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
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!