Industry claims on GMO crops unconvincing

Columnist responds to a letter about the safety of genetically modified crops

I’ve just returned from a road trip to Saskatchewan to attend a wedding on a big farm and came home to a garden that has exploded in blooms and weeds. I also returned to a letter in the Mailbag section of our paper, the Eagle Valley News from the president of CropLife, Lorne Hepworth, claiming my column on GMO seeds and crops, “GMO crops, the bad seed of agriculture,” was full of misinformation, and that  I was wrong about the genetically modified seed and food industry. I’ve learned this is a typical response from CropLife, a pro GMO/herbicide lobbyist and an organization that leads the charge against municipalities seeking to enact pesticide bans. Wow, they must be watching pretty close to catch a little garden column like mine!

The paper changed the original title, which was called: “GMOs – Sowing Seeds of Distrust,” and I specifically chose those words because “trust” can be a nebulous concept these days. When I’m seeking honest and truthful information about our food, health, safety and environmental issues, what are my sources and where can I put my faith and trust? It seems that no matter the subject or issue, inevitably there are going to be numerous positions and statements on the “facts.”

For example, can I trust Health Canada when three of their top health scientists, doctors Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert, were fired for insubordination for having enough concern and courage to go public because important information was being withheld regarding bovine growth hormones in our milk products, and that measures to prevent mad cow disease were inadequate?  Can I trust the information and inside studies from the chemical and seed industry companies, when billions of dollars of annual profits for them and their shareholders would be at stake if farmers and gardeners chose to use cover crops, organic fertilizers, microbe sprays and heritage seeds instead of chemical fertilizers and genetically modified seeds? Can I trust that the organic seed, food and fertilizer industry isn’t feeding me a load of crap about the benefits of their products?

And now I’m really going to stick my pitch-fork in and ask: Can I trust the Agriculture Canada officials to ensure that our food and environment is safe, even though they’ve got policies in place to allow bio-tech companies to sell farmers a genetically altered seed with a built-in, non species-specific pesticide that may sicken or kill anything that eats that plant, tree or its pollen?  Do I trust that our government agencies have had enough information from independent short- and long-term studies to ensure that it’s safe for me and other animals to eat these crops grown from those seeds?

Can I trust that our government officials have iron-clad policies and laws in place so that our country’s food sovereignty will never be jeopardized by international trade agreements, that our farmers will always have the right and independence to grow and save their own seeds, that there are safety measures in place in the form of seed diversity in case of a massive crop failure, and that our policies and laws being passed are based on unbiased scientific studies, and not by pressure from private interests and campaign-supporting industry lobbyists?

Should I trust Health Canada when they say it’s unlawful to buy a particular herb now, even though it’s been traditionally used for healing for centuries, and that these food safety laws being passed are for my sake and not to protect the interests of the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries?

Should I trust that the aluminum-reflective particles and other substances being sprayed in our skies is for mitigating weather patterns and slowing down the process of climate change (see the documentary What In The World Are They Spraying), and should I not be concerned that those toxic substances are building up in the soil and water, threatening the health of all life forms? Do I trust what a crown corporation like BC Hydro says about the safety of smart meters for me and the bees when they’ve sprayed Agent Orange on or near unsuspecting people and animals?

There is no shortage of information and studies about GMO crops and seeds, and it comes from a myriad of different sources, such as bio-tech corporations, Health and Agriculture Canada, leading organic and environmental institutions, Monsanto battling Saskatchewan farmers like Percy Schmeiser and his wife, documentaries, whistle-blowing professionals and prominent scientists The Canadian Association for Doctors for the Environment and watchdog and concerned citizen organizations.

I pay particular attention to those people who have nothing to gain and have/had everything to lose by risking their lives, livelihoods, reputations and careers to expose and bring to our attention information and studies that are not being disclosed by the government and industry.

So Mr. Hepburn may not feel I’m correct on the issues and benefits of genetically engineered seeds and crops, but if GMO’s are so safe and wonderful, and solving our world’s food shortages, then why not shout it from the rooftops and proudly display it on our food labels? What have you got to hide?


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