Young activist Rachel Parent speaks out against GMOs
• Rachel Parent is the founder of Kids Right to Know – Just Label It! campaign. (www.gmo-news.com). This fearless anti-GMO activist is a grade eight student, journalist, speaker and Healthy Planet Watchdog. NOW Magazine has awarded her the distinction of “Environmental Hero.” On May 25, she spoke at the March Against Monsanto rally in Toronto. An excerpt of her speech is below.
I’m 14-years-old and I’ve been fighting GMOs for a long time. After learning more about GMOs, I realized that they not only affect our food, but also our water and our entire eco system. I felt I needed to do something. Then I heard about Proposition 37 in California to label GMOs and I knew it was the perfect time to spring into action with my first GMO Kids Right to Know Walk to create awareness. Unfortunately, Proposition 37 was narrowly defeated because over $47 million was spent on untruthful and misleading ad campaigns in the days leading up to the vote, paid for by companies that don’t want you to know the truth about what they’re putting in your food: companies such as Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Kellogg’s, Nestle, Kraft, Frito-Lay and PepsiCo to name a few.
Over 60 countries around the world have mandatory GMO labelling, including China and Russia. Canada and the US are the only two industrialized nations that don’t. In the countries that have mandatory labelling, products that contain GMOs are hardly found because people won’t buy them. In fact, over 30 countries have outright bans on GMOs.
It’s supposed to be a free country but we don’t even have the right to choose what we eat. Our freedom was fought for by the Canadian troops in two World Wars. And now Monsanto and the other biotech companies are taking away our freedom of choice… The way I see it, for us, the youth, we have no future, no democracy. I have to fight to gain that back. Not just for me, but for you and all generations to come. Because I know that this stand against our food being poisoned is the right thing to do. And I’m prepared to stand for what’s right. I’m doing it because I love the planet and all its life forms, which are being threatened and dying. I’m doing it because I love people and GMOs are making us sick. I’m concerned about my right to choose healthy food. I’m concerned about farmers being intimidated and lied to by Monsanto and the other GMO seed companies trying to gain global control of seed supply. I’m concerned about the entire eco system being affected to a point of no return.
Companies like Monsanto use their power and money to intimidate and control our government, our media, our corporations and our farmers. They’re forcing laws to protect themselves while at the same time taking away family farms, forcing poison down our throats and taking away our right to choose healthy food… People believe that the government will protect them and wouldn’t allow food to be consumed if it wasn’t safe. Yet the government relies only on tax provided by the manufacturers selling their product. Yet Monsanto, one of the largest GMO seed companies, claims that food safety is the government’s responsibility. The truth is it’s no coincidence that since GMOs have been introduced into our food system we’ve started seeing more cases of irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, acid reflux, infertility, cancer, autism, Parkinson’s and many other diseases. Unfortunately, it seems like we’re all a big part of a science experiment.
But the truth is out. It’s spreading and it can’t be stopped. It won’t be stopped. Just like how the truth finally came out about cigarettes causing cancer, and the big tobacco companies were branded for what they are – liars. Monsanto, with its aggressive tactics, has managed to intimidate and control farmers. They’ve infiltrated grade school science classes trying to brainwash children about GMOs being the way of the future. They’ve infiltrated universities by giving donations and sponsoring studies to gain support for GM production and that it’s needed to feed the world’s hungry. They’ve made huge political contributions and lobbied governments hard to get their way. They’ve contributed to famine around the world because their GMO crops failed to live up to promised yields. They’ve contributed to the devastation of the Amazon through deforestation and the displacement and starvation of natives in order to plant transgenic soy. They’re responsible for thousands of farmers’ suicides in India who have gotten into so much debt by buying into Bt Cotton and pesticides and not gotten the benefits promised.
Here in Canada they’re putting thousands of conventional and organic farms at risk because of contamination by GMO crops. Their herbicides and pesticides are polluting our air and water and have contributed to the collapse of over 50% of our bee colonies. They’re responsible for a whole new species of superweeds and superbugs that have become Roundup resistant so now more and stronger toxic pesticides are being used. All of this could lead up to be the most devastating, destructive, unspoken environmental catastrophe of all time. Unfortunately, the media is not talking about it because most of their advertisers are brands that use GM ingredients. In fact, over 90% of the advertised packaged goods that are advertised on TV contain GMOs, such as corn, canola, soy, vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup.
Monsanto’s trying to change the way farming has been done for thousands of years by patenting their seeds and making it illegal to save or share seeds with other farmers. Do you know why? Because farmers have to buy new seeds from Monsanto every year. This makes it more expensive for farmers and ultimately for us, the consumers. And it gets worse because if some of Monsanto’s [seeds or pollen] fly over and cross-pollinate with seeds on a neighbouring field, Monsanto then sues the farmer for stealing their intellectual property. I know this sounds ridiculous and rather criminal of Monsanto, but it’s a reality for our farmers. Now [Monsanto is] trying to introduce GM alfalfa in Canada. Farmers are concerned that if it’s allowed it will contaminate all-natural alfalfa, which is a feedstock for animals. And so even organic meat and dairy products could become contaminated with GMOs. The funny thing is there’s no need for GM alfalfa. Alfalfa naturally, without pesticides, keeps weeds down on its own. This is another case of Monsanto creating a solution for a problem that just doesn’t exist. All so they can sell more chemicals.
But the biotech companies aren’t stopping at plants. Now they’re trying to introduce GM salmon, which is a huge environmental risk. They’re also trying to introduce non-browning GM apples in BC and GM trees for the pulp and paper industry that have built-in pesticides to kill bugs and contaminate native trees. Who knows what’s next. The problem is there’s no recall on GMOs. Once they’re out there, they’re out there for good. And there’s no turning back. If the biotech companies believe GMOs are so good, then why do they want to keep it a secret by fighting GMO labelling? Manufacturers have to list sodium levels [and] whether their product contains transfats or if it may contain peanuts. So why not GMOs?
You never hear them talking about the nutritional or health benefits of GMOs. Just that the technology is needed to feed a growing population. But they don’t say how they’re going to do that. Has the number of starving people dropped since GMOs were introduced? Have the crop yields increased? The only thing that’s increased is the use of herbicides and pesticides and Monsanto’s control on our world’s food supply – profit as well. The reality is they’re a chemical company that wants to sell more chemicals. Should we trust a company like Monsanto? Creator of Agent Orange, DDT and PCBs… Unfortunately, because of the lack of labelling, the only way to truly avoid GMOs right now is to buy organic. Every time you consume GMOs, you are slowly impacting the environment, your health and the entire eco system. So I encourage all of you and especially the youth to wake up, rise up and stand up for our future.
Today is a very special day because people around the world are taking a stand by participating in Stop Monsanto events like this one. As a matter of fact, thousands of people are united and marching in the streets to fight for our seed freedom, our food freedom, our right to eat healthy food and the protection of our environment and our entire eco system. It’s expected to be the largest global protest in history. And I’m proud to be a part of it…
This is this only world that we have and we have to take part in it. As I always say, “one planet for all, all for one planet.”
Simple tips to avoid GMOs
From Institute for Responsible Technology www.responsibletechnology.org
1. Buy organic: Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients. Buy products labelled “100% organic,” “organic” or “made with organic ingredients.” You can be doubly sure if the product also has a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.
2. Look for “Non-GMO Project” verified seals: Products that carry the Non-GMO Project Seal are independently verified to be in compliance with North America’s only third party standard for GMO avoidance, including testing of at-risk ingredients. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to providing consumers with clearly labelled and independently verified non-GMO choices. (www.nongmopro ject.org)
3. Avoid at-risk ingredients including soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn and sugar from sugarbeets if it’s not labelled organic or verified non-GMO. Avoid products made with ingredients that might be derived from GMOs. The eight GM food crops are corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya (most) and a small amount of zucchini and yellow squash.
Sugar: If a non-organic product made in North American lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and not pure cane sugar), it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GM sugar beets.
4. Buy products listed in our shopping guide: Use either IRT’s (Institute for Responsible Technology) new Non-GMO Shopping Tips brochure [see www.responsibletechnology.org] or redesigned Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid GM foods. We devote an entire page in each guide to help you uncover hidden GM ingredients on food labels that often read more like a chemical periodic table. If you have an iPhone, download our ShopNoGMO guide for free from the iTunes store.
See the Non-GMO Shopping Guide at www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/shopping-guide.html
To take action
- Write to the Minister of Agriculture and let them know your thoughts about GMO alfalfa at www.cban.ca/content/view/full/997
- Visit www.facebook.com/MillionsAgainstMonsantoToronto.
- Ask Rachel to speak at your school or environmental event.
- Look for and buy ‘Non-GMO project’ labelled grocery items.
- Ask your supermarket if they sell GMO sweet corn and tell the supermarket manager your concerns as they report back to upper management.
- In Canada there is currently a private member’s bill C-257 introduced by the NDP (recently read at Parliament) to require mandatory GMO labelling. Visit www.avaaz.org to demand GMO labelling in Canada.
- Donate to The Kids Right to Know, GMOs Just Label It! campaign at www.gmo-news.com