Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Lecture Hall: GE Foods & Human Health

A few weeks ago, my husband tagged me in a link to a Facebook page dedicated to A Cross Canada Speaker's Tour on genetic engineering in agriculture and its known and probable dangers to human health and the environment. Immediately, I studied the map of 32 event locations in all of Canada, eager to know if Kelowna BC was one of them. 

Ever since moving to a smaller City of Red Deer AB in the summer of 2011 and becoming a mother a year and a half later, I have been feeling isolated and lacking intellectual interaction. High art performances, motivational speaking events and professional industry nights have all but vanished from the usual selection of after-work activities, replaced by diaper changes, doctor appointments and the occasional outings to the local trade shows, featuring crafts and antiques.

To my knowledge, there were also few resources on natural food and medicine, although I was lucky enough to make an acquaintance with a lady whose passion for healthful living compared to mine. It was her guidance in local farmers that made us aware of the availability of better food alternatives within a short radius of Red Deer. Moving to the Okanagan promised a much greater variety of locally grown foods and I secretly hoped that its centre point hosted a plethora of speaking engagements and other stimulating events on health, nutrition and the alternative medicine. 

Luckily, the tour speakers fit Kelowna BC into their rigid travel schedule, making me cry out in excitement and anticipation until I saw the event date: November, 24 or three full days before my husband's scheduled arrival from a two-week work shift. Having already pictured myself seated in a room full of people, I felt disappointed in my inability to attend due to a lack of babysitting options. Indeed, Lake Country has only been home for a month and a half- too short of a time frame to fully unpack, let alone find a family doctor, obtain BC license plates or locate an occasional but reliable caretaker.

Once again, however, I was fortunate enough to receive a generous offer to accommodate Marcus for the duration of the upcoming seminar, which I accepted with great gratitude. It seems, whenever I wonder how my parents and I wound up living nine thousand kilometers away, I am reminded that there are many others who are near and care enough to extend a helping hand.  

The presentation was held at the Okanagan College, Student Theatre, and offered free admission. Donations were accepted and I gladly contributed in cash and by purchasing two manuscripts: Corrupt to the Core by Shiv Chopra and GMO Myths and Truths by Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson and John Fagan, also offered at no cost in an electronic format. Two research scientists, Dr. Thierry Vrain and Dr. Shiv Chopra, presented their individual stories in a personable manner, instantly connecting with the audience that filled the entire auditorium. 

Looking around the room, I noted a healthy blend of age groups, professional backgrounds and personal reasons for attending the event. Unaware of a single person's name, I felt comfortable knowing that we all had a shared concern that needed to be addressed immediately and unequivocally. And the concern was that over the inexpiable human drive to tamper with the nature's designs, so much so that the results of such interventions are grave and, some suggest, irreversible.

Presented in layman's terms and supported with scientific data, Dr. Vrain's lecture was easy to follow and discussed the main pillars of GM technology and why they are fundamentally flawed. Dr. Chopra, on the other hand, focused on the political aspect of food and drug safety, publicly shaming Health Canada for repeatedly and deliberately overlooking obvious signs of risk posed by approximately a dozen drugs, including rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone), proposed for an approval by their manufacturers like Eli Lilly and Monsanto. 

His efforts in opposing the synthetic hormone eventually paid off, when the decision was made not to approve it for commercial use. And while the rBGH is also prohibited in the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, the U.S. remains the only developed country where the hormone is perfectly legal and proclaimed as safe. Coincidentally, Monsanto in America holds exclusive production rights to the drug.

The lectures went on for two straight hours and provided much clarification on the topic at hand, but what struck me the most is the amount of hardship these men have endured through unjust treatment and ridicule by the authorities and continue to face by speaking up publicly on the topic of great controversy. Moved by two men's dedication to clearing up the truth, I caught myself tearing up once or twice. And then, one by one the audience rose and applauded for a few long minutes...

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