ONE AC­TIVE AC­TIVIST

T.O.’s own Rachel Par­ent on the use of GMOs in our food, the po­ten­tial health is­sues in­volved and go­ing head-to-head with Kevin O’Leary

The Kids Post - - Contents - by Tina Robin­son

Rachel Par­ent talks about her fight against GMOs and her now-fa­mous run-in with loud­mouth Kevin O’Leary

There’s a young girl with a big voice in the city and she’s cer­tainly mak­ing sure that she’s heard. Ral­ly­ing against the use of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms (GMOs), 16-year-old Rachel Par­ent is do­ing ev­ery­thing she can to make peo­ple aware of how GMOs are af­fect­ing our lives and the lives of our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Tak­ing a stance in fight­ing for the la­belling of GMOs in our foods, Rachel Par­ent has caught the at­ten­tion of thou­sands of peo­ple, Canada’s min­is­ter of health, and she’s even sparked a de­bate with Kevin O’Leary that was viewed on YouTube over five mil­lion times. Her pas­sion on this topic is pos­i­tively pal­pa­ble, and she’ll stop at noth­ing to ed­u­cate peo­ple on the ef­fects of GMOs.

What orig­i­nally ig­nited this pas­sion of yours to­ward what we are eat­ing and the use of GMOs?

I had to do a speech for my school in Grade 6, and I had no clue what to do it on. I knew I wanted to do it on some­thing that would im­pact a lot of peo­ple, so what bet­ter than our food sys­tem be­cause we all have to eat. So I got more in­volved, and af­ter find­ing out that none of my peers had any clue what GMOs were, I knew I had to do some­thing. So I cre­ated a march, and things con­tin­ued to progress from there.

Grow­ing up, did you al­ways want to be an ac­tivist and get into this sort of thing?

No! If some­one had told me I was go­ing to be an ac­tivist, I would have laughed! I didn’t even know what an ac­tivist was, so I de­cided to look it up. The def­i­ni­tion said that it was ‘some­one who is so pas­sion­ate about an is­sue that they will take the lead and try to make a dif­fer­ence.’ As soon as I read that, when I was 13, I said that’s what I’m go­ing to do!

What do your friends and peers think about what you’re do­ing?

I be­lieve that our ef­forts are mak­ing a big dif­fer­ence and in­spir­ing oth­ers. We re­ceive many letters from youth who are inspired and in­ter­ested in be­ing a part of the move­ment. My peers are very sup­port­ive and help out with tasks in­volved in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Par­tic­u­larly, they feel mo­ti­vated to help when they learn that ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion of na­ture is not the so­lu­tion to solve world hunger and pop­u­la­tion con­cerns. This is a cause that is es­sen­tial to all who are pas­sion­ate about our en­vi­ron­ment, ecosys­tem, wa­ter sup­ply, fac­tory farm­ing is­sues, global warm­ing, de­for­esta­tion, poverty and safe food for ev­ery­one glob­ally. More and more peo­ple are be­com­ing ed­u­cated on these is­sues and are re­al­iz­ing the im­por­tance of work­ing to­gether to keep na­ture un­mod­i­fied.

Why should we be con­cerned that these GMOs are in our foods?

At this point, they haven’t been ad­e­quately tested, but they have been linked to things like al­ler­gies, di­ges­tive dis­or­ders, or­gan dam­age, even tu­mours. Just la­bel it. We should have the right to know what’s in our food, so we need to get the gov­ern­ment to la­bel all foods with GMOs. We eat, breathe and drink from what the earth is pro­vid­ing us, so we need

to take ac­tion to keep it nat­u­ral and clean.

How did you feel when you heard that Kevin O’Leary had ac­cepted your chal­lenge to be fea­tured on his show?

I was so shocked! When I chal­lenged him, I hon­estly didn’t think that he would re­spond. I had just come back from a re­ally ter­ri­ble day at school (I went through a bit of bul­ly­ing), and I had got­ten in to the car, and my mom said that she had good news and bad news. When she told me Kevin O’Leary ac­cepted, I was in shock. I didn’t know whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. What I did know was that I would try my best and hope­fully it would help at least one per­son out there.

When you are eat­ing out in Toronto, where’s your favourite place to chow down?

I try to avoid GMOs, so I tend to look for places that serve foods that are gen­er­ally healthy and, of course, nonGMO or or­ganic. I’ve tried the res­tau­rant Live Foods be­fore, and they are great, but one of my favourite places is the Big Car­rot Café on the Dan­forth, as they of­fer a great va­ri­ety of tasty and safe foods with­out canola, veg­etable or corn oil. By the way, the samosas there are ab­so­lutely amaz­ing!

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