Rachel Parent, a 15-year-old activist who lives in Ontario, has been campaigning for mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods since she was 11. She is the founder of Kids Right To Know, a non-profit organization that focuses on GM foods. Parent spoke to Western Producer reporter Robert Arnason Aug. 17 to discuss GMO labelling and the federal election. Here is some of that conversation.
Western Producer: Earlier this year, you met with Tom Mulcair and other NDP leaders. What’s your sense of their support for mandatory GMO labelling?
Rachel Parent: When I met them they were very supportive of labelling GMOs…. The Green Party is very supportive of labelling GMOs. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Justin Trudeau his position. He responded that the Liberal Party believes in giving consumers the most information it possibly can… about what they’re purchasing and what they’re putting in their body. In reality, all three parties are interested.
WP: Polls suggest 80 to 90 percent of Canadians support mandatory GMO labelling. What about Canadian farmers, do you think they support it?
RP: When it comes to farmers, organic and many, many conventional farmers do support our (consumers’) right to know what is in our food. In reality, GMO farming is affecting them as well…. My hope is that farmers will support the consumers’ demand for labelling and consumers will support the future for Canadian farming.
WP: When you say ‘many’ Canadian farmers, do you mean the majority of farmers support GMO labelling?
RP: A lot of the time they (conventional farmers) support GMO labelling because they want to support our right to know.
WP: Do you think activists and farmers should collaborate on a GMO label, which works for both groups?
RP: I think it would be great to have more conversation between consumers and farmers. I believe, in reality, that farmers will grow what people want to buy because it’s about supply and demand. With labelling, the demand for non-GMO crops will likely increase and as a result farmers will switch what they grow to meet demand.
WP: How do you cope with hostile emails and comments from people who support GMOs?
RP: No matter what cause you’re part of, whether it be deforestation or animal cruelty, there’s always going to be someone who opposes you. For me, I look at the letters of support. We get thousands of letters of support from around the world and that’s really what keeps me going…. On top of that, when I look at the people opposing us, a lot of them have self-interest in these corporations… so it’s in their best interest, of course, to not have GMO labelling. In reality, I thought bullying ended in grade school, but apparently not.