Tag Archives: Genetically modified food

Letter From My Niece


“Dear Auntie Gurdeep,

In my school, we have these presentations that we stand in front of the classroom and read a non fiction article under 2 minutes. One of the kids brought a letter written by Monsanto because his dad works at a cereal company and was curious about gmo’s. I was sickened by this letter explaining how wonderful gmo’s are and how they help so many people in the world who can’t buy expensive food. Once the kid finished presenting, I stood from my chair and shouted out the truth about gmo’s. My teacher was amazed at my ability to debate any situation from different perspectives, ( but  I also got in trouble for being negative about a kids presentation  and standing up from my seat). I have always been interested in gmo’s and the thought occurred to me, why not find an article that explains the other side of the story. Then I thought of you and your blog, and your strong active hope to inform people about gmo’s. I was wondering if you had any written (kid friendly) articles written by you, or in mind I could use for my presentation.

Thank you so much!”

girl guides

My intelligent, talented and bright niece sent me this email last night.  (She is about the same age as the girl guide in this photo wanting GMO free Girl Guide Cookies.)

Perhaps because I lived in Europe for many years I have a more global perspective on GMOs than most.   Canada and the USA are the only two developed nations that don’t label or ban GMOS.  64 countries in the world ban or label GMOs.  GMOs are not proven safe.  Prior to their release, the only experiments done were by the companies making them.  3 month-long rat studies. A rat has a two year lifespan. GMOs have not been tested for human safety.  These companies have refused to release their raw data.  What are they trying to hide?  Every single independent, long-term study shows major cause for concern.

GMOs use millions upon millions of pounds of pesticides and herbicides to grow.  They cannot grow without these chemical inputs.  These chemicals are carcinogens, hormone disrupters.  Worst of all we can’t even avoid them in N. America since they are not labelled.  Along with the chemicals, which are inextricably linked to their existence, GMOs are poisoning us and the planet.

All this to say that GMOs are not wonderful and my niece Bianca was right.  However, she brings up a point that I too struggle with.

How strong a message to deliver?

Isha’s Epiphany

“I wish I could eat GMOs Mommy”

– Isha, seven

Isha was responding to my blanket response to buycott junk food because it has GMOs.  Isha feels that she is unfairly denied treats.  Which most of her classmates eat.  How to deal with a child who doesn’t understand?  How to deal with a population who’s been denied the right to know what they are eating?

Once I started to understand that if my food here in N. America isn’t certified organic, it probably has GMOs.  This took some time for me to digest after coming back from many years of living in Europe.  Shoppers here are deluded by “natural”.  If food is labelled ‘Natural” and only that, it has no traceable system.  It probably has toxic pesticides and herbicides and GMOs too.

On one end of the food spectrum is obvious junk with artificial colors, flavours, aspartame….  Nobody should eat that #$*.  These products must be categorically banished from food forever.  But in the middle of the food spectrum is, let’s say, run of the mill “Natural” cookies.  The do not have artificial anything on the label.  But they most likely contain GMOs because they have sugar and corn.  Or soy or canola.  Most of the N. American supply is now GMO of these 4 staples.  Or how about milk products or derivatives from cows fed hormones or GMOs?  These ‘natural’ foods have toxic pesticides and herbicides and fungicides too.  This kind of “Natural” product is worse perhaps because moms are lured into a false sense of security of it being healthy and “natural”.

My 12 year told daughter Diya gets it, both the obvious junk and the hidden GMO Junk,  We looked up the lab results on artificial flavours and colours the other day.  But Isha still was begging for GMOs until the other day.  She had an epiphany hallelujah praise the Lord.  She was looking over my shoulder as I was scrolling through my facebook feed.  She stopped me at the Seralini Study Rats which I have been immune to having seen these grotesque images many times over the last year.  The Seralini study methodology was originally criticized by scientists in the employ of big biotech.  But recently his study has now become recognized by the European Food Safety Authority

“Ug, what’s that mom!?” Isha exclaimed, her little face all screwed up “What that those things?” she pointed to the tumors on these poor rats fed GMOs.  So many studies who lone alarming thing after the other with animal fed GMOs: shrunken testes, inflamed pig stomachs….  But it was these pictures that did it for Isha.

3-rats-seralini

“Those rats were fed GMOs throughout their lives”  I responded.

“They ate GMOs?!” she looked like she was going to be sick.

“Yup,”

“I’m not eating GMOs ever again” she said decisively.

I could finally breath a sigh of relief.  Isha finally got it.  She understood in a heartbeat that I wasn’t depriving her of GMOs to assert my maternal authority for authority’s sake.

It’s reminded me of the re-education of the N. American public when with came to smoking.  When I was a kid, a nurse came into my school and showed us photos of healthy lungs vs smokers’ lungs.  This got me thinking…  Maybe we should show Seralini’s rats?  Here is a diagram my daughter Diya brought home from her life studies class.  I’ll spare y’ll the other diagrams (yup, I’m refereing to the sex-ed diagrams – btw this paper is a little beat up because we tried to make a paper flute out of it.  Anybody have luck with that?)

20130903-135051.jpg

To conclude, we were walking in downtown Toronto when we encountered some guy  promoting some online bank.  He was thrusting popsicles into the hands of eager passer-bys.  It was a hot muggy day.   I refused but my daughters accepted.  Half-way though eating them, my 12 year old read the ingredients in the orange popsicle.  In case you were wondering, it didn’t have orange in it.  I groaned.  Artificial colours, flavours, GMO sugar…cellulose.  Cellulose!  Cellulose is tree bark!  We aren’t designed to eat trees!

The girls made a face and looked at the frozen chemical concoctions they had been gleefully sucking on.  “Oh Mom,” their faces fell “We just can’t eat anything.”  I heard despair in their little voices.  This was a tough moment for me.  I don’t want my kids to become paranoid about their food.  But….

I told them that a little bit probably wouldn’t hurt them.  They were only somewhat reassured.  I was uneasy.

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