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More protests against genetically modified food
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WebPosted Sat Apr 1 23:52:39 2000

TORONTO -- Demonstrators in several Canadian cities donned funny costumes Saturday to protest against a trend they say is anything but laughable: genetically modified food.

In Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver they marched in front of grocery stores chanting about the dangers of what they call "Frankenstein food."

They also passed out leaflets listing products that may contain genetically modified ingredients. It's part of a one-week campaign around the world called "resistance is fertile."

In what's becoming a tradition at such protests, some people were dressed as mutated fish, fruit, or vegetables to try to get people's attention.

There was also a freakish tiger with a sign that said "They're Grross," mocking a popular breakfast company's cartoon character who boasts about its cereal being "grrrreat."

A few demonstrators went inside at least one supermarket and slapped labels on cereal boxes and other food, warning people not to eat them.

They demanded the government force companies to indicate which products contain genetically modified ingredients.

"I want to know what it is before I give it to my kids," said one man.

The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors maintains that labelling is not realistic right now.  But a new poll commissioned by opponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) suggests more than nine out of 10 Canadians want mandatory labelling.

In the poll, conducted by Environics for the Council of Canadians, 75 per cent of the people surveyed also worry about the safety of GMOs.

On Saturday, Greenpeace called on consumers to boycott companies that use genetically altered food in their breakfast cereals.

"It's irresponsible, and it should stop," said Peter Tabuns, the organization's executive director in Canada.

Some people think the protesters are going too far by making blanket statements about all genetically modified food.

Prof. Eduardo Blumwald, who teaches botany at the University of Toronto, for example, says he has engineered a tomato plant that can survive in extremely salty soil.

"This plant, or other plants like that, are going to feed a lot of people who today cannot grow anything" in harsh climates around the world, he argues.

Blumwald says it will be years before anyone eats his tomatoes because the modified plant must undergo rigorous testing before being declared safe.

But critics say we can never be certain of the health risks of molecular changes being made to our basic food supply, and they want all genetically modified products pulled from store shelves.

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