14-year-old anti-GMO activist accused of being a “shill”

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In a feisty debate July 31, Kevin O’Leary of CBC’s “The Lang and O’Leary Exchange” accused fourteen-year-old activist Rachel Parent of being a “shill” and a “lobbyist” for anti-GMO groups.

Currently, Europe, Australia, and Japan all require GMO labeling. Canada and the United States do not.

Parent, founder of Kids’ Right to Know, is a firm proponent of companies being required to label genetically modified foods. The young woman is extremely knowledgeable in the subject, as evidenced by her ability to consistently shoot down O’Leary’s snide claims and accusations.

O’Leary argues that genetically modified foods, specifically Golden Rice, have the ability to save lives of young children in Asia and other countries. He also claims that the added Vitamin A not only spares these children from starvation, but blindness as well.

“Let’s say you weren’t as lucky as you are, you were born in an Asian country, you’re fourteen years old, your only food was rice that had no Vitamin A in it, you’re going blind and then you died,” O’Leary says. “Five hundred and fifty thousand people your age die that way every year. And a company like Monsanto could come along and offer you a genetically-modified rice that includes Vitamin A that could save your eyesight and your life.”

Despite O’Leary’s attempt to glorify Monsanto and pin Parent as some sort of anti-GMO villain tying starving, blind children to the tracks while dangling bowls of Vitamin A-rich rice in their faces, Parent coolly retorts with meticulously detailed facts.

“Golden Rice was scrapped because it didn’t work. And in order for the average eleven-year-old boy to get enough Vitamin A from rice, he would have to eat twenty-seven bowls of rice per day,” says Parent. “The reason there is blindness isn’t because there is a lack of Vitamin A in the rice, it’s because their diets are simply rice.”

O’Leary argues that the rice is still being tested, and we should not abandon something that has the potential to save lives.

Perhaps he has a point. In a society that has fought hard for science and progress, should we just let it go without first allowing trusted government agencies and non-industry groups to test the food? Oh wait, that’s right—only companies that produce GMOs, which stand to gain from genetically modified products, test the food. Moreover, no Monsanto study has lasted beyond ninety days, according to Parent.

Over 90% of corn, cotton, and soy planted in the United States is genetically modified.

“We’re the lab rats,” said co-host Amanda Lang.

Now, O’Leary readjusts his argument to say that yes, the foods have been tested. In fact, they’ve been tested quite extensively—on us, the consumers—for decades.

Parent acknowledges this disconcerting fact, and reassigns O’Leary’s point to her own argument. Shouldn’t we have the choice of whether or not we want to be Monsanto’s lab rats?

“If they want to experiment, okay. But that brings me back to the labeling—at least give us the choice,” says Parent. “I am not anti-science. But I am for responsible science and ethical progress—science that is proven safe not by the very same companies that stand to gain by their approval.”

O’Leary belittles Parent’s passion, passing it off as naivety and telling her that she will grow out of it one day.

“I’ve always thought that as people age […] you start to see the evidence on the other side of it, over time, you may change your mind,” O’Leary says, condescendingly. “From my point of view about you, I hope that happens.”

“Is that likely to happen, Rachel?” asks Lang.

Parent responds by emphatically shaking her head. “No.”

You can watch the debate here:

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