The Bella Coola Valley Sustainable Agricultural Society would like to compliment the Central Coast Regional District for joining 50 other coastal municipalities in declaring itself a genetically engineered (GE) free zone! The resolution was made in April at the annual general meeting and convention held by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC).
What does it mean? Ultimately, the statement suggests that the Bella Coola Valley supports a long-term food security plan. Cross-pollination from GE plants to the plants we know and depend on will cause unpredictable and irreversible changes in DNA. New animals are being made and cross-breeding could jeopardize the strength and diversity in natural lineages. Particularly, this would be a marketability concern for farmers who are proud to say that their product is natural and organic.
What’s wrong with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s)? Studies conducting experiments of feeding GMO foods to mice result in the findings of increased allergies, infertility and stomach ulcerations, to name a few. There has yet to be a proper study completed on the effects on humans but since the introduction of GMO’s in 1996, chronic disorders, immune system dysfuntion, autism and allergies amongst people have clearly increased.
Why create GMO’s in the first place? Most GMO plants are made to tolerate specific chemical herbicides and pesticides such as Monsanto’s product, RoundUp, which has been linked to sterility, cancer, hormonal disruption and birth defects. The “EnviroPig” uses DNA from mice to reduce phosphorus in the feces; the GM Apple “will not brown”; Chinook Salmon spliced with Eel will grow twice as fast; and GM Alfalfa, well, is apparently totally unnecessary. The common denominator is this: once the big companies create a new product, they can actually patent the DNA strain, own that “seed” and make users pay for it.
What are people doing about it? Europe just became the first to implement a continental wide ban on insecticides as a result of increasing evidence suggesting that neonicotinoids, widely used on GE crops, are linked to the decline of bees and other pollinators. Countries such as Japan, Ireland and Saudi Arabia have bans on the cultivation of GE crops, 61 countries around the world have mandatory GE food labeling laws, including China and Russia, and many more countries have significant restrictions and limitations on the distribution and experimentation with GE plants and animals. Canada grows four GE crops and five more are currently under review for consideration. We have no labeling laws, official bans or restrictions on importation or distribution.
Although avoiding GE contamination is easier in a remote valley such as the Bella Coola, a narrow valley is at high risk for diseases to “go viral”. Neighbours downstream or downwind could see cross-pollination and possible adverse effects on those irreplaceable and dependable climatized seeds that have been kept for years. A regional commitment to keep our fields GE free is an essential foundation piece in food sovereignty. Congratulations Central Coast!