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"Greenpeace looking to set up" - 10.26.07
By Elliot Robins - Kootenay Western Star

Greenpeace is coming to Nelson to work with local food security groups to assess what it takes for a community to develop a GE (genetically engineered) foods free zone.

"What they're planning is a meeting on November 10," said Jon Steinman, host of the Kootenay Co-op Radio show Deconstructing Dinner.

The show serves as an exploration of food systems and related issues. "That's going to be a strategy day to explore what it takes to develop a GE free zone in the Kootenays."

Josh Branden, the Greenpeace agriculture campaigner, approached local food groups with the idea.

"He's based in Vancouver," Steinman said.

"Part of his job is to launch these GE free zones."

GE free food zones have popped up across the world and according to Steinman there are over 400 across the globe.

"There are a few examples of GE free zones in Powell River and Saltspring Island," he said.

"I think in most cases they are not legally binding. They do have a message that says 'we do not accept these crops in this region.' "

If some day the Kootenays do become a GE free zone, it is not entirely clear as to how such a mandate would be 'enforced.'

"I think this meeting will clear some of that up," Steinman said.

Genetically engineered foods have been in the food system since 1995 and the main crops are corn, soy, and canola. While the practice of hybridization crossing the DNA of one crop to another variety of the same crop has been around for some time, genetic engineering, in which non-plant genes or bacteria are crossed with a foreign host, is a recent creation.

"A lot of these GE crops are designed to be used with certain pesticides," Steinman said.

"That's kind of the whole idea, that they're genetically engineering the crops so that you can apply this particular pesticide to the field and the crop won't die but everything else will."

Although North American groups have lobbied for the labelling of GE foods, grocery stores remain full of unlabeled foods. Legislation regarding the labelling of GE foods has been passed in numerous countries, including Japan, Australia and countries in the European Union.

"There hasn't been any education on GE foods," Steinman said. "They just kind of appeared in the food system."

GE foods are prevalent throughout North America, and one can only guess at their prominence in the Kootenays.

"The big barrier [to creating a GE free zone] is going to be between Creston and then the rest of the Kootenays," Steinman said. "Creston is where they've planted GE crops most certainly I think mostly canola."

While the jury is out as to whether GE foods have adverse effects on humans and animals, evidence seems to be piling up indicating that it may.

"Monsanto was just recently forced to release a document in Europe that shows a corn variety that had been approved was proven within their studies to develop lesions in the animals that were tested and it was because of this GE corn," Steinman said. "When it comes to safety, there's no reason for anybody to consider GE foods safe."

Steinman speculates GE soy may be the reason behind a spike in soy allergies.

"One of the most popular GE soy varieties is designed to produce a certain pesticide and it's being produced within the plant.

"The big fear when it comes to this soy is that when those products are in the stomach, there is a possibility that the bacteria in there can continue to produce pesticides within the stomach of humans.

"That's one argument as to why there's so many soy allergies out there."


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