Farmers, growers, producers of all kinds of food, and retailers are responding to ‘growing concerns’ about GE (genetically engineered) foods by providing customers with more healthy, wholesome and non-genetically engineered (non GE) food choices for their kitchens.
Last year, Steven Point, Lieutenant Governor of B.C., proclaimed Oct. 15 to 22, 2011 as Organic Foods Week for British Columbia. This year, we are having a National Organic Week Sept. 22 to 29.
Why is this a good trend?
In Canada, we have four major GE crops (corn, canola, soya and sugar beet), which have been manipulated to tolerate certain pesticides and herbicides.
It is easy to avoid these four produces on their own except food manufacturers have mixed them into most of our processed foods like GE corn in soft drinks, sweeteners, cornstarch, etc., cattle and poultry fed on grain( GE corn, canola, and soya).
By implanting unnatural genetic material into their DNA, the plants are ‘instructed’ to produce chemicals which allow them to be resistant to the sprays.
The farmer can spray herbicide on his GE canola and it will kill all the weeds but the GE canola will look healthy and strong. One might think this tolerance is a good thing and has nothing to do with us, but in fact the unnatural chemicals produced by the manipulated DNA of these plants do end up in our digestive systems.
Tests done on small animals have shown that continuous feeding of GE corn or GE soy can damage their immune systems, livers, testicles, kidneys and intestines.
In the late 90s, farmers and growers were told that this GE technology would save them time and money as they could spray less often and have a better-looking crop. There were also promises of higher yield and less pesticide use but there was never any promise of adding nutritional, taste or value for the consumer.
Consumer health was never in the equation.
The long-term health consequence to humans is still a question unanswered as no human safety test has ever been done. In 2001, the government’s own Royal Society of Canada, Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology, strongly recommended the Precautionary Principle: “First do no harm.”
Yet up till now, of the 58 recommendations less than a handful have been addressed.
The overworked CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) has had its budget, manpower and influence cut so that instead of having researchers to protect the health and safety of the public, it is relying on the research papers presented by the seed companies as the source of analysis.
For example,in the most recent peer reviewed paper (2012) by Prof. Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen, France, he showed that rats fed on GE corn developed tumours after 120 days, with tumours in the majority detected after 18 months.
However, the research papers provided to CFIA all showed that rats feeding on GE corn showed no abnormal growth.
Why the difference? Well the seed companies stopped their experiments at 90 days and drew positive conclusions for their products and presented these to CFIA.
So who is protecting the consumer?
We consumers can only rely on labels and trust the producers of our food. Currently our best option is to buy non GE foods, or certified organic products, so as to avoid the harm caused by unwanted chemicals in our body.
It is indeed heartening to see organic food aisles in big box stores and a National Organic Food week! Now we know our voices are being heard and that consumers can make a difference in what is offered for our kitchen table.
For more information on this subject, visit www.cban.ca, or the GE watch Comox Valley Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/GE-Watch-Comox-Valley/25290807139490.
Editor’s note: Linda Cheu is with GE Watch Comox Valley.