Comox Valley grower concerned about effect of ‘GMO pollution’

Dear editor,

I am concerned about the impact of the sustained use of GMO (genetically modified organism) technology in our community.

Dear editor,

As a mother, consumer and local food producer, I am extremely concerned about the impact of the sustained use of GMO (genetically modified organism) technology in our community.

With the current push to allow GMO alfalfa into Canada, along with a recently proposed resolution to ban all GMO crops on Vancouver Island, now is the time to speak up for the long-term health of our environment and all those who live within it.

What is the difference between traditional species breeding and GE (or GMO) crops?

Plants of the same species can combine their genes to create plants with new characteristics, and traditional breeding copies nature. Genetic engineering technology, on the other hand, combines genes from different species that could never “mate” naturally (bacterial or fish genes engineered into plants, for example).

My concern over GMOs is multi-faceted.

It includes seed ownership issues (GMO seeds are patented by agri-corporations like Monsanto); the lack of long-term, third-party validated health impact studies; these seeds’ reliance on chemicals (and the associated environmental impacts); and the fundamental right of consumers to choose what they put into their bodies.

And then there’s the issue of cross-contamination.

With the introduction of GMOs, co-existence between organic farmers and farmers using GMO seed is becoming increasingly difficult. There are well-documented cases of GMO plants genetically polluting organic crops, many of them ending in lawsuits by huge biotech companies against organic farmers for unwittingly using their patented genetic material.

The vitality, and indeed the survival, of many local food producers lies in the balance.

At our facility, for example, we produce more than 4,000 pounds of certified organic alfalfa sprouts each week using certified organic Canadian-grown seed. If GMO alfalfa is introduced into Canada, it won’t be long before wind and insects carry its pollen throughout the environment, contaminating non-GMO alfalfa crops.

Certified organic production does not allow the use of GMOs, which means our 35-year-old company will face some crucial decisions in the very near future.

Due to genetic pollution, organic alfalfa seed will be contaminated. Our ability to source non-contaminated organic seed will become very difficult if not impossible.

I care deeply about the Comox Valley. I grew up here, and it was here that, as a teenager, I discovered the joy of growing food.

As a co-owner of Eatmore Sprouts & Greens Ltd., a local company producing certified organic sprouts and greens distributed year-round throughout Western Canada, I have been so lucky to stay connected to food production for most of my life.

GMOs are understandably a very volatile subject in our community and many others right now. Many farmers have chosen GMO technology for many reasons, and I certainly don’t want to suggest that organic production is the only route to sustainable farming.

Genetic pollution, however, is an issue that needs to be resolved.

At the end of the day, most farmers farm for the same reason: to grow healthful food for healthy people. We share a passion for working the land and contributing to our community. I hope this never changes.

To me, what’s important is that we choose methods that leave the land better than when we found it, and there are several ways to achieve this objective.

In my view, continuing and expanding the use of chemically dependent, corporate-owned GMO seeds is not one of them.

Carmen Wakeling,

Comox Valley

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