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Tampered-Food Fight Just Beginning

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Canadians have to turn up the heat to get government to listen to opposition to tampered food

Canadians have to turn up the heat to get government to listen to opposition to tampered food. The chemical and pharmaceutical companies who make so much money from manipulating the food supply which affects Canadians health and not beneficially are turning up the heat in favor of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, chaired by Leonard Gustafson, a farmer from Estevan, Saskatchewan, and co-chaired by Joyce Fairbairn, a Liberal from Leth-bridge, Alberta, is willing to listen to Canadians, and might even have the intestinal fortitude to listen to the truth and to what Canadians want to eat.

The vocal activists have had some effect. McCains, the largest potato manufacturer in Canada, publicly announced it would accept no more genetically modified potatoes for its food products.

One fellow who obviously fought in World War II to keep the world free from coercion, but made his letter anonymous, perhaps from fear of repercussions, said this:

"I'm told we fought WWII to put a stop to this behavior [experimenting]

"Instead, I find our whole population is being experimented upon without our knowledge or consent...[as] unconscious victims."

He goes on to say, "The Canadian government wishes to bankrupt Western family farms and turn them into mega-industrial exploits, controlled by Monsanto and company [it] gives me little hope for civilization. We are in crisis."

He's right. We are in crisis.

The Farm Scene

Farmers don't even know what to seed. Last fall's issue of Seed.ab.ca, Alberta Agriculture's official seed guide publication, did a story on what a dilemma farmers are in as to what to plant. The seed companies are pushing GE seeds. The publication said in 1999, more than two-thirds of canola acreage in Western Canada was seeded to GE crops.

Angus Reid did another poll in January and found that two-thirds of consumers surveyed wouldn't buy food clearly labeled genetically engineered.

There's the rub. The Canadian government has no intention of labeling GE foods unless we rise up and express our opinions en masse. One hundred or so letters won't do it. For government to listen, to not label two-thirds of Canadians as a small splinter group, we have to be vocal by the thousands.

An anonymous government insider estimates that already 70 percent of all Canada's food is genetically altered. The list of GE approved products include squash (interestingly enough, it's been approved as safe food for people, but not animals!), soy beans, flax, cotton, potato, wheat, corn, many varieties of canola and tomatoes. But of course, government employees are bound by an oath of secrecy. If they dare tell the truth that a politician doesn't want made public, they lose their jobs. Interesting dilemma for government workers as well as farmers and consumers.

Senate Chair Gustafson says he wants to hear from as many Canadians as possible on the issue of GE foods approval, moratorium or labeling. The secretary of Deputy Chair Senator Fairbairns said she was interested in Canadians views on this matter too.

Mira Spivak of Winnipeg, alternate on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment, says, "The most important thing is that government has to add to its scientists and research capabilities so it can properly evaluate the life sciences companies products before they are put in the market, and label them as well." She describes transgenic manipulation as scary. How right she is.

Outraged Reaction

Some of the 200 letters received by former Senator Eugene Whelan include the following:
"I am in my 80s and have eaten organic foods all my life. The flavor tells you it's good. I beg you to consider this matter (a moratorium of GE foods) seriously," says a woman from Vancouver, British Columbia.

"The unease that many people feel about GE foods is my reaction as well. How can scientists possibly know the effects on human organisms until its been used on us for 40 years or more? We've been told before that certain new things like DDT are absolutely safe. Has it turned out that way? No!" says a woman from Cambridge, Ontario.

An e-mail to this magazine says, "We as organic growers in BC feel attacked by one more nightmare to fend off now besides pesticides GE pollen drift, which can compromise our crops and livelihood."

Someone from Regina, Saskatchewan, comments, "For people who have food allergies, these foods could be fatal if genes from foods to which they are allergic are inserted in foods otherwise not a danger to the person and unknowingly ingested. People with food allergies need to know what they are eating it can be a matter of life or death."

Susan J. Murphy of Arthur's Book Store in Toronto said in her letter, "We believe it is time for the governments of this country to stop pandering to the whims and whines of companies who do not have the best interests of the people of Canada, or anywhere else for that matter. Science and technology are developing at a faster rate than the morality, conscience or intelligence of the average individual. It is time for our elected officials to stand up for what is right, and not just for what is politically convenient."

A woman from Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, writes, "Many friends and relatives in Europe are surprised at the Canadian complacency on this subject. Many of my vegetarian friends have been shocked to learn that soya products are not exempt from genetically modified seeds."

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