Specialist speaks out against genetically-modified foods.

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Av Singh, an organic and small-scale farming specialist in Nova Scotia, spoke at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market recently. – Wendy Elliott, www.kingscountynews.ca

By Wendy Elliott

welliott@kingscountynews.ca

KingsCountyNews.ca

 

About 80 per cent of the corn grown in Nova Scotia today is genetically modified (GM). In fact, it’s hard for farmers to find non-GM seed.

Av Singh, an organic and small-scale farming specialist in Nova Scotia, noted that corn is pretty much in everything processed. He gave a talk on GM foods at the Wolfville Farmers Market recently, indicating that for soybeans in North America, the figure is closer to 90 per cent.

“This is really detrimental to organic agriculture,” he said. “It’s very threatening because we’re starting to see contamination.”

A friend of food activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, Singh said that locating non-GM sugar beets and now non-GM alfalfa will become difficult in Eastern Canada.

“Alfalfa is the biggest threat,” he stated. “There’s no way to control GM spread.”

He refers to canola as the first industrial food, adding he will only purchase canola oil from Europe.

He explained how buying feed processed by a mill, which also handles GM crops, is a challenge. Singh described the approval of GM alfalfa as a big deal.

Potatoes, he said, are the only crop without a serious genetically modified version because of consumer feed back. Singh recommends consumers ask whether the sweet corn they’re purchasing has been genetically modified.

Chemical interventions, he suggested, only lead to more chemical applications due to herbicide and insecticide resistance and promotion by the huge pharmaceutical companies that create these chemicals.

These interventions, Singh contends, do not address the real problems in the field, such as reducing weeds. Furthermore, he believes, health impacts for humans are on the horizon.

Studies on rats and some livestock, Singh said, have suggested that GM feed causes distress, “but a lot is only anecdotal evidence.”

He also worries about the loss of organic farmers in Nova Scotia. Numbers are down over a decade from 75 to just over 50 farmers.

“We would expect to have more,” Singh said. “It’s a bit of a challenge. Will consumers pay more?”

Singh has visited over 800 farms across North American, a journey that shaped his work on holistic farm management and soil health.

 

Organizations: North American

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Wolfville, North America Eastern Canada Europe

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Recent comments

  • Diane Tibert
    September 01, 2013 - 20:41

    We need more of these types of talks. I don't believe the general population stops long enough to realise the health effects of the artificial food they are putting into their mouths. They either don't have the time to learn about this or simply don't care. I am on a mission to eliminate canola, corn and soy from my diet. It's difficult but not impossible. These three items are in almost all artificial (processed) food. By eliminating these three items from my house I have drastically reduced the consumption of GMOs. Do I believe GMOs are detrimental to my health? Yes. Each year I grow more of my own food. I also began raising chickens (for meat and eggs) and goats (for milk, butter, yoghurt), so my dependence on grocery stores and the garbage they're filled with will be practically nil. I refuse to be a guinea pig for these multi-billion dollar companies. We need more organic farmers, less GMO farmers. I dread the thought of what the food world will look like in 30 years. So much has changed since 1980. Food is not what it used to be.

  • Jason
    August 18, 2013 - 10:20

    Pretty big claims and no evidence. Av is a really nice guy but he is concerned citizen, not a specialist. If organization like the farmer's markets were interested in learning about GM foods, why not get some real experts to speak, people who have done lots of scientific research in this area rather than the conjecture of the uniformed. It seems that most people are not against GM foods but against companies like Monsanto because they have had some pretty deplorable business practices. But that doesn't mean the product is bad. And representing all points of view is fine but, you first have to have a valid point of view. You can't come up with something based on a feeling and think that makes it valid. If GM foods are bad, it's simple, collect your evidence and present it. If it's the companies that are corrupt, present your evidence. Stop presenting conjecture as fact and drawing false conclusions. While you're at it, look into a man named Norman Borlaug and learn what GM foods actually are.

    • Robert Wager
      September 06, 2013 - 10:51

      Though I would not describe myself as an expert, I do know a fair bit on this subject from over a decade of research. There are many 'experts' around who would be happy to talk. They just need to be asked to come.

    • jane
      September 15, 2013 - 10:56

      Jason, I would recommend you do some of your own research as obviously you are the one in the dark. There have been many studies on the negative effects of gmo's and also how they are destroying the honey bee populations.

  • keith
    August 16, 2013 - 20:40

    we need more activists and voices like Mr.Singh. GM foods have been forced onto society without debate, without scientific data proving they are safe and without independent testing by regulatory bodies. They have been proven in the meantiime to be a detriment to our health and the animals that eat them. The greatest irony and perhaps the most telling of how high the corruption goes, is that the biotech companies say they are "substantially equivalent" to non-gmo counterparts, yet they have been given patents to protect them. Isnt that the whole idea behind a patent? that it is NOT substantially equivalent?