatoes would be grown in peoples backyards?

Organic standards do not allow composting of GMO substrates, and neither should any backyard gardener who is concerned about organic and non GMO.

It’s difficult to fight back, and to do everything to protect ourselves from GMO and pesticide pollution, but it is possible to make a huge difference, and one of the easiest ways is to support organic agriculture, the only system with a strict standard, an annual third party inspection, and a serious fine for fraud (people are in jail right now for breaking the organic rules).  Also this is a repeatable system than anyone can learn, and it leaves the soil more fertile after use than before.

Sometimes it’s tempting to complain about that which we love the most, because we are so disappointed that it’s not perfect.  Think of how much we often expect of our spouses, or children.  They already are the most beautiful creatures to us, but when they slip up (in our eyes) even a little bit, we can’t help but notice, and heaven forbid we sometimes open our mouth and say something….  (don’t try this at home…)

It’s precisely because we love them, and we want them to be perfect to help us feel like we are protected by them also, that we hold them to such a high standard.  A stranger walking down the street, we don’t have very high standards for at all.

Let’s curb our tongues with our loved ones when we get disappointed or scared when we feel that they fall an ¼ inch below our standard, and lets curb our tongues when we want to cry that even organic isn’t able to protect us 100.0%.  We all know what the right thing to do is; support your loved ones, share your love for them, with them, and they will become more of what you love.  Support organic, it will do more to save  the world than any other single thing you could possibly do.  And love an organic farmer!

Organically,

Dag Falck

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

GMO OMG Film Review

Just because we have the technology to (fill in the blank), does it mean that we should?

GMOOMG

Dive, Jeremy Seifert’s first film, was an eye-opener to the practise of dumpster diving.  I was moste intrigued by the promo pictures of Jeremy in a bathing suit speedo and swim goggles diving into… garbage!   Even though most dumpster diving isn’t as extreme, the point Dive got across was that Americans are throwing away tons of perfectly gorgeous food for the wrong reasons.  Dive won 26 awards internationally. It was food for thought indeed. For Jeremy’s second documentary feature, he tackles the heavy issue of GMOs, turning a seriously obscure and convoluted issue into an intelligible one.

GMO OMG stars Jeremy with his young family, trying to figure out what on Earth are GMOs.  He gets his cute, innocent sons to wear these funky glasses he designed from craft-store paraphernalia.  He tells them their glasses would reveal where the GMOs are.  In fact, GMOs are everywhere but invisible – except for their ruinous effects on the health of our planet and every living creature.   Most people have no clue what they are or that they’re eating them.

GMO OMG Jeremy with sons

Jeremy said that he didn’t set out to make an ANTI-GMO film.  He just wanted to help his young son Finn, who featured in Dive, learn about seeds. Food is a political subject.   Especially intriguing is war-torn and earthquake-ravaged Haiti, who with a starving populace burned and destroyed GMO seeds offered to them.  The more Jeremy found out about seeds, the more alarmed he became.  Well after starting the film, he came to Nature’s Path Foods looking for funding as my family has been vocally and vehemently opposed to GMOs since they first came out.  My dad Arran said in the 1990s, “There is no wall high enough to keep out GMOs.”  Jeremy showed dad a few clips and on that basis my family provided funding for him.  This isn’t what Nature’s Path normally does.  Funding a film like this is a first for the Nature’s Path breakfast-cereal family.

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Few other medium – large sized organic companies have stepped up for the consumer’s right to know.  This is because they are owned by big multinational brands that oppose labelling of GMOs.  Most larger organic companies pretend to be independent, quirky, organic brands but they’re not.  Nature’s Path, being truly independent, can stand up to bullies and not worry about their parent companies gagging them.  (David and Goliath?) These same monster multinational companies have lost the battle in 64 other nations around the world who require labelling or outright ban GMOs.  They are terrified of North American consumers finding out what’s in their food. The greatest weapon against GMOs is an informed public.

There is such a campaign of misinformation by monster corporations who stand to gain by GMOs.   Jeremy’s film explains and destroys the arguments of the false promises of GMOs to reduce pesticide use and promises to feed the world.  GMOs are poisoning the planet, killing the bees, poisoning us.  And the truth is that after initial promising yields of GMOs, over time they are outperformed by organic methods of agriculture.

cigarettes aren't harmful

Like the tobacco lobby of the last generation, GMO proponents give “scientific evidence” that their foods are safe.  Well, dozens of countries have done the same long-term studies on GMOs and found that they are not safe for human or animal consumption.  They are not conducive to the well-being of our planet.  Most people are so confused about the science that they cannot actually grasp what is wrong with GMOs that are in our food supply.

Let me summarize the main GMO take home points (as I see them):

1) 64 countries require labelling of GMOs.  The only developed nations not to are… Canada and the Unites States of America

2) GMOs increase pesticide use- in fact pesticide use has gone up about 100 times since GMO were unleashed into our food supply.  Pesticides and Herbicides are harmful to people, they cause hormone disruption, cancers, they are poisons and are toxins.  At high concentrations they kill (farmers drink them to commit suicide).  Pesticides used in GMOs are poisoning the water and soils.  They are killing the bees.  Neonics are the class of pesticide that are used as a treatment on the GMO seeds. They have been banned in Europe

3) GMOs are not proven safe for human consumption.  They were foisted onto N. America after 3 month-long studies on rats.  Every long-term study shows cause for concern.

4) Is it ethical for a company to patent life after inserting one or two toxic genes?  As Dr Vandana Shiva says, they are not creating anything but polluting life.

gmo omg tee cute kids

Jeremy Seifert manages to convey truth about GMOs in a humble, humorous and thoughtful way such that most folks can begin to understand what is so very wrong about them.  Even if people are not so sure on the science, they need to be given a choice whether they want to eat them.  Given what we do know.

The Low Down and Dirty – Chef Survival Challenge 2013

It was my first Chef Survival Challenge.  It was a hot day of watching Chefs alongside Firefighters get sweaty and dirty and labour and fight and cook for farmland conservation.

Let me set the stage with four time Juno award winner Lester Quitzau who played amazing guitar.  Riffs and moods and skills.  Big up respect.  Wow.

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Adam Olsen, of the Tsartlip First Nation and interim leader of the BC Greens gave a welcome and blessing honouring the land.  He spoke eloquently about the importance of local farms.

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Lovely Lola and Corey Francis sang a couple of songs in Lola’s stage debut. DSC_0516

Proud mamma Nathalie below.DSC_0520Then the Chefs and Fire-fighters were presented as contestants. In past years it was just chefs but this year the brawn was supplemented.  Plus the local fire-fighters were honoured for…being heroes. In the photo below Madrona Farm’s Nathalie and Dave Chambers point out the obstacles to be overcome in the photo below.  Nathalie and Dave are also heroes.  They got 3000 people chip in and they donated their family farm to a land trust.  How many folks do you know do that?  They wanted their farm to be preserved forever and given to the community after their turn.  Nathalie and Dave show how it can be done on Madrona Farm.  It’s Nathalie’s dream for all farmland to be owned by the community.  The Chef Survival Challenge is about raising funds for communities to purchase farmland (Big Dream Farm-fund) and farm it sustainably.  No GMOs or pesticides, herbicide toxins.  Farmland to be preserved in perpetuity for the community via land trusts.

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The Chefs and Firefighters started the obstacle course with the sack race…DSC_0530

They soon got muddied in the mud pit….

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And then had to crawl under nigh-impossible obstacles while being hosed by malicious gremlins.  (Children).

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Look at the metal pipes.  They are heavy.  Look at them being displaced.

Now look at the lower left corner.  Are you squirming?DSC_0545

From down low and dirty to up high and mighty.

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After the chefs were exhausted, tired, and cotto (means cooked in Italian)… they had to cook up a storm.  The firefighters proving their might, stood around and looked strong.  There was a live auction which raised $100 for an individual to be carried by a firefighter across the mud hole.  Sadly I didn’t get a picture of that but suffice it to say that it was hot.  Okay.  The firefighter took off his shirt.  And he was ripped.  Did I mention that it was hot?

I sang Grandpa Rupert’s Song “This Earth is Ours” along with pianist Lisa Olive.  Lisa is an amazing talent, a little technically challenged with a non-fully functioning  half-length keyboard.  Despite said technical difficulties and false starts when Colin the sound guy ran up to the stage waving for us to stop and support from Lester Quitzau himself, Lisa played with the flair of Chopin.

The victuals were beautifully, locally sourced.  The CRD was there with their water truck eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles (KUDOS).  Here is the line up for the food.  Well worth the wait. Lots of vegetarian and vegan food I’m pleased to report.

Dessert: berry crumble!DSC_0556

Below, pianist Lisa Olive and I display our GMO OMG tees (organic cotton). But of course! What else would you want to wear to an event honouring the food that comes from the Earth (actually it was so hot that I wanted to go au naturel and bask like a pig in that mud hole)

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I met Kelsey from Innotech Nutrition with his ‘bro’.  Out from from Winnipeg for a few days, he came to Chef Survival Challenge coz he heard that this was the best partay happening in Victoria.  Dude got that right!

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Andrew Weaver spoke below, introduced by Lester Quitzau (sorry for quality of the photo). Andrew mentioned how his kids got him a playmobil farm set since he loves farms that much.  We love that he loves farms.  Hmmm.  I wonder if he has a Green thumb?

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Chefs cook-cook-cooking away on camping gear.  Don’t let that fool you for a minute!

This was big-up gourmet: Note the care with which the marshmallow was roasted.

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This Chef below was a speedy gonzales, beating the fire fighters in the obstacle course and doing cirque du soliel moves on the zipline.  He won for best costume (Note to self, get him for Style-Diet Shot).  (Anyone please tell me the chefs’ names so I can credit them?)DSC_0580

The chefs auctioned off gourmet meals to the highest bidders.

Sadly I couldn’t stay longer.  As I left the burlap sacks in the dust, the music on hiatus, happy community bonding underway with an auction frenzy…. I noted that the mud hole was being well-utilized.

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 Every adult was holding the leash tight on their inner child.

Fighting the urge to get really super dirty.

(Did I mention that it was hot?)