By Erin Hitchcock –
People around the world will voice their support for organic, toxin-free food during the annual March Against Monsanto, Saturday, May 21.
Williams Lake will be no exception, as plans are underway for a March for Food Justice to coincide with events happening across the globe. It takes place at noon that day at 327 Oliver. St., (Cariboo Growers has graciously welcomed the second annual march to begin and end from its parking lot again this year).
The Williams Lake Food Policy Council and its partners have been doing tremendous work promoting and supporting local food and farmers. It’s hoped the march will contribute to their efforts to increase access to local food and support sustainable and healthy farming practices.
Last year, dozens of people hit Williams Lake streets raising their concerns about Monsanto and companies like it in order to inform the public about potential long-term health, environmental, and social impacts of genetically modified foods (commonly called GMOs) and food grown with pesticides—while also demanding such products be banned or at least labelled so consumers can make informed decisions.
Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, France, Spain, the U.K., Sweden, India, and Brazil are examples of some countries with mandatory labelling laws in place, with Bhutan being the first country to go completely organic. For a complete map and breakdown of countries with GMO labelling laws and bans in place, visit http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/ge-map/.
Most GMOs are specifically engineered to either produce their own insecticide or to resist herbicides. While Monsanto owns the majority of GMO seeds around the world, other top GMO corporations include BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Dow Chemical Company, and Syngenta—these companies are also responsible for many of the chemicals in our food and in the environment.
It’s not just the federal government that needs to listen to Canadians calling for the labelling of or an end to pesticides and GMOs, but also the grocery stores. As noted in a previous column, Whole Foods plans to label products in its stores by 2018 so customers can tell whether those products contain GMOs.
According to the Dieticians of Canada, since 1994, more than 80 GM foods have been approved in Canada, including canola, corn, lentils, potatoes, rice, soybeans, squash, tomatoes, and wheat.
Numerous health risks may also be associated with GM foods, including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen, and gastrointestinal system, among others, according to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.
It’s not just GMOs themselves, but the corresponding pesticides the plants have been modified to tolerate. For example, many crops are modified to withstand Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing Roundup, which the World Health Organization has deemed to be a “probable carcinogen.” Some research has also linked it to alarming increase in autism (read my last column for further info).
In addition to the potential health effects, pesticides have been polluting the environment and may also be contributing to colony collapse disorder in bees—if the bees die, you can say goodbye to much of the food you rely on and enjoy today. Due to such concerns and evidence that supports the theory, the Ontario government plans to restrict the use of neonicotinoids—a type of synthetic pesticide and neurotoxin used on nearly all corn crops.
GMOs are also believed to be having dismal effects on farmers across the globe, in part because companies such as Monsanto – creator of Agent Orange and DDT – hold the patents to the seeds they engineer. In other words, farmers are not allowed to save patented seeds to plant the following year without paying a fee, even if their crops are inadvertently contaminated due to the seeds being carried there by the wind.
More than 3.5 million people in more than 600 countries are expected to march again this year. It is my hope more local residents will take part to raise awareness and demand we have better access to clean food, in addition to having complete and mandatory transparency so we know exactly what is in the products we buy. It is critical we also help inform others of the negative effects GMOs and pesticides can have on our bodies, on the environment, and on people’s livelihoods locally and around the world.
While some feel their voice simply doesn’t matter and there is nothing they can do to stop what is happening, please remember the wise words of Margaret Mead, who once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
As more and more consumers become aware of the dangers of GMOs and pesticides, the more pressure is being put on companies and governments for transparency and for the elimination of toxins in our food supply. Though much work still needs to be done, there continues to be a noticeable increase of certified organic and non-GMO certified foods sprouting up in the stores. To keep the momentum going, your support is needed.
I hope to see you at the march! Dressing up in costume will help the message stand out, though feel free to come as you are, and bring placards and signs to show passersby what your concerns are.
For more information and updates, visit facebook.com/MarchAgainstMonsantoWilliamsLake or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin Hitchcock is a stay-at-home mom, journalist, anti-GMO advocate, and local organizer for the March for Food Justice.