Watch: Rachel Parent is a 15-year-old activist. Her goal: mandatory labelling in Canada of all genetically modified organisms, or GMOs that are found as ingredients in food. Allison Vuchnich has part one of a four-part series on GMOs and labelling.
UPDATE: Rachel Parent has met with Health Minister Rona Ambrose. Global News reporter Allison Vuchnich will have details of their meeting on Global National at 6:30 p.m. AT/ET and 5:30 p.m. MT/PT, on Thursday, Nov. 6.
Standing in the grocery store aisle surrounded by processed and packaged food, examining ingredients and scanning labels: this is shopping with Rachel Parent, and it is a thorough process.
“About 70 per cent of the (processed) food on all our grocery store shelves is genetically modified or has GMO ingredients in it,” Parent told Global News as she reached for a container of relish and examined its ingredient list.
So for instance, glucose fructose is a derivative from corn and it’s high-fructose corn syrup basically, so there really is a 90 per cent chance that it is GMO,” she said.
“Of course, I would never know unless it was labelled.”
Parent is a 15-year-old activist. Her goal: mandatory labelling in Canada of all genetically modified organisms, or GMOs that are found as ingredients in food.
“This isn’t a matter of whether you want GMOs or not, this is a matter of freedom of choice and our right to know,” Parent contends, also noting more than 60 countries already have GMO labelling.
Her interest in GMOs started at the age of 10 at the breakfast table, when she was eating cereal. “My grandmother pointed out that it may have GMOs in it and I kind of brushed it off,” said Parent.
“The thought of GMOs really stayed in my head and a couple years later, having to do a speech for school, I wanted to do something that would really impact a lot of people and how they really lived their lives.”
After that speech, Parent dedicated her life to mandatory GMO labelling, even starting her own foundation, Kids Right to Know, when she was 12.
Despite her age, she has become the face for the GMO labelling battle in Canada. Polling shows close to 90 per cent of Canadians want mandatory labelling.
Parent attends rallies, delivers speeches and for a year has been trying to meet with Health Minister Rona Ambrose.
During her tenure as health minister, Ambrose has worked on making food labels less confusing and more relevant for Canadians. Despite Health Canada’s own information that shows Canadians want information about GMOs on labels, the government is not budging on mandatory labelling.
“Currently, there is no… scientific evidence, that says genetically modified foods are unhealthy,” Health Minister Rona Ambrose told Global News. “It is impossible for us to mandate a label, because our labels have to be based on evidence that it is an unhealthy product for Canadians.”
Andrew Casey, President and CEO of BIOTECanada, a national trade association, agreed, arguing the scientific research is vast and sound and GMOs are highly regulated.
“Once you put a warning label on it, you are immediately identifying it as a negative and there is a danger in that,” said Casey. “There is no evidence to say that these things are negative that they are going to harm you, why would you label them as such, it’s just not right.”
Opponents, including Parent, disagree and believe the scientific research government regulators rely on, is often funded by the same companies that benefit from the sale of GMOs, arguing there is science that proves GMOs do pose a health risk.
After being asked by Global News why she has not answered any of Parent’s correspondence or requests to meet, Health Minister Ambrose agreed to a meeting.
“I would be happy to meet with her,” Ambrose told Global News, adding there is no scientific evidence that GMO foods are unhealthy for Canadians.
Parent looks forward to meeting the health minister and already knows what she wants on the agenda.
“I want to ask her for GMO labelling, and ask her for independent testing, that way, until proven safe, we have our right to know.”
Global News is airing a four-part series on GMOs and labelling, and the food fight over consumers’ right to know what they are eating. Allison Vuchnich’s reports air on Global National Oct. 6 – Oct. 9.