Teen activist Rachel Parent has challenged Health Minister Rona Ambrose to a debate on genetically-modified foods.
During the March Against Monsanto rally at Toronto's Queen's Park in early October, Parent invited Ambrose to talk about launching independent government studies on the safety of GMOs and mandatory labeling.legislation.
Parent, who blogs for HuffPost Canada, became a viral sensation earlier this year after she faced off with Kevin O'Leary in a GMOs debate on CBC TV. She scored that appearance using the same strategy she employing with Ambrose, a public speech followed by a posting on YouTube and promotion on social media.
The 14-year-old firebrand told HuffPost she was inspired to release the challenge to Ambrose online after the Health minister's Facebook account posted a statement about the Conservative government's commitment to food safety.
“Our Government is committed to ensuring that Canadians have confidence in the food they buy and eat. Knowing that food is healthy and safe to eat is fundamentally important to all Canadians and their families."
Ambrose was referring to new government initiatives aimed at making it easier for Canadians to get information about food recalls.
The proposed debate would also include former Agriculture Canada biologist Dr. Thierry Vrain, a prominent critic of the genetic modifications in agriculture.
Parent wants mandatory labeling legislation that would force food companies to disclose the use of GMOs in their products. GMOs are not subject to mandatory labels in Canada and the U.S., but are in much of Europe, New Zealand, Australia and even China.
Labels for GMOs are the subject of fierce debate. Proponents contend that little research has been done on the long-term health effects of eating GMOs and that most studies are conducted by the very companies that stand to profit from them. Critics argue that humans have been modifying the DNA of food since the dawn of civilization and that labels would only serve to create false hysteria that could negatively affect our capacity to feed Earth's growing population in the decades to come.
Do you think Ambrose should take on Parent and Vrain? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Related on HuffPost:
Red Kidney Beans
Red kidney beans <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/CausesOfIllnessBadBugBook/ucm071092.htm" target="_blank">contain the toxin phytohaemagglutinin</a> and must be boiled for at least 10 minutes before consumption. But make sure the water is at boiling temperature; when cooked at temperatures below boiling, the beans' toxicity is multiplied. That means you shouldn't chuck them in the slow cooker unless you've boiled them first. Symptoms include severe nausea and vomiting, which in most cases clear up in a few hours. However, in labs, rats given a diet with only 1 percent raw kidney beans <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2126293" target="_blank">died in just two weeks</a>.
Don't worry, grating a bit of nutmeg over your macaroni gratin won't do you any harm. But consuming large doses could cause myristicin poisoning, which in some cases is <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11343860" target="_blank">fatal</a>. The organic compound myristicin, found in nutmeg, can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and hallucinations.
When unripe, Jamaica's national fruit, the ackee, contains the <a href="http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1008792-overview" target="_blank">toxins hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B</a>. In the body, hypoglycin is converted to methylenecyclopropyl acetic acid, which can lead to vomiting, lethargy, unconsciousness, coma and even death. In 2011, ackee <a href="http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ackee-kills-23--sickens-194-in-less-than-3-months_8418374" target="_blank">killed 23 Jamaicans and sickened 194</a> over a period of just three months. Don't worry, ackee is totally safe when it's ripe.
Raw lima beans contain <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/42153-lima-beans-nutrition-information/" target="_blank">linamarin</a>, which when consumed decomposes into the toxic <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11861532" target="_blank">chemical hydrogen cyanide</a>. Fortunately for lima bean-lovers, cooking the beans for at least 10 minutes renders them safe. Unlike in other parts of the world, Lima beans sold in the U.S. are required to have <a href="http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/photos/8-poisonous-foods-we-commonly-eat/1-lima-beans" target="_blank">relatively low cyanide levels</a>. As a result, people don't usually die from eating raw lima beans, but it's theoretically <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/18/health/cyanide-poisoning" target="_blank">possible if consumed in large quantities</a>. Don't do it!
Most uncooked elderberries are poisonous; they contain glycosides that, when metabolized, are converted into cyanide. That's why elderberries are popular in jams, which require they be cooked. Elderberry poisonings are rare, but they do happen: In 1983, eight people were <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000311.htm" target="_blank">hospitalized with acute gastrointestinal and neurologic symptoms</a> after downing juice made with raw elderberries. They all recovered, though.
Almonds come in two varieties: sweet and bitter. Bitter raw almonds contain substances that break down into cyanide. A 1982 study in the Western Journal of Medicine tells the cautionary tale of a 67-year-old woman who <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1273391/?page=1" target="_blank">consumed raw bitter almonds and nearly died</a>. Cooking bitter almonds <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2002/feb/20/food/fo-almond20" target="_blank">neutralizes the substances</a>. Relax, all <a href="http://seattletimes.com/pacificnw/2001/0422/taste.html" target="_blank">commercially-grown almonds in the U.S. are of the "sweet" variety</a> and pose no danger.
O.K., this technically isn't an everyday food. But people do eat it on the regular (in some parts of the world), so we think it warrants a spot on this list. Blowfish, or <em>fugu</em>, is famed for the highly lethal amounts of the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18065372" target="_blank">poison tetrodotox in its organs</a>. When improperly prepared fish is consumed, it can paralyze the muscles of the victim, who asphyxiates while totally conscious. No antidote exists. Not a great way to go.
NEXT: Fruits & Veggies Least Contaminated By Pesticides
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/22/clean-15-2013-fruits-vegetables_n_3132241.html" target="_blank">"Clean 15" list for 2013</a>.
Frozen Sweet Peas
NEXT: The 10 Most Unhealthy Food Ingredients
There's a reason why most sugary treats give us a rush. Hidden artificial colours in foods can cause hyperactivity and headaches, says <a href="http://enlightenedlife.ca/">holistic nutritionist Danielle Felip</a>.
Bleached White Flour
Found in most white breads, bleached white flour is usually stripped of nutrients and fibre and adds little value to our diets, Felip says.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
This ingredient is found in most processed foods, including lunch meats, and has no nutritional value, Felip says. It has also been linked to increase risks of type 2 diabetes, and overconsumption can be damaging to our livers.
Artificial sweeteners give food that sugary taste that is also quite addictive. But Felip says that artificial sweeteners are usually chemically derived and have been linked to migraines and even cancer.
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
BHT or butylated hydroxytoluene is often added to most processed foods to preserve fats. Felip says overconsumption of this chemical can cause allergic reactions on the skin.
Partially Hydrogenated Oil
Partially hydrogenated oils (which are often found in cake mixes, peanut butter and baked goods) can decrease good cholesterol levels, are linked to heart disease and are hard for the body to dissolve, Felip says.
MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a food additive that is found in many foods, especially in fast food restaurants. Felip says MSGs often overexcite our nerve cells in the brain and can even (eaten in large amounts) cause brain cell death. On top of that, MSGs also can lead to exhaustion after a big meal.
Sodium Nitrate And Sodium Nitrite
Sodium nitrates and nitrites are <a href="http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/seasoningflavoring/a/nitrates.htm">chemical compounds commonly found in meat products like bacon and hot dogs</a>, according to about.com. Nitrates and nitrites can affect the way your body uses sugar and may increase the risk of diabetes and colorectal cancer, Felip says.
Sodium benzoate is a chemical preservative that is used to prevent the growth of bacteria in foods like jams, fruit pies and soft drinks. "It can also deprives our cells of oxygen and weakens the immune system," Felip says.
Sulphites are food additives used to preserve food colour and prolong shelf life in many food products including canned fruits, frozen fries and soy products. Felip says sulphites can cause allergic reactions and flushed faces and <a href="http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/allerg/fa-aa/allergen_sulphites-sulfites-eng.php">swelling of the eyes, face, tongue among others.</a>
Next: Worst Foods For Teeth
This one might be surprising for some of you. "Dried fruits are very sticky and high in sugar. The sugar gets stuck between teeth and stays there for hours, feeding the bacteria in the mouth, which can cause dental erosion," says <a href="http://www.fitspeakers.com/" target="_hplink">Dr. Uche Odiatu,</a> a doctor of dental medicine based in Toronto.
The acid in vinegar, which is essential to the pickling process, wears away at the enamel of your teeth and causes staining.
Sugar creates an acidic environment in your mouth, and over time, that can wear away at your tooth’s enamel.
Red and white wines contain erosive acid, which can soften valuable enamel within five minutes of exposure. The tannins (compounds found in red wine) also dry out the mouth and can stain teeth.
Drinking pop full of sugar often leads to cavities, but it can also lead to tooth erosion. Surprisingly, so does diet pop. "Sugar-free diet sodas also contain citric and phosphoric acid and can erode the enamel when consumed often," he says.
Hard candies take a while to dissolve in your mouth and during this time, sugar sticks to your teeth and can cause damage to your enamel. Hard candies that dissolve slowly in your mouth allow bacteria more time to produce acid, which can also damage your chompers.
Chewy candies stick to your teeth for a long time and allow bacteria to feed off the sugars. "Bacteria forms acid with the sugar, which attacks the protective layer of tooth enamel," Odiatu says.
"Citrus fruit are fine as part of a balanced diet. But you would be surprised to hear how many Canadians have a maladaptive habit of sucking on limes or lemons throughout the day," he says. Citric acid in fruit wears away the tooth enamel which leaves teeth susceptible to cavities.
Acidic fruit juices raise the level of acid in your mouth and over time, this can also eat away at your tooth enamel. Fruit juices, like lime or cranberry, can be just as acidic as vinegar and can wear down the tooth enamel over time, leading to cavities, and sensitive teeth, Odiatu says.
Coffee And Tea
The darker the beverage, the darker the stain. You may think tea is gentler on your teeth than coffee, but that’s not always the case. "Some black tea may stain your teeth more than coffee. Like red wine, black teas have high tannin content which causes staining."
Refined carbohydrates come in many forms. "There are a growing number of articles in the dental health literature that have related the high consumption of refined carbohydrates to inflammation in the body." Odiatu says. Inflammation is a key player in a number of chronic diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis (inflammation around tissues that support your teeth).
Next: The Worst Foods For Your Heart
Hot dogs, bacon, sausage and deli meats -- even lean ones like turkey -- are made with <a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/avoid-these-foods-for-a-healthier-heart">loads of sodium and preservatives</a>, often including nitrates and nitrites, both of which have been linked to heart problems. "With processing, you lose control over the quality of the ingredients," says <a href="http://drcynthia.com/dr-cynthia/">Cynthia Thaik, M.D.</a>, a Los Angeles-based cardiologist. Processed meats are also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/nutrition-advice-the-trut_b_584758.html">higher in saturated fat and lower in protein</a> than any red meat you could prepare yourself, writes director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and HuffPost blogger, David Katz. Not convinced to stay away? Processed meats have also been linked to a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/13/processed-meat-pancreatic-cancer-bacon-sausage_n_1204620.html">higher risk of diabetes <em>and</em> pancreatic cancer</a>.
Yes, the processed picks are <em>worse</em> for your heart, but that doesn't mean you should go wild for steak. Instead, consider it more of a treat than a staple in your diet: It's still high in saturated fat, even when it's unprocessed. "I don't want to suggest that we have to go [completely] plant-based," says Thaik, "but moderation is always the key." If you're not planning on changing your carnivore ways anytime soon, at the very least pick a <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cuts-of-beef/MY01387">lean cut of beef</a>, which, according to the USDA, contains less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. Or opt for extra-lean, with 5 grams of total fat and less than 2 of saturated fat. Of the 29 cuts that meet these regulations, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cuts-of-beef/MY01387">five are extra-lean</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic, including eye of round roast or steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak and top sirloin steak.
That cheesy slice may contain as much as <a href="http://www.realage.com/mens-health-guide/worst-junk-food-for-heart-disease-2">two thirds of your daily recommended limit of saturated fat</a>, according to Real Age, which is found mostly in animal products like beef, pork, butter, cream and milk. The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than <a href="http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp">7 percent of total daily calories from saturated fat</a>. (Based on a 2,000-calories-a-day diet, that totals out to about 15 grams a day of saturated fat). And even though you may think it's "just cheese," many dairy products are actually highly processed, says Thaik. To lighten up, skip extra cheese and top with veggies instead of pepperoni or sausage.
When you consider that the ingredients in this heavy sauce are <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/alfredo-sauce-2/">butter, cream and cheese</a>, it's easy to see why serving up this pasta dish would pose saturated fat problems -- especially if you're dining out where sauce is ladled over <em>piles</em> of noodles. If you really love an alfredo dish every now and again, ask for the sauce on the side and stick to just a tablespoon or two. If you're making your own at home, try a lightened-up recipe, like <a href="http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=163122">this one from SparkPeople</a>, which replaces butter with olive oil, cream with skim milk and cuts down on the amount of cheese.