• A Nature’s Path family member (daughter of co-founders Arran and Ratana), Oak Bay resident and non-GMO world patriot, Gurdeep Stephens, recently addressed the mayor and councillors in Victoria, BC.
Gurdeep, along with several other speakers, attended a Victoria Council Session preceding a vote on GEs in the city. We are happy to report that following the presentations, Victoria council and mayors voted unanimously against GEs in the city.
Read on for her moving and informative talk about the impact and ramifications of using GEs in food:
My grandfather and great-grandfather were berry farmers on Vancouver Island. I literally grew up in the organic food industry before it was called an industry and am part of the founding family of Nature’s Path Foods where I am director of special projects. Jane Goodall said, ‘Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?’
I lived in Europe for 14 years where GMOs are now mostly banned and all labelled except in a few cases. Indeed, there are 64 countries that label GMOs and several that ban GMOs. When I came back to Canada in 2009, I realized that, in North America, GMOs are in most cotton, corn, canola, soy and sugar, and we are eating them without any kind of knowledge, permission or labelling.
When Biotech and Big Ag talk about GE (genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms), they talk about feeding the world, decreasing pesticide use and their famous Golden rice. None of these promises have come to fruition.
Here are some of the reasons I urge Victoria to adopt the GE Free Resolution. But I would like to point out I am not talking about genetic engineering for medical purposes, such as bacteria that are spliced to produce medicines like insulin. I’m talking about the food on our plates, plus plants, trees and animals.
Six points against GMOs:
1. They are typically monocrops, which are the antithesis of biodiversity. In Vandana Shiva’s book, Soil Not Oil, she writes we have lost 90% of crop biodiversity in the last 30 years.
2. Most that are commercially available are modified – not for nutrition and not for better yield. Most are modified to express a pesticide (like BT) or resist an herbicide (like glyphosate or worse). I call these pesticides and herbicides “biocides.” The biocide class called neonicotinoids, which GMO seeds are often coated in, kill bees.
3. Last year, glyphosate – aka Round UP – was declared by the WHO as a “probable carcinogen.” I personally was one of the first Canadians to ever test for glyphosate in my body, and it was there in my urine at a relatively high level of 3.1 ppb.
4. They cross pollinate. That means they pollute non-GMOs in the fields. My dad Arran said in the 90s, “There is no wall high enough to keep out GMOs.”
5. They involve patents on life. Vandana Shiva said, “In adding some toxic genes to a seed, you are not creating life, you are polluting it.” Alarming to most people is that Canadian law favours the patent holders over the farmers whose farms have been contaminated by GMOs.
6. They are tested and declared safe by the very companies that profit from them. Our government, to date, has not done its own independent long-term safety studies.
Despite the millions Big Biotech, Big Food and Big Ag have spent to stifle GMO labelling, despite the US Dark Act that recently passed, despite the billions in subsidies and lobbying money and corporate science to convince us otherwise, the organic food industry is over 40 billion dollars in the USA and remains one of the fastest growing sectors in food.
Organics does not permit the use of genetically modified organisms. Moreover, the “Non-GMO Verified” label is the fastest growing label in the natural food industry. People want to know what they’re eating and they don’t want genetic engineering in their food. Millennials are driving change and seeking organic foods. So the future is bright and it’s organic.
In BC, there are 16 regions and 61 municipalities who have adopted a GE Free resolution.
Living in one of the most beautiful ecosystems in the world, declaring Victoria a GE free zone will send a message that we Victorians are for biodiversity. We are for bees and butterflies. That we stand up for a clean food system that will help purify our soil, water and air, not one that will slowly poison us and destroy our precious biodiversity. Respected Madam Mayor and Honourable Councillors, by declaring our city GE Free, you will bring our city one step closer to the change we want to be in this world.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Victoria places itself on record opposing the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, plants and trees in the City of Victoria in the absence of scientific testing on the long-term impacts of these crops on human and environmental health;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the City calls upon the Federal and Provincial governments to implement a regime of mandatory labelling of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for sale in BC and Canada;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the City calls upon the Federal and Provincial governments to impose a moratorium on bringing further GMOs to market for sale until a regime of independent and transparent scientific assessment and GMO management is introduced;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the City of Victoria shall forward copies of this resolution to the Premier, Prime Minister, local Members of the Legislative Assembly and Members of Parliament, and member municipalities of the Capital Region.
• In the last five years in British Columbia, taxpayers – that would be you and I – spent over $100 million on drugs and insulins for type-2 diabetes through our Pharmacare program. In addition, people in BC probably spent another $200 million out of their own pockets and the pockets of our employer-sponsored drug plans on diabetes treatments. Add to that the costs of all the doctor’s visits and the diabetes paraphernalia – including glucose test strips, lab tests and so on to keep blood sugars monitored – and two things are clear: this is one expensive disease and it creates a huge amount of medical busywork.
Maybe the hundreds of millions of dollars we’re spending on diabetes measurements and treatments is well spent. Surely, it would be if we could be sure people are getting the drugs they need so they don’t suffer heart attacks and strokes and the more serious complications of diabetes. But can we be sure of that? Hmm, probably not.
There is one particularly strong theme you’ll hear when doctors discuss diabetes: that if you have it, you are increasing your cardiovascular risk, for example, your risk of a heart attack and stroke, both which could be fatal. People with type-2 diabetes have difficulty processing sugar, a condition that is described in guidelines as a “complex chronic disease characterized by hyperglycemia due to defective insulin secretion, defective insulin action or both.” Insulin is produced by the pancreas and regulates both the breakdown and movement of glucose, which is critical to maintaining blood sugar levels within normal ranges. The good thing is if you’ve got too much sugar floating around in your bloodstream, there are many drugs to lower those sugars.
But if you read no further in this column, here’s the punch line: Most of the money we spend in this province on drugs to reduce blood sugars in type-2 diabetics achieves almost nothing. While the drugs can be extremely effective at lowering blood sugars – and so it appears they are doing something useful – they will do almost nothing at lowering serious health risks, such your chances of a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.
Don’t believe me? The latest newsletter put out by the Therapeutics Initiative at UBC, which assesses clinical studies of drugs, concluded, “Glucose lowering medications for people with type 2-diabetes are widely prescribed in Canada despite having been approved by Health Canada without credible evidence that they reduce mortality or major morbidity.”
The newsletter says a little bit more, but let’s consider the implications of this statement for the average person. A man named John is in his mid 70s and has lived all his life without any consideration that he may be ill. He has no symptoms, but after being sent for a routine blood test he is told he is now a diabetic and needs to take drugs and maybe insulins to control his disease. More specifically, he is told he has a “high” reading on his hemoglobin A1c test, (HbA1c), also known as a glycosylated hemoglobin test. This is a marker of how well one’s blood sugar has been controlled during the previous two to three months. If it is much higher than ‘normal’ the doctor will look for any signs of kidney or eye damage or damage to blood vessels in the legs, all of which are considered “microvascular complications” that are linked to diabetes. The next step is he’s put on a drug called metformin. This is how things usually roll.
In BC, the government sponsored diabetes care guidelines say that any hemoglobin A1c greater than 6.5% constitutes a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes. Most experts say that 7 percent is the magic threshold and keeping the HbA1c level below 7 percent will lead to fewer diabetes complications (eye or kidney disease). But again, this is controversial. Even Consumer Reports on Health in the US says there is no definitive proof that keeping HbA1c under 7 percent prevents heart disease or premature death and they remind us that most of the studies of HbA1c are short, a year or less. The upshot? Who knows what the long-term effects of driving blood sugars down below this level are?
But we push on. Why? Because John’s HbA1c is closer to 8.5 and the guidelines say it should be 6.5. The standard advice for anyone identified as having a “high” HbA1c level is to lose weight and control one’s blood sugars through diet and exercise. Controlling one’s diet – especially cutting back on carbohydrates – and getting more exercise can be the closest thing to a cure and the good news is you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get adequate exercise. In fact, daily walking is enough for many people to stave off diabetes, push their HbA1c down and avoid the worst complications of the disease.
Have you ever noticed how much activity there is around a disease if the drug industry can produce profitable products that appear to do something for it and can be sold for daily use over the long term? Well, type-2 diabetes is the poster-child for a drug-friendly disease, and you can imagine the absolute cornucopia of drug treatments for type-2 diabetics that are out there.
Diabetes is the marketer’s ideal condition as it allows a lot of profitable busywork around measuring blood sugar levels, altering those levels with drugs, and measuring again. Trying to get your blood sugars down to 7 or 6.5 percent makes for very good activity to distract people from the fact the drugs are doing almost nothing to alter the underlying course of the person’s diabetes.
Like most newly diagnosed type-2 diabetics, John first gets prescribed two of the oldest and cheapest drugs, metformin and glyburide. The real big money for the drug companies, however, comes from the newer treatments, including more than a dozen on-patent and much more expensive drugs that lower blood glucose. These include the Gliptins: sitagliptin (Januvia), saxagliptin (Onglyza), linagliptin (Trajenta), alogliptin (Nesina); the Tides: exenatide (Byetta), liraglutide (Victoza), albiglutide (Eperzan) and dulaglutide (Trulicity); and the Flozins: canagliflozin (Invokana), dapagliflozin (Forxiga) and empagliflozin (Jardiance).
Collectively, Canadians spend nearly $750 million per year on prescription drugs that lower glucose, an amount that works out to about 628 prescriptions per 1,000 people, about the same volume we consume in antibiotics. But how many drugs does one need to get those numbers down? In BC, about 100,000 people take a single drug (mostly metformin) every day to lower their blood glucose. But it doesn’t stop there. Nearly 65,000 BC residents take two or more diabetes drugs and nearly 30,000 take three or more.
A 2013 review from the Cochrane Collaboration found that ‘intensive glycemic control’ – trying to keep the HbA1c at or below the 7 percent mark – did not reduce rates of cardiovascular death, non-fatal stroke and end-stage kidney disease. What was cruelly ironic in that study – a meta-analysis of nearly 30 studies on the same question – is that patients who were subjected to intensive glycemic control had more serious adverse events, including severe hypoglycemia (which often ended in hospitalization). In other words, the taking of multiple drugs to drive one’s blood sugars lower and lower seems to be a fool’s game.
Who stands to benefit from the war on glucose? Just follow the money, I say. Driving for lower and lower blood sugars is big money in Canada. In BC alone we spend hundreds of millions of dollars chasing blood sugars into absurd territory. We allow the pharmaceutical companies to write the guidelines and our own doctors to be ‘educated’ about those pharma-funded guidelines.
Hoodwinked by the diabetes industry, we spend, as a society, tons of money treating this so-called risk factor called hemoglobin A1c, yet all that money does almost nothing to save lives or help people live longer. We should be spending healthcare dollars that purchase health. This diabetes scam just gives more profits to the drug companies while giving us nothing in return.
Alan Cassels lives in Victoria where he studies and writes about the pharmaceutical industry, disease mongering and overdiagnosis. His latest book is The Cochrane Collaboration: Medicine’s Best Kept Secret.
General Mills. Post. Hershey’s. Unilever. Pepsi. Those are just some of the top food corporations that have been persuaded since January 2014 by Green America’s GMO Inside campaign and its supporters to remove genetically engineered (GE) ingredients from their products and offer organic options and products without GMOs.
“We are now at the tipping point and with this major momentum, the shift to non-GMO food is only going to gain more speed,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America. “These 10 victories demonstrate the important role consumers play in shaping our food supply. As more and more consumers demand healthy, sustainable food made without GMOs, we expect more companies to follow suit and produce goods without GMOs. The victories to date are part of a larger trend towards simpler ingredients and transparency in GMO product labeling.” Green America’s GMO Inside campaign cited these 10 major victories:
Cheerios (General Mills) removed GMOs from original Cheerios.
Post removed GMOs from Grape-Nuts and obtained Non-GMO Project verification.
Chobani committed to working towards non-GMO & organic feed for dairy cows.
Hershey’s removed GE ingredients from Kisses and milk chocolate bars.
Campbell’s released several organic and non-GMO products including organic soups and goldfish crackers made with organic wheat.
Sabra Hummus (Partially owned by Pepsi) removed GMOs from many hummus varieties.
Enfamil (Mead Johnson Nutrition) introduced non-GMO infant formula.
Gerber Good Start (Nestle) introduced non-GMO infant formula.
“Non-GMO and organic foods, which were once found only in natural food stores, are now mainstream, sold in major supermarkets nationwide,” says Ken Roseboro, editor and publisher of The Organic & Non-GMO Report. “Major food companies are seeing the tremendous consumer demand for such products and introducing non-GMO and organic products to meet the demand. This shows that more and more consumers want simple, natural and organic foods without GMOs, pesticides and unnatural ingredients that are hard to pronounce. These are not fads; they are trends.”
“With sales of non-GMO and organic food growing faster than all other food categories, any food companies that fail to listen to our campaigns and to their own customers are going to lose out in the market,” said John Roulac, GMO Inside co-chair and Nutiva CEO.
In addition to growing demand for non-GMO foods, consumers overwhelmingly want to know which products contain GMOs. In response, more and more multinational food companies have committed to label products that contain GMOs. Campbell’s was the first major packaged food company to voluntarily label GMOs and end opposition to on-package GMO labels.
Faced with consumer demand, Kellogg’s, Mars, General Mills, Con Agra and Del Monte have committed to label products made with GMOs. Dannon also recently committed to a broad sustainability and transparency agenda, which includes labeling GMOs, non-GMO ingredients and non-GMO feed.
The GMO Inside campaign works with over 260,000 consumers to call attention to GE foods and provides information about organic and non-GMO alternatives. Learn more at www.gmoinside.org and take part in the GMO Inside community on Facebook and Twitter.
What does Site C stand for? Choose one or more of the following items:
4) Christy Clark
6) Con game
8) Cost overruns
9) Collapse of economy
11) Committing ecocide
12) Climate change
Damage to the environment, displacing productive farm land, destroying fish habitat, ruining heritage sites, dismissing first nations concerns and treaty rights, breaking up communities, and creating such massive debt your electrical bills will skyrocket. As well the huge debt will rob money from all other public expenditures causing the same kind of austerity measures big business has pressured governments in Greece, Italy and other countries to “pay back” – i.e. the debt created by their “friends” in government whom they donated election campaign money. The current provincial government has been in power so long that it has become corrupt and callous. This pretense has gone on too long. The con is spun by mass media owned by the very interests that profit from such large projects as pipelines, dams, fracking, supertankers, toll bridges, and LNG, all leaving the citizens to suffer the debt and deterioration of habitat.
What is going on
Join the growing movement to end the greed of political operatives serving their multinational masters. Democracy belongs to the people. Their neo-liberal ways are a disgrace, making BC an acronym for Bullshit & Corruption. They invite big money from anywhere to come here, buy elections, and do as they please. Power will not be given away by these operatives, it must be taken back by the people.
The premier of BC has spent over a million dollars on her vanity press, dragging around PR soldiers and a personal photographer. She is not alone in this ethical vacuum. George Carlin said it right. “There is too much bullshit and it is not good for anyone”… and BC’s government is full of it. People know it. They see it and are disgusted.
We finally got fed up with Harper’s belligerent ways ignoring science and climate change. He is gone and good riddance. We can no longer afford Christy Clark’s arrogance. Her Cheshire Cat smiles won’t repair MT Polley’s dam destruction even with her publicity team pretending a sow’s ear is a silk purse. And her friends’ theft of the commons is hideous.
It is even more the hideous becaue it is hidden behind a smiling PR fortress, playing to the cameras while avoiding the public rage. Woodfiber LNG with a Hiroshima-equivalent of thermo power, with each of its proposed tankers a delightful target for a deranged mental case repackaged as a terrorist. The fracking of northeastern BC has destroyed the local water tables, streams, lakes and habitat, and for what? So large foreign energy companies can rip us off! Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Encana, and the rest of the Enron-like ilk has Christy Clark as their cheerleader.
She takes realtors over to China to sell off our lands and homes, inflating house prices so high we can’t afford to live in the places where we grew up. The bankers certainly don’t mind because they get to issue higher loans and make more interest. Wake up and smell the corruption parading as government. Time to decide. Which side are you on? The people or the corporations; protecting seven generations or burning everything for short term profits.
The current neo-liberal political cabinet have chosen the corporate grave train. We the people have choosen to not have their oil filled rail tankers explode on our towns or valleys. The party is over. We are taking our province back.
• There are lies, damn lies, and in BC, there are also dam lies.
British Columbians are amazing. Having spent time in the Peace River Valley this summer, I am in awe of the thoughtful, quiet determination I saw in the people undergoing the greatest of calamities: the looming loss of their homes, land, history and future – all to support a politician’s lie.
In many other parts of the world, people would be in open revolt in opposition to this kind of stupid injustice. But not here. Here, the people hold on to the hope, against all odds, that truth, justice and sanity will eventually prevail.
The Site C Dam, to be built by BC Hydro – under orders from BC Premier Christy Clark – with more than $9 billion of public debt, on the Peace River near Fort St. John, threatens to drown everything for over 80 kilometres upstream, including farms, gravesites, wildlife and spiritual areas. The history of settlers and First Nations alike erased. And all of this damage is completely unnecessary, driven by a lie – a dam lie.
You can read the lie in the preface of a recent BC Hydro poll: “Is the idea of building Site C, a new hydroelectric dam, to help meet the rising demand for electricity in BC, an idea you strongly support, support, can accept under certain circumstances, oppose, or strongly oppose?”
Here’s the thing: electricity demand in BC has been flat-lining since 2005. There is no rising demand for electricity, and BC currently produces a massive overabundance of it. Export energy prices are averaging $45.10/MWh, which is much lower than the $100/MWh that Site C Dam power would cost. If Site C Dam were to be built, BC would need to export its power at a staggering loss. It’s a recipe for financial disaster and good reason to not flood this huge, productive valley.
You could say, that instead of bedrock, Site C Dam would be built upon Premier Clark’s lie.
This is no little lie. This is a big, nasty lie, which is already causing severe damage. The BC government likes to say the Site C Dam would power-up more than 450,000 homes when completed. But the fact is it will power-up no homes in BC because we already have more than enough power to do that for decades, far into the foreseeable future.
What the Site C Dam will do is destroy homes. Third-generation farmer Arlene Boon and her husband Ken know that all too well. They were recently told they could either sell their farm home to BC Hydro or be expropriated. Either way, they were told to make way for a new road right-of-way, needed to replace the old road that would be flooded by the Site C Dam. The Boons were told to be out of their own home by this Christmas.
There are those that believe that both the location of the new road and the timetable for construction have been changed to force the Boons, who are vocal opponents of the dam, off their land as soon as possible. It’s stuff like this that causes people to lose faith in their government.
All over Peace country, residents like the Boons are not sleeping so well these days. That would include the members of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations. They are going to court to defend their treaty rights to hunt and fish and live within their own territory – rights that would be drowned under Site C’s reservoir. At risk are not only the life they live today, but also their past, their gravesites and ancient spiritual places. Their future, too, hangs in the balance. What will the lives of the generations going forward be like with the Peace under water?
Their case will be heard in federal court in Montreal in September. Canadians across the nation are stepping up to help fund the court challenge by donating to Raven Trust (raventrust.com). In the meantime, the people of West Moberly and Prophet River are left to worry if Canadian justice will arrive in time.
They have good reason to worry. Premier Clark has said she will get the Site C Dam project past the point of no return. What she means is she will sign so many contracts with construction companies and material providers that no court would be able to overturn her dam agenda. It also means that tree clearing crews will have cut down so many eagle trees and cleared so many deer and moose birthing areas that the damage will be un-repairable.
The Prime Minister of Canada could have put an end to all this waste, destruction and human rights abuses, but he has chosen to allow federal permits to be issued allowing the ongoing Site C debacle to continue.
So is the Site C Dam really past the point of no return?
No – not even close. Despite doing her worst, the premier of BC has not yet wreaked enough damage or spent enough public money to lock-in Site C.
Prime Minister Trudeau should get a backbone and own up to his election promises of environmental protection and First Nations reconciliation. He still has the power to stop this damn dam and should do so now – while he still has a shred of honour left.
The premier’s dam lie is powering billions of dollars of public money into big business bank accounts. The Site C Dam would blow a hole in BC Hydro so large it would wallow in red ink, making it all too simple to sell off the indebted public power utility to the private sector at some point down the road. But the dirty deed is not yet done.
As more and more people become aware and engaged, hope grows that Premier Clark’s dam that was built on a lie will come tumbling down.
Ever wonder what the C in Site C Dam stands for? I say it stands for crumbling.
Joe Foy is the national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee.
In Canada, as much as 90 percent of the food marketed to children and youth on TV is unhealthy
Food and beverage companies bombard our children with millions of irresistible messages every year, and we’re all living the unhealthy results. It’s time for Canadians to fight back. Tell food and beverage companies our kids are not their business. Tell government to restrict commercial food and beverage marketing to our children. Take action at www.stopmarketingtokids.ca
In 2016, ‘back to school time’ is unlike any other in history. Children now spend more hours interacting with unregulated electronic devices than in classrooms and are more and more unsupervised. Meanwhile, their buying power is estimated to be $1 trillion. Profit-seeking corporations are mining these unprecedented contemporary realities in a relentless commercial assault, exploiting the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children, rendering parents and society virtually powerless. This crisis rivals damage being done to the environment and democracy; indeed, it is harming children – and the very nature of childhood – our cherished sources of humanity’s future.
To assess this urgent and growing threat, Common Ground contacted Joel Bakan, a UBC law professor (and guitarist) and author of The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004). This international, best-selling book and subsequent popular, award-winning feature documentary, characterize modern corporations as psychopathic, self-interested, manipulative and amoral, by definition, and in behaviour. Concerns about his conclusions led to his writing Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children (2011). Among other projects, he’s currently working on a film on this subject. In his words, “It’s getting worse and too many people still aren’t getting it.”
Bruce Mason: The book contains myriad issues, including increasing quantities of toxic chemicals in the environment, the explosion of harmful, psychotropic drugs to medicate children and tactics that play on intense emotions and desires to lure children into obsessive consumerism and “anti-social” social media. Many of our readers are concerned about junk food. What are your thoughts?
Joel Bakan: It’s difficult to imagine a more cynical art than the deliberate goal of making money by tapping kids’ developing and vulnerable psyches to elicit addictive play. The problem with the junk food industry – and global corporations – is not only marketing practices. It’s also the fact that it scientifically designs food to create addictive and compulsive eating, high in sugar, fat and salt. So it’s aiming to quite literally hook kids on food that is unhealthy, which, needless to say, will have profound effects on their life-long eating habits.
BM: Please explain “siege” in the title.
JB: Siege is scary, often in relation to totalitarian regimes. Here, we have a powerful force targeting and exploiting children. Let’s be clear about this: there is nothing in the character of the legally constituted corporation to suggest it would do anything else but maximize profit. Advertising sells products and brands, but it also promotes values and behaviours. Gaming consoles, smart phones, tablets and other devices and hardware are ubiquitous. So a siege-like force has been inserted between children and parents, who now compete with Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for kids’ attention. That’s calculated and frightening. But siege also indicates that resistance is possible.
Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” By that measure, our failure to protect children from corporate-caused harm reveals a sickness. We can expect – and are getting – growing exploitation. By design, the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children are being targeted. That’s the issue I heard about most after finishing The Corporation.”
BM: You also utilize a Karl Marx quote to help illustrate increasing concerns.
JB: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances…” In the 20th century, two legal entities were created: children and corporations. Over the last 30 years, corporate interest has increasingly prevailed. Deregulation, privatization, weak enforcement and legal and political resistance to regulations have eroded our ability to protect children.
Comic books were once the only [means of] advertising to children. In the ‘50s, television in living rooms began a trend of increasing exposure and direct access to teens, tweens and younger children. That’s continually ramped up through technology and it’s difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. This isn’t something new, but it’s now 24-7, 360 degrees. It’s most interesting that nothing has changed, nothing is being done, beyond some anaemic attempts – which get tangled in courts – and naive calls for self-regulation.
BM: Can you give us a specific example of the “siege” closer to home.
JB: More than 200 million child labourers work in harsh and unhealthy conditions, for little pay, often making the products that fuel our hyper-consumerism. But BC has the most astonishingly neglectful child labour laws in North America, indeed in the world. Afghanistan and Haiti have more protective laws on their books. In this province, a child can go to work at 12, in just about any job, hazardous or not – mines, taverns, bars and lounges are the only exceptions – and be required to work at any time of the day or night except during school hours. The introduction of this regime by a Liberal government in 2004 – before which the minimum work age was 15 – was rationalized as being “economically competitive” and has substantially increased the number of children working in the province. Despite these facts, wilful blindness continues to foster the belief that child labour is only a problem “out there” in the developing world, but not here at home.
BM: Last month, we reviewed Jim Hoggan’s I’m Right and You’re re an Idiot, in which he calls for progressive, concerned people to improve communication. Do you agree?
JB: Yes, we must create more compelling and creative narratives. Frankly, I think we should ridicule this “siege” more often. When it’s apparent that things have gone so clearly wrong that we can’t abide it any longer, people will rebel in surprising and unanticipated ways. There are signs of cracks in the corporate oligarchy, including the rise and “revolution” of Bernie Sanders and our own rejection of Stephen Harper’s conservatism. Now it is time to take off any rose-tinted glasses, to raise and share awareness and promote new curricula that includes media literacy.
Public regulatory systems and other governmental measures can certainly provide better protection and support for children. But that will not happen unless we, as citizens, demand that it does, which is why, I believe, being a good parent today requires more than just making good choices. It also requires that we work to change the conditions in which we make those choices; that we demand governments take action to protect children from harm at the hands of corporations and other economic actors.
Being a good parent, in other words, means becoming engaged as a citizen in the collective practice of remaking society – in that thing called democracy.
Children are exposed to more commercial marketing than ever
Marketing of food and beverages to children in Canada is largely self-regulated by the same industries that profit from this practice.
In 2010, the World Health Organization called on its member nations to reduce the impact of marketing of foods high in fats, sugars or salt to children.
61% of popular children’s websites market unhealthy food and beverages.
As much as 90% of food and beverages marketed on TV are high in salt, fat, sugar or calories.
Research has shown that food and beverage marketing has an impact on:
The foods children eat.
Their food preferences and beliefs.
The foods they pester their parents to buy.
Rising rates of childhood obesity.
Increased risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Worsening health trends
In Canada, over 1/4 of children and youth age 5 to 19 say they consume sugary drinks every day.
Childhood obesity levels in Canada have tripled since 1981, with almost one in three children overweight or obese.
Canadian kids’ risk factors for premature heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes are at epidemic levels.
Over the past 70 years, consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods in Canada has doubled, from 30% of the average family’s food purchases to 60%.
Most of the sodium Canadians consume (77%) comes from processed foods sold in grocery stores and food service outlets.
Health organizations tell food industry: Pick on someone your own age
In February, a national coalition advocating for restrictions on food and beverage marketing to children and youth was launched at the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC) annual conference. Co-led by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Childhood Obesity Foundation, the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition says the time has come to protect children and support parents to make healthy decisions for their families.
“Marketing works, plain and simple. This is why food and beverage companies do it and this is why it has to stop where our children’s health is concerned,” says David Sculthorpe, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation. “Our children are not their business.”
In Canada, as much as 90 percent of the food marketed to children and youth on TV is unhealthy. Kids are targeted through many channels and in different venues. This includes TV and movies, and in schools, rec centres, stores, restaurants and across the Internet. Tactics include logo placement, coupon giveaways, sponsorships, celebrity endorsements, branded videogames, product placement and toy giveaways in restaurants.
“Parents work extremely hard to teach their children healthy habits as they know the habits they form at an early age follow them through their lives. We need to help parents as they strive to instill healthy preferences in their children,” says Dr. Tom Warshawski, Chair, Childhood Obesity Foundation. “To do this, we need to protect our children and youth from harmful industry marketing tactics.”
The coalition has developed the Ottawa Principles, which outline the policy recommendation of restricting commercial marketing of all food and beverages to children and youth 16 and under, with marketing being defined as any means of advertising or promoting products or services. The restrictions would not apply to non-commercial marketing for valid public health education or public awareness campaigns. The Ottawa Principles also include a set of definitions, scope and principles to guide policy development.
“Our children and youth deserve to be protected and respected,” says Raffi Cavoukian, singer, author and founder of Centre for Child Honouring. “I am proud to endorse the principles of the Stop Marketing to Kids coalition and I encourage the government to put restrictions in place as soon as possible.”
Unhealthy eating choices are closely linked with childhood overweight and obesity, which can result in the premature onset of heart disease and stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
Regulations limiting marketing to children have been effective and cost efficient. Furthermore, restricting TV food advertising to children would be one of the most cost-effective, population-based interventions available to governments today.
At the same time, industry measures to self-regulate have not worked. Research shows that the nutritional quality of food advertised to children hasn’t improved and the amount of advertising has actually increased since industry adopted voluntary measures.
As well as the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Childhood Obesity Foundation, the coalition includes eight Canadian health and civil society organizations as partners. Dozens of other groups and key individuals have endorsed the Ottawa Principles.
More information about the coalition, including the Ottawa Principles and a mechanism for concerned Canadians to send their member of parliament a letter supporting restrictions on food and beverage marketing to kids, is available at the coalition website, www.stopmarketingtokids.ca
Coalition supporting partners
Childhood Obesity Foundation (founding member)
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (founding member)
• Food marketing expenditures are quite telling. In 2009, a whopping $1.7 billion was spent on unhealthy food marketing to kids, compared to a mere $280 million spent on healthy food ads.
Kids aren’t even safe from predatory marketing at school.
In 2009, companies spent $149 million marketing soda and other sugary drinks in schools and, on average, these drinks contained 16 or more grams of sugar per serving – an amount that meets or exceeds the maximum daily recommended sugar intake for most kids.
A large number of studies have also confirmed that sugary beverages in particular are strongly associated with obesity and this is not limited to soda.
Fruit juices will, in many instances, contain nearly identical amounts of sugar as soda, yet many parents are still under the illusion that fruit juice is “healthy,” and fail to consider these beverages when looking for dietary culprits for their child’s weight gain.
To prevent obesity and chronic disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests limiting your sugar consumption to a maximum of 5 percent of your daily calories, which equates to about 25 grams/6 teaspoons of sugar per day for most adults.
The limit for children is around 3 to 4 teaspoons a day or 12 to 16 grams. So just one sugary beverage can easily put a child over the limit of what their body can safely handle without adverse health effects.
Other junk foods also feature heavily in schools. According to the video, The Weight of the Nation: Children in Crisis, “20 percent of the rise in the BMI of teens is associated with the increased availability of junk food in schools.” The film also addresses the issue of school lunches, discussing the impact inferior school nutrition has on the childhood obesity epidemic.
Parents are fooled by food advertisements too
Parents are also deceived by the food industry’s PR machine. Junk food ads cleverly manipulate parents into making unhealthy choices for their kids while believing they’re doing the right thing. As noted by CNN:
“It is a dual-pronged approach where food manufacturers are targeting kids to pester (their parents) for these products and then manufacturers are marketing to parents to get them to think these products are healthy and not to feel guilty about buying them …”
[P]arent-directed ads emphasized health benefits and nutritional information for the products… However, a recent report… found that many of the products that are advertised to children, such as sugar-sweetened juice beverages and cereals, do not meet federal standards for healthy snacks. And… the ads that parents are seeing are for these same products.”
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to avoid falling into this trap is to realize that if there’s a commercial for it, you and your kids probably shouldn’t be eating it!
Why? Because only processed foods are heavily marketed and if you’re concerned about your child’s health and weight, then processed foods of all kinds, no matter what the ads promise, are the enemy. Your fridge and pantry needs to be stocked with REAL food, meaning foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
We must return to a diet of real food
Researchers have firmly debunked the myth that all calories are identical, and that to lose weight all you need to do is expend more calories than you consume.
Research shows that what you eat can actually make a big difference in how much you eat. In a nutshell, research shows that calories gleaned from bread, refined sugars and processed foods promote overeating, whereas calories from whole vegetables, protein and fibre decrease hunger.
While it’s true that most kids exercise too little, it’s important to realize your child cannot exercise his or her way out of a poor and metabolically “toxic” diet. Over the past 60 years or so, a confluence of dramatically altered foods combined with reduced physical exertion and increased exposure to toxic chemicals have created what amounts to a perfect storm.
The extensive use of refined sugar – primarily in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to virtually all processed foods – is at the heart of it all.
The recommended goal is to limit added sugar to a maximum of 10 percent of daily calories. While reading labels can help, the easiest way to do this is to eat REAL food. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and heart attacks are all diseases associated with a processed food diet.
The following short list of just three super-simple, easy-to-remember guidelines will not only improve your family’s nutrition, it will also help you avoid chemical exposures that can affect weight:
Eat real food: Buy whole, ideally organic, foods and cook from scratch. First of all, this will automatically reduce your added sugar consumption, which is the root cause of insulin resistance and weight gain. If you buy organic produce, you’ll also cut your exposure to pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients, and in ditching processed foods, you’ll automatically avoid artificial sweeteners and harmful processed fats.
Opt for organic grass-finished meats to avoid genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other growth promoting drugs.
Opt for glass packaging and storage containers to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Obesity a marker for many life-shortening diseases
Obesity is closely tied to a number of chronic diseases. In the US, eight obesity-related diseases account for 75 percent of all healthcare costs. This includes type-2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and dementia. About one-third of all cancers are also directly related to obesity. When you consider that two hallmarks of obesity are insulin/leptin resistance and chronic inflammation, you can begin to recognize that excess weight is fertile ground for a wide array of other ailments – many of which can cut your life significantly short. Obese children significantly increase their risk of suffering obesity-related illnesses and complications far earlier in life than others. Case in point: research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2015 revealed obese children as young as eight now display signs of heart disease.
• At one time, intuition was considered an old wives’ tale. Today, researchers have solid scientific foundations for the process of intuition. Dozens of studies support the value of intuition in decision making and finding creative solutions to problems.
A recent study stated that medical doctors can achieve better outcomes in their patients’ care by calling upon their intuition when making decisions. The researchers concluded, “Intuitive and analytical decision processes may have complementary effects in achieving the desired outcomes of patient decision support” (de Vries et al. 2013). A related study found that farmers use intuition more than analytics.
Many studies have focused on our physical reactions to various situations, measuring blood pressure, brain waves, perspiration and heart rate in response to stimuli, such as looking at emotionally charged photos or video clips. In some intriguing experiments, the participants’ heart and other systems were shown to react to a photo or video even before the people being studied were shown the stimulus. Most of these experiments are “double-blind,” which means that neither the participants, nor the researchers, know beforehand which type of image the person being studied will see. The studies show that our bodies “know” when something emotionally charged is coming our way.
Perhaps you’ve had this experience yourself when you woke up feeling excited or happy for no known reason. Or, similarly, you felt a sense of dread on a day when something unforeseen and unpleasant later occurred.
Research has demonstrated that our palms begin to sweat when we’re around something harsh or dangerous several minutes before our conscious minds can register the threat. This makes sense, as the hands have a high number of sensory neuronal connections to the nervous system. Scientists believe that if we could learn to pay attention to our palms’ subtle signals, including perspiration, it would enable us to be consciously aware of – and avoid – danger.
Similar studies find that our heart rate and blood pressure increases when people are directing negative thoughts our way and that these functions relax and decrease when others are thinking positive thoughts about us. It turns out that “sending love” is a measurable energy!
Intuition works with the body’s systems
Our ancient ancestors relied on their intuition to ensure their physical safety. Imagine the vulnerable feeling of walking outside to forage for food where you depend on your wits to stay alive. This is the same built-in system wild animals use for survival. While we now shop in grocery stores for food and live in houses, this doesn’t mean that our ancestors’ instincts have “evolved away.”
Researchers have pinpointed the brain’s right hemisphere, which is associated with emotions and the arts, as the centre of our intuition. Additionally, the autonomic nervous system, also called our “ancient brain,” appears to be hardwired to instinctively react to potential danger in a way that could be called “intuitive.” The brain’s limbic system – our feeling centre – can sense danger detected by the autonomic nervous system before it’s physically apparent. In this way, our intuition (if we listen to it) keeps us safe.
In the face of stress, our nervous and endocrine systems work closely together to bring about harmony and balance. These two systems are linked by the hypothalamus, a structure in the brain’s limbic system. While the endocrine system is made up of many glands, the most important to know in regard to stress and intuition are the pituitary and adrenal glands. Let’s look at how all these systems work together.
When your nervous system recognizes a stressor, it sends a message to the hypothalamus, which then releases hormones to deliver the message to the pituitary gland. Next, the pituitary sends out hormones influencing the adrenal glands. In turn, this causes your adrenals to release a hormone to reduce the effects of the stress. This pattern continues until your body is satisfied that you have enough stress-relieving hormones available. Your body then relaxes and the nervous system calms.
However, if stress continues for extended periods of time, the biological exchange of neuro-messages and hormones may become unbalanced. If the hypothalamus, pituitary or adrenal glands become depleted, it creates a strain along the cascade. This causes a change in your stress response, energy levels and hormones.
By supporting your endocrine and nervous systems nutritionally, you will help keep your intuition clear and sharp. And, conversely, listening to your intuition is a big factor in reducing your stress levels, as it will guide you to avoid stress-producing situations in the first place. Your intuition may also lead you to a stress-management program that’s custom-tailored to your interests, schedule and budget.
• If the events of Cold War documentary Command and Control hadn’t actually happened, you might think it was made up. On September 18, 1980, a PTS (Propellant Transfer System) team working on a nuclear missile in Damascus, Arkansas, accidentally dropped a metal socket in the silo. It punctured the fuel tank and set off a potentially catastrophic chain of events: the 9Mt thermonuclear warhead on the Titan II missile was capable of annihilating 10 million people.
Robert Kenner, who previously directed Food, Inc., uses artful reconstructions, together with candid interviews with those involved, from up and down the chain of command, to create a riveting and scary-as-hell account of the incident. Chillingly, the film also illustrates how this “broken arrow” – to borrow Air Force lingo – is just the tip of a pile of hundreds of nuclear weapon accidents that have occurred out of sight and mind.
In Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping, director Denis Delestrac posits that society suffers collective “seablindness” to practices in the global shipping industry. From the jacket in a shop made from materials that have travelled 48,000km for the price of a transit ticket, to the oil spills, shipwrecks and huge carbon footprint, the industry is flying under the radar. We cannot fathom the volume of illicit goods – potentially dirty bombs – circulating in container traffic.
Delestrac seems most riled by the coterie of secretive shipping magnates, who cut corners and costs by sailing their fleets under a “flag of convenience.” Under this topsy-turvy system, Mongolia and Bolivia, which have no coastline, have some of the world’s biggest fleets, while Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands are top funders for the UN agency responsible for shipping regulation.
In spite of a tendency to press its point too forcefully, this is a welcome look at the social and ecological impact of shipping; it is especially relevant in Vancouver and BC, given the huge increases in oil, LNG and coal shipping being planned.
Carl-A. Fechner’s Power to Change: The Energy Rebellion also calls shipping offside for its carbon footprint (equivalent to Germany’s), but its main focus is on solutions. Stars of the show are the engineers and entrepreneurs of the Energiewende(Germany’s “energy transition”), who are trailblazing renewables development with teutonic zeal and determination. Not afraid to get technical, it covers a variety of projects from straw pellets to replace fossil fuels, to giant battery power plants that are being created from de-commissioned nuclear power plants, to show how the big obstacle to climate action is not lack of technical know-how but political will.
Strangers on the Earth is another documentary that follows an ensemble of characters, this time walking the medieval pilgrim trail across the North of Spain. I met my wife on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela so I’m always curious to see filmmakers’ treatment of it. Accomplished cellist Dane Johansen, following in the footsteps of Canadian violinist Oliver Schroer, sets off with cello on back to record Bach’s Cello Suites along the way. While his uplifting, mellifluous soundtrack combines well with evocative imagery of pilgrims doing the time-honoured trail during its summer peak, the film struggles to connect at a deeper level. Some editing decisions distract and Johansen’s own self-revelations are lost in the mix of pilgrim voices, from the poetic to banal.
When Two Worlds Collide will resonate with British Columbia audiences. The documentary looks at a bloody period of conflict between indigenous Amazonians and government over land rights and resource exploitation in the Peruvian Amazon. The doc closely follows charismatic native leader Alberto Pizango, who conveys a sadly familiar story of ecological loss and government duplicity. It provides good coverage of the government side through excellent use of archival footage and recent interviews to show how a tense standoff quickly escalated.
On my list to see is the latest from BC’s Nettie Wild, KONELINE: our land beautiful, a poetic take on the conflict between resource development and the traditional way of life of the Tahltan Nation in Northern BC. It won Best Documentary Feature at Hot Docs so it’s bound to be popular.
Vancouver International Film Festival (viff.org) runs September 29-October 14.
• Environmentalist, inventor, thinker, visionary, and part-time hustler, Roger Walsh has dabbled in various forms of green technology for over 40 years.
Small-scale solar and wind power electrical generation, high efficient lighting ballasts, multi-fuel wood stoves and furnaces, and his own water pumping systems, are only a few of his designs and successes. In 1976, a solar log home built in Scarborough, Ontario, was nominated for an architectural design award. And as expected, there were setbacks. For instance, the design prototype for his cyclonic wind turbine, a cone-shaped air sock that could generate electricity in even the lightest of breezes, “disappeared” while being evaluated by a community college in Ontario.
Among his interests and passions, one topic kept reappearing: a no-freeze water pipe and hose system that would ensure uninterrupted water service even when the temperature dropped below zero – without electricity.
In the early nineties, Walsh formed Frost Free Water Systems Inc., and the company began to manufacture and install his patented, high-efficiency, closed loop, hybrid air-powered water pumps. The pumps and related technologies could operate on12-volt DC power, solar energy or straight from the grid.
Now, after almost 40 years, his forays have included organic gardening, a free-range beef farm and the manufacture and installation of his patented Enviroficient multi-fuel stove and boiler furnace. However, his Clear-Flow Water Hose has become the sole focus of his attention – his passion flowing back to the subject of moving water.
The Clear-Flow Water Hose flows in temperatures as cold as -10°C, without windchill. In addition to being ultra light, durable, flexible (to-40°C) and kink resistant with crush-proof nylon fittings, the hose actually self drains when ends are open.
In addition to the movement of water, electricity charges Walsh’s inventive juices. A few years ago, he established Less Energy Inc., another of his numerous enterprises. He was searching for a way to develop more energy efficient electronic ballasts for high efficiency fluorescent and metal (MH) lighting systems. Then along came newer lighting technology that eliminated the need for much of what Walsh had been developing. The world of electricity and electronics moves at an insane pace. Without massive resources, inventors and visionaries find it more difficult to keep up. But water still flows downstream and freezes in winter temperatures.
With 25+ patents to his name, many of which are for environmentally friendly initiatives, Walsh continues to roll around ideas – some of them radical – about green, sustainable and energy efficient ways to reduce our collective carbon footprint.
“We all have to contribute to the betterment of humanity, but we need to do it without consuming more energy,” he says in his typically enthusiastic style of conversation. And then riffing on JFK’s famous quote, Walsh adds, “Do not ask what more can I take from and do to our planet, but what can I do to help preserve and repair planet Earth, our only home (so far) that sustains us and life?” Words are very powerful and Walsh’s sentiments reflect much of what is being done by many of us concerned about Earth’s ability to sustain an ever-increasing population and our ever-increasing degradation of the environment.
The original, Canadian-invented Clear-Flow Hose is made to exacting standards, both in Canada and the US. Walsh has never compromised on the quality of his inventions and products. His Clear-Flow hose is made of the highest quality, NSF-selected, non-polluting, recyclable materials. The hose is easy to store and made to last with a 10-year warranty. Unlike PVC and rubber hoses, Clear-Flow hoses don’t support the growth of bacteria or produce toxic odours. It’s drinking water safe, and due to its self-draining behaviour, stays cool without the need to flush sun-heated water, thereby saving water.
Clear-Flow hoses are manufactured in two sizes: 5/8” for day-to-day garden applications and the contractor version is produced in a 3/4” diameter. In Canada, the 5/8” and 3/4” hoses are sold at Home Hardware Stores. In the US, the 5/8” garden hose is available from Amazon.com; a 3/4” version will be available soon.
I’m sure that Walsh’s restless, creative mind seldom takes a break, always looking beyond today for green, sustainable and environmental ideas and products appropriate for society’s future needs. As Walsh likes to emphasize, awareness of what we personally, and as a civilization, are doing to our environment is paramount to us caring for it.
Gary Magwood is a committed environmentalist and social activist who lives in the tiny community of Latta Mills in Ontario. He serves as a citizen member of Belleville’s Green Task Force and is an active member in both Canadian and Ontario Green Parties. Contact Roger Walsh and learn more at www.ClearFlowHose.com