February 25, 2015 8:06 pm

Teenage activist meets with Health Canada to discuss GMO labelling


WATCH ABOVE: Teenage GMO labelling activist Rachel Parent landed a closed door meeting with Health Canada officials. Allison Vuchnich reports.

While most 15-year-olds are in school, student Rachel Parent travelled from Toronto to Ottawa to speak with Health Canada officials about genetically modified organisms.

Parent is Canada’s most visible GMO labelling activist even starting her own foundation, Kids Right to Know, at the age of 12.

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“We’re the consumers and we should be telling our government what we want on our plates,” Parent told Global News.

For more than one hour, Parent met with Health Canada officials where they discussed GMOs, labelling and the approval process.

READ MORE: Meet Rachel Parent — the teen fighting for GMO labelling in Canada

They also discussed the ‘Arctic Apple’, a genetically modified non-browning apple that was developed in British Columbia by Okanagan Specialty Fruits and approved by the U.S. Agriculture Department earlier this month.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits says the apple is proven to be safe and  according to the company’s website: “by the time Arctic apples reach your market, they will be one of the most researched and tested foods on the planet.”

Okanagan Specialty Fruits President Neal Carter told Global News the arctic apple’s benefits are clear, “[the apples are] convenient, and we will get more people eating more apples.”

READ MORE: GMO food and labelling: The cost question

Health Canada is still reviewing the apple.

“More than 69 per cent of people really don’t want GMO apples, and the farmers don’t it either, so I think that it should definitely not be something that comes onto the market,” said Parent.

The BC Fruit Growers Association opposes the sale of the ‘arctic apples’ – fearing consumer confusion and backlash.

Currently, corn and soy are two of the most commonly grown GMO crops and routinely end up in processed food. It is estimated that 70 % of processed food on Canadian store shelves has GMO ingredients.

READ MORE: GMO labelling activist Rachel Parent has rare meeting with health minister

“First of all there is no scientific proof saying that [GMOs] are safe for Canadians,” said Parent. “Second of all the only people that test it are the very people who make the GMO products.  Health Canada nor the FDA do any independent testing.”

Industry and regulators disagree saying the scientific research supporting the safety of GMOs is vast and independent and these products are highly regulated and approved by Health Canada and the U.S. FDA.

For more than a year, Parent has been lobbying – speaking at schools, rallies, sending letters by courier – all of it hoping to secure a meeting with Health Minister Rona Ambrose.  After Global News asked the minister she met Parent in November who requested Health Canada meet with Parent.

Parent spent her day on Parliament Hill holding a news conference with NDP MP Murray Rankin and meeting NDP leader Thomas Muclair, as she continues her quest for mandatory labelling.

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