Rachel Parent, now 16, an activist since she was 11 and learned from a class project that in Canada and the US, food with genetically-modified ingredients isn’t even labelled. Her Kids Right To Know website spawned a movement that powerfully affected the global debate about industrial food.
Rachel Parent is the founder of “Kids Right to Know,” an organization calling for the labeling of GM foods. In this exclusive Green Interview, Parent explains the issues surrounding GM seeds, GM salmon, the need for mandatory labelling and how the organization she founded informs, educates, and motivate kids to stand up and make a difference.
According to Parent, while the promise of genetically modified plants was to increase yields and use less water, neither has actually been achieved. Instead, the purpose today seems to be either pest resistance or to allow the increased use of pesticides. “They require more water, they require more fertilizers, they require more pesticides,” she says. Parent also explains how the promise to feed the world was never realized and instead GMOs are contributing to poverty worldwide. She says farmers are investing in genetically modified seeds because they think that the yields will be higher but soon find that “they get diseases, the yields fail, pests become resistant to it and they eat all their crops and the farmers end up with nothing.”
Parent also discusses GM salmon—the eggs were approved by Canada’s Minister of Environment in 2013 but the fish themselves have yet to be approved for human consumption. The salmon are engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature). The company AquaBounty—now owned by Intrexon—claims the salmon grow to market-size twice as fast as other farmed salmon and plan to produce the eggs in Prince Edward Island and ship them to Panama for grow-out and processing. If approved, it would be the first GE food animal in the world. Parent says that if any of these bigger, faster growing, more aggressive fish were to escape into the wild there would be a “domino effect” of environmental consequences.
According to Parent, 64 countries around the world have mandatory labeling while Canada and the US are the only two industrialized nations that don’t require mandatory GMO labelling. She also points out that 70 percent of the foods we now eat contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) but we don’t know it because there’s no requirement to label it. Parent argues that while many independent peer reviewed studies question the safety of GMOs, linking them to allergies, digestive disorders, organ damage, even tumors, we are in effect being used as guinea pigs by the biotech industry.