11/15/2016 07:50 EST | Updated 11/15/2016 07:50 EST

Tell Health Canada You Want GMO Foods To Be Labelled

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Woman grocery shopping

In a failed attempt to neutralize opposition to genetically modified (GM) food, the pro-GM lobby claims that the health and safety debate over food contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has ended. They say that "the science" is on their side.

That's just public relations. It's just not true. No long-term, independent epidemiological study has been carried out to indicate GM food is safe for human consumption.

Industry-sponsored pro-GMO activists attempt to side-line this reality by making wild claims and don't seem to understand that no one likes to eat food that has not been proven safe.

Time and again, they use influential PR Firms to try to manipulate public opinion.

GM foods were introduced to Canada 20 years ago, with four crops -- canola, corn, soy and sugar beets -- now dominating the GM food industry.

More recently, Health Canada approved GM salmon, as well as the GM non-browning arctic apple and the GM potato, all of which have never been proven safe for human health (or properly assessed for their impacts on the environment/ecology) and all of which are to be placed on store shelves with no label to indicate they have been genetically engineered.

Like all GM food, they rely on the lie of 'substantial equivalence' to conveniently escape proper regulation/labelling.

Does this sound right to you? More than 60 countries around the world (including the entire European Union), either ban, restrict or label GMO ingredients. But not Canada. 

Today, more than 70 per cent of the food products purchased at the local grocery store contain GM ingredients.

With the topic of labelling GMOs such a priority elsewhere and something which the majority of Canadians want, why has Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency been denying this information to the public?

Why do the same companies that manufacture GM food for the Canadian market supply non-GM food to other parts of the world? 

It raises the question just why are we being force-fed GMOs in the first place? 

In a recent New York Times piece, Danny Hakim argues that over the last two decades GMO crops have been a mainstay in conventional agriculture and the technology has not led to larger yields nor reduced pesticide use, despite the biotech industry's promises of both.

His investigation concluded that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields - food per acre -- when measured against Western Europe.

So what is the purpose of GM food and who benefits? 

There can be one conclusion: GMOs are designed to increase the sales of the proprietary pesticides and patented seeds of Monsanto and the other biotech companies and offer nothing in the way of increased yield, reduced pesticide use, improved nutrition nor adaptation to climate change. And, despite the claims of the biotech industry, they are not needed to "feed a growing world".

Health Canada should not ignore GMO labelling feedback

In January 2014, the Minister of Health asked Canadians for their input in developing new food labels that would provide consumers with the information they wanted. Below are some of the results of those consultations.

In the Health Canada Report by Rona Ambrose, consumers report that they use one or more parts of a nutrition label on a food package to gain health, dietary, environmental, cultural or social information, including where a product is from or how it is made. To help meet these information needs, consumers suggested the following:

• More information on labels about how food is made, including animal welfare details, such as "cage-free," "free-range" and "grass-fed." 

• More complete country-of-origin information. 

• Labelling genetically engineered or genetically modified ingredients in food products.

Despite these findings from two years ago, Health Canada has remained silent on the labelling of GMOs and has failed to act.  

I raised this point with current Minister of Health Jane Philpott in June, when I had the chance to meet with her and her team in Ottawa. By providing the minister with a good deal of information and scientific peer-reviewed sources, I highlighted the nature of the current seriously flawed regulatory system for GM food and argued the case for the mandatory labelling of GM foods.

Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world. Canadians are unknowingly consuming and feeding their families GMOs. This is concerning as many independent peer-reviewed studies point to the health risks of consuming GMOs. If the health of Canadians is being adversely impacted by consuming GMOs, won't this increase the burden on our health care system and negatively impact our economy? 

On a brighter note, I'm encouraged by Minister Philpott's introduction of new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. At the same time, however, I believe that no food should be marketed and labelled as "natural" or "healthy" if it contains GMOs or if harmful pesticides, such as glyphosate, have been used in its production; especially considering that in March 2015, the World Health Organization declared that glyphosate was a "probable" carcinogen.

In finishing, on October 24, Minister Philpott announced consultations to update Canada's Food Guide to help Canadians make healthier food choices. If the minister is truly serious about helping people make healthier choices by including initiatives to update nutrition labels on pre-packaged foods and restricting marketing to children, she should institute mandatory on-package GMO labelling.

I encourage all Canadians to participate in these consultations and to inform the minister that if we are to make genuine healthier food choices, the mandatory labelling of GMOs is required.  

Canadians, now is the chance to have your say. The government's online public opinion survey is now open. The deadline is December 8, 2016. 



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