Say no to GMO: Halifax protesters
May 24th, 2014 - 12:19pm
By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE Staff Reporter, Chronichle Herald
Protesters in Halifax Saturday joined a global day of action against genetically engineered food and Monsanto, a U.S.-based, multinational chemical and agricultural biotechnology firm.
A downtown demonstration and rally were part of the “March Against Monsanto,” an event that was to take place in more than 50 countries.
In Halifax, food-security activists and supporters assembled in Victoria Park under overcast skies shortly before 2 p.m. Sign-carrying protesters marched peacefully to the Grand Parade in front of city hall.
Local organizers called for a worldwide boycott of Monsanto, a Missouri company that critics have said controls much of the world’s food and seed supply. It has ruled the bioengineered-seed business for more than 10 years.
The weekend protest was the third such demonstration in Halifax in a year. The first was one in May 2013; the second, which attracted more than 100 people, took place last October.
On Saturday, at least 200 men, women and children attended the festive rally at the parade square. Several uniformed Halifax Regional Police officers monitored the crowd.
There was live music at the rally, kids held colourful balloons, dog owners minded their pets, adult attendees signed a petition about the labelling of genetically modified food and volunteers handed out sheets with the names and contact information of federal and provincial politicians.
Rodney Habib, a pet nutrition blogger in the Halifax region, told The Chronicle Herald that genetically modified ingredients in pet food are also a real concern. He planned to address the rally to raise awareness about the issue.
“The largest manufacturers in the world, their foods consist of 90 per cent genetically modified ingredients — and that would be corn being the No. 1 ingredient in pet food today,” said Habib, prior to joining the march with his dog, Reggie.
He said, ideally, pet dogs and cats should be fed with “fresh, local foods that come out of your refrigerator.”
In this country, Health Canada assess the safety of genetically modified food, the agency’s website says. “Companies are required to submit detailed scientific data for review and approval ... before such foods can be sold,” it says.
Opponents want mandatory labelling of products with genetically modified organisms. Last December, in Parliament, New Democrat MP Murray Rankin of Victoria gave notice of a motion calling for compulsory labelling.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration favours voluntary labelling.
According to Monsanto’s website, foods and ingredients developed through the use of genetically modified organisms are safe. Opponents, however, say the company’s activities threaten the health of consumers.
Monsanto says genetically engineered crops “can improve yields for farmers, reduce draws on natural resources and fossil fuels and provide nutritional benefits.”
The company’s website says that “despite a 20-year record of safety and almost 2,500 independent, global scientific reviews and approvals of GMO crops, there is still conflicting and confusing information” about genetically modified organisms.
Critics say the issue is clear to them: genetically engineered food can be harmful, and they don’t trust it.
They don’t know what it’ll do to their bodies. So products that have had foreign genes from other plants and animals placed in their genetic codes should not be consumed, opponents say, because they are too risky.