OVER the last decade, the desire to grow food at home and in community gardens has grown rapidly, pushed along by people of all ages who feel that our food supply is in jeopardy.
In essence, the status quo just won't grow so people have taken matters into their own hands and gardens. I have to be careful talking about our food supply because the giant multinational corporations that control genetically modified or genetically engineered food production would sue me into poverty and shame for stating my opinion.
Genetically engineered food flashed onto the world scene around 1994 and since then GE foods have become a multibillion dollar business. One of the main claims of those foods was resistance to all manner of pest, diseases or environmental stress, supposedly making GE foods the superior choice to feed a hungry world. GE foods were also supposed to cut down on pesticide use in modern agriculture.
It seems the pesticide use has not declined; instead, it has increased across most pesticide types used in modern agriculture. In a report issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, glyphosate (Roundup) use in 2003 was 128 million pounds in the U.S. alone. In 2007, glyphosate use was 180 million pounds in the U.S. World pesticide use was approximately 5.2 billion pounds in 2006. The claim of GE supporters that less pesticide would be used has not happened because weeds and insects have adapted to continual spraying and evolved resistance to pesticides, rendering pesticide control ineffective.
GE foods do not require long-term testing to determine adverse affects to people or the environment. Typically three to six month studies are submitted by GE manufacturers to government regulatory bodies for review. And Health Canada doesn't do its own testing to determine the safety of GE foods to people or to understand the potential long-term adverse affects of GE's in the environment.
The following is a brief but not exhaustive list of foods that are genetically engineered: Corn, soy, sugar, aspartame, papayas, canola, cotton, zucchini and yellow squash to name a few. There are no Canadian laws that require GE foods to be labelled to allow the consumer the option of choice.
Transgenic contamination is another problem with GE foods. Wikipedia defines this as the uncontrolled spread of genetic information (transgenes) into organisms in which such genes are not present in nature. Essentially, the engineered genetic information found in GE foods spreads out into the environment and hybridizes or integrates with plants that have never been exposed to such genes. The long-term problems with transgenic contamination are still not understood. However, one well understood fact of such contamination is the reality that U.S. farmers (and eventually Canadian farmers) will soon have to self-insure their farms to prevent lawsuits by GE companies that do not permit their patented crops to be grown by anyone without payment and permission, regardless of the fact that the contamination was not caused by the farmer but GE food seed was spread by wind or water.
The long-term affects in the environment and for people eating GE foods are unknown and concerned citizens urge the use of the precautionary principle before accepting mass production of GE foods. To illustrate the potential dangers, a quote by Paula Hartman Cohen of the Harvard Public Health Review stated in 2006 that, "It is claimed that Americans have eaten GM foods for years with no ill effects. But these foods are unlabeled in the U.S. and no one has monitored the consequences. With other novel foods like transfats, it has taken decades to realize that they have caused millions of premature deaths."
Richmond, Powell River, Salt Spring Island, Nelson, Rossland and Kaslo have enacted bylaws banning scientifically altered crops. It is interesting to note that a major GE food and pesticide manufacturer sent a lobbyist to the Richmond council meeting to try to have the bylaw watered down or eliminated. I would rather not say who that company was out fear of being sued. And fear is a powerful motivator used by GE companies that have large legal teams to keep people in line and prevent dissenting opinions from being heard.
According to Greenpeace, a Decima poll commissioned by the Consumers Association of Canada (October 2003) revealed that 88 per cent of Canadians believe that labels for GE foods should be made mandatory by the Canadian government. Forty countries have mandatory labeling laws for GE food, but not Canada. Greenpeace (greenpeace. ca) offers a Green List of food alternatives that are GE food free and a Red List of companies that sell everything from baby food to baking ingredients that contain GE foods. All I can say is learn the truth and choose your food sources wisely.