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Organic worries about GMOs
March 13, 2000
Finding organic support
Winnipeg Free Press
Columnist Mitchell writes that local organic bakery owners are now worried that genetically modified ingredients will start creeping into their suppliers' fields, and so, they have put out flyers explaining why their customers should question genetically modified (GM) food. The bakery is not alone. Despite (or perhaps because of) government support for genetically modified crops, demand for organic food is increasing by leaps and bounds, about 25 per cent per year in Canada, while the estimated value of organics has doubled in the United States in three years, from $3 billion to $6 billion.
Mitchell says the bakery donated cookies to people who went there to hear Brewster Kneen, a British Columbia agriculture and food journalist, when he came to Winnipeg last week. Mr. Kneen, author of a new book, Farmageddon, says that weeds in genetically modified crop fields are already becoming herbicide resistant. He noted that genetically modified crops are changing not only nature, but corporate culture as well. Despite the rhetoric that free trade enhances competition, international trade rules are being tweaked to do just the opposite, to cement global patent monopolies under trade liberalization mechanisms like the World Trade Organization. As a result, consumers and farmers are starting to feel like powerless serfs, while multinational bio-tech corporations are transforming biodiversity into "genetic resources."
Mr. Kneen questions whether the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is in a conflict of interest because it reports to the federal agriculture minister, whose job is to promote crops, the genetic makeup of which has been altered so that they soak up companies' pesticides with increased tolerance. Mitchell says that an independent group of Canadian scientists and academics says that 70 per cent of 42 GM crops in Canada were not tested for toxicity and that none of them were tested for allergenic properties. Their paper, Food Safety of GM Crops in Canada: Toxicity and Allergenicity, written by University of Guelph researcher Dr. Ann Clark, claims that "all conclusions of safety regarding toxicity and from allergenic responses were based entirely on inferences and assumptions." A recent poll conducted for The Council of Canadians by Environics found that 75 per cent of people who are familiar with genetically engineered foods are worried about their safety and 94 per cent feel Canada should be able to refuse to import GM foods if there are concerns about health or environmental safety. At a world biodiversity convention in Montreal at the end of January, 160 countries gathered to develop protocol on GM organisms and food.
Mark Ritchie, President
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