A bad seed. Whether it should be for Monsanto or Nick Cave is yet to be seen. Illustration by/ A.I Marin
A bad seed. Whether it should be for Monsanto or Nick Cave is yet to be seen. Illustration by/ A.I Marin

 

 

After years of acceptance, Canada is now experiencing a growing movement against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. On October 12, 2013, the “March against Monsanto” movement, also known as “Occupy Monsanto,” focused its efforts on Monsanto Co., an agricultural biotech leader in the use of genetically modified seeds.

       

The GMO Debate

 

The term "genetically modified" refers to the alteration of genetic material in plants or animals. More specifically, it involves the combination of genes from different species that would not come together naturally or in traditional cross breeding.

 

Nearly all GMOs are theoretically designed to withstand diseases and contain pesticides, thereby delivering higher food yields. Monsanto Co. and proponents of GMO’s argue that agriculture needs to produce more food to feed a growing population. The company fails to mention, however, that one-third of the food we produce for human consumption every year—approximately 1.3 billion tonnes—gets lost or wasted, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). A logical step, therefore, wouldn't be to make more food but to figure out a better way to distribute what we're already producing.

 

The Global Citizens' Report in 2011 on the State of GMOs, coordinated by Navdanya International of India, also explains that genetically engineered (GE) crops have failed to produce more food while creating dangerous superweeds, which can be killed only by using more toxic substances such as 2,4-D (an ingredient found in Agent Orange)[3]. For those of us who do not know what Agent Orange is, the Monsanto Co website admits it is one of the 15 herbicides the US government used in the Vietnam War for aggressive purposes. Several other organizations, including the United States Department Affairs of Veteran Affairs recognize  that "concerns about the health effects from these chemicals continue[4].”

 

Another disturbing quality of genetically engineered organisms is that characteristics such as higher nutrition and faster rate of growth are singled out by the biotech industry in the hopes of creating a sort of "super food.” The reason why humanity necessarily requires food that is enhanced nutritionally is not exactly clear, and despite the industry's promises, none of the GMO traits on the market actually offer such consumer benefits. Meanwhile, the growing debate on the risks of GMOs continues.

 

Health Risks

 

Most processed food products in Canada contain at least some genetically modified ingredients. Despite the fact that most European countries have significantly restricted or outright banned the use of GMOs in agriculture, Canada and the US continue to approve the use of GMOs based on studies that were created by the same corporations which stand to benefit from them most.

 

Initiative I-522, commonly known as the genetically engineered labelling initiative[5], has not had any success so far in America and unfortunately Canada follows suit; Heath Canada does not require companies to label GMO products. Tami Monroe Canal, founder of March Against Monsanto, and millions of other protesters hope to change this. They demand, and rightly so, that governments investigate the potential health risks associated with GMOs, and force companies such as Monsanto Co. to label their GMO products so that consumers might have a choice in the type of foods they buy[6].


The GMO debate is definitely here to stay. With companies around like Monsanto Co., which manufactures toxic substances such as Agent Orange and genetically modify their products to create superfluous "super foods,” it is no wonder that people have become sceptical about the usage of GMOs in agriculture. Yet initiatives that have been aimed at informing the public has been struck down. We do not know what is in our food, Health Canada does not allow it. We cannot know if we should expect any long-term health effects if companies are not held accountable. The March against Monsanto, one of the growing movements against GMOs, is urging people to "take back" their food, and perhaps it’s time we did!

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