- BC Games
I dream of a GE-free B.C.
In 2010, the Richmond Food Security Society and the Society for Genetically Free BC introduced a resolution to Richmond’s Mayor and Council to make the city a genetically-engineered (GE) Free Zone.
Two years later, the resolution was adopted with Richmond joining the ranks of other GE Free Zones in British Columbia including Powell River, Kaslo, Nelson, New Denver, Salt Spring Island, Denman Island, and Rossland. To date, 61 municipalities across BC have adopted GE Free Zone resolutions with more municipalities and regional areas taking up the cause. This week at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), thousands of people across the province rallied to support a resolution calling for a GE Free BC.
In Canada, genetically engineered (GE) canola dominates our agricultural production, mostly because non-genetically modified canola was abandoned early on due to widespread contamination. In addition, GE corn, soy and sugar beets are grown and sold in Canada. The nature of these foods can be insidious as ingredient labelling doesn’t often tell the whole story. For example, ‘maltose’ is a corn derivative, ‘sugar’ can often refer to beet, ‘lecithin’ is soy, and ‘vegetable oil’ can be canola oil. The full list of invisible ingredients is over 80 items that do not list the original plant.
The concerns around GE foods are wide ranging with food safety and human health being the primary concerns. Other concerns include the impact on local and regional ecosystems and contamination of other crops that are non-GE. There is very little knowledge about the impacts of eating GE foods on our health with many indications showing that we do not know enough to be integrating them into our diets. In addition, with no mandatory labelling of these foods, the public has no ability to recognize these foods and there are no monitoring initiatives to determine whether impacts have already occurred.
Two studies have been conducted which offer some clarity on potential human health impacts released in 2012 and 2013 respectively. One studied lab rats and discovered that consumption of GE corn resulted in tumours, lesions and premature death. Another long term toxicology study found that pigs eating GE feed exhibited heavier uteria and higher rate of severe stomach inflammation than pigs that ate a non-GE feed diet.
GE foods have been approved for production and sale in Canada largely based on industry-produced science. This ‘science’ has not undergone peer review nor have these studies been released to the public or independent scientists. This reads very similar to the tactics employed by the tobacco industry.
Currently, nine countries across the world grow 97% of all GE crops. With the United States, Brazil and Argentina (76.3%) being the highest producers. Canada grows 6.8% of these and is one of the few nations that is actively expanding the land base used to produce GE crops (from 10.4 million hectares to 11.6, 2011 to 2012).
This week, as people from across the province gather to voice their concerns over genetically engineered foods and crops, municipal councillors and mayors are gathering to discuss issues that affect their citizens. The potential harm to future farming and food in B.C. from GE foods and crops needs to be addressed. Big agri-business has no right in dictating the future for farmers and consumers in our province or our municipality.
Colin Dring is with Richmond Food Security Society, which works to ensure that all people in the community have access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate foods that strengthen our environment and society. If you want to contribute and learn more about our activities, visit our website at www.richmondfoodsecurity.org