Go organic to keep GE/GM off your plate

Food columnists examine the spectre of GE/GM foods.

Today we pull on our gum boots and wade — with some trepidation — into a story “ripped from the headlines”: the controversy surrounding genetic engineering/genetic modification (GE/GM) of plants, seeds and animals.

Last month the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), representing towns, cities, villages, regional districts and several First Nations, endorsed a resolution requesting the provincial government declare through legislation that the province of B.C. is a GE-free area with respect to all plant and animal species. No import, no export, no growing of plants and seeds containing genetically engineered DNA, and no raising of GE animals within B.C.

We applaud this decision; it is a step toward achieving food sovereignty. We are opposed to GE seeds, plants, and animals for a number of reasons, in addition to those expressed by the preamble to the UBCM resolution. Nor can we fathom equating, under patent law, a living thing (or part thereof) with a human invention like the tea bag.

The UBCM resolution’s preamble cites three arguments in its favour, arguments that apply at least as forcefully to wild plants and animals (including fish), as they do to cultivated crops and animals, and are of concern to fishers, hunters, farmers, gardeners, wild harvesters, and consumers:

1. That GE crops, through pollination, can disperse their pollen and genes indiscriminately and potentially contaminate non-GE crops; 2. A particular concern with the transfer of DNA between species and the potential unintended consequences, especially with animal species; and 3. As Vancouver Island and associated B.C. coastal communities are isolated from other agricultural areas in British Columbia [and the rest of the world], contamination by GE organisms can possibly and practically be avoided, enabling local gardeners and farmers to provide organic production, to help maintain long-term sustainability, and to foster a living seed bank.

Genetic engineering is a term used to describe the process of recombinant DNA. With the technology of recombinant DNA, scientists can change plants or animals at the molecular level by inserting genes or DNA segments from other organisms. Genes are the units made up of DNA molecules inside a cell that control how living organisms inherit features from their ancestors. The process of genetic engineering enables the direct transfer of genes between different species or kingdoms that would not breed in nature; for example, bacteria genes into corn or Atlantic salmon engineered with a growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout.

In 2010 Canada was the world’s fifth-largest producer of GE crops, primarily corn, soybean, sugar beets and canola/rapeseed. On the Canadian GE horizon: Atlantic salmon, alfalfa, and apples. GE foods imported to Canada include cotton seed oil, papaya, squash, and milk products. We don’t want to eat or buy GE organisms, but how can we avoid them?

In 2006, and again in 2009, the UBCM requested the federal government to label GE organisms, but to date they are not labelled, though the shelves are filled with them. Left to our own devices, we grow, buy and eat certified organic when we can, as GE is not allowed in organic production. At the supermarket, we are aware that processed foods may contain, or have been fed, GE ingredients, for example corn flakes, corn chips, cornstarch, corn syrup, corn oil and other corn ingredients; sweeteners like glucose and fructose; eggs, milk and meat from animals fed GE feed; cotton seed vegetable oil in processed foods such as potato chips; sugar from sugar beets; canola oil, soy oil, soy protein, soy lecithin, tofu, soy beverages, soy puddings; imported milk solids and powder, frozen desserts with dairy, and mixed drinks with milk ingredients.

Bon appetit!?

Dawn Moorhead and David Lang are longtime practitioners of organic agriculture. They welcome your comments or questions at organic9@telus.net

 

Just Posted

Port Hardy’s RCMP Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen: ‘It’s business as usual’ after cannabis legalization

Local RCMP will still be on the lookout for impaired driving despite cannabis legalization.

Jay Dixon finishes top three for School and District Leadership award

“I believe it’s all of our responsibility for our schools to provide quality education,” said Dixon.

7 Mile Landfill operations tender closes October

Taxes covering the landfill have not increased over the past 15 years and are not expected to soon.

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Jets score 3 late goals to beat Canucks 4-1

Winnipeg ends three-game Vancouver win streak

San Group announces plans to build new sawmill in Port Alberni

San Group has purchased 25 acres of Catalyst Paper land for expansion

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

Port Hardy municipal candidate Rick Marcotte’s profile

“I feel that we have had a wonderful council that can discuss issues of importance,” said Marcotte.

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

Port Hardy municipal election candidate Leightan Wishart’s profile

Wishart speaks on his experience: “I’ve was elected to the School Board in 2002.”

Most Read