News that the Canadian government quietly approved a genetically modified salmon for widespread consumption is what convinced 100-plus Kelowna residents to leave the comfort of their homes Saturday morning and protest, says an organizer of the annual March Against Monsanto.
“We have a huge number of countries banning or labelling GMOs, but in Canada a GMO salmon has been deemed OK, and they haven’t even informed people what’s happening,” said Darin Howard. “That’s what gets people out in the rain. We’ve gained more people (at this march) year after year, because they keep putting garbage food on our shelves.”
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced May 19 that they completed thorough and rigorous scientific reviews of the world’s first GMO fish, AquaAdvantage salmon, for food and livestock feed.
Those reviews led the government branches to deem the fish safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon.
Organizations opposed to genetic modification, however, are asking, among other things, why more study about the potential risks created by these fish escaping into the wild and interacting with other salmon.
There are also concerns about labelling, which there will be none of.
While this and other matters related to tinkering with the food supply were the focus of those gathered, there was one person who offered a dissenting view — a sign, said Howard, that the anti-GMO movement was threatening the establishment.
Robert Saik, CEO of The Agri-Trend Group of Companies is a professional agrologist and a certified agricultural consultant.
Saik, who according to his website was appointed by the Premier of the Province of Alberta to The Innovation Council, a think-tank on technology integration and innovation leadership was in Kelowna visiting when he heard about the event and decided to attend to offer a counterpoint.
“A lot of what they want is connected to what genetic engineering can do. I consider the future of agriculture being GMO—genetically modified organic food production,” said Saik.
“Now think about that —the organic movement started with there reduction of the use of synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Nobody can argue with that. No farmer is going to use more fertilizer or pesticides than they need to, so the only technology that is capable of breeding plants to reduce the dependency of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is genetic modification. “
All Canadians, he continued, want safe and healthy food, sustainable agriculture and to leave as little a footprint on the environment as possible.
The way to attain that, from his view, is genetic modification.
His point of view was met with staunch opposition by several who had gathered.
It was the fourth annual march against Monsanto in Kelowna, mirroring events held in cities across the globe.