Talk Boutique is excited to welcome Rachel Parent to our speaker roster. Rachel Parent is an advocate for food safety for youth, founder of Kids Right to Know and Youth director of Regeneration International.
One-on-One With Rachel
1. Tell us what ignited your passion for food safety and for the labelling of GMO products?
My journey into activism started at 11 when I began to discover what was happening to our food system and happened to stumble across the word GMO. As I began to research I was immediately concerned by the health and environmental implications associated with GM foods. In addition, I was disturbed about the lack of transparency and choice, especially given the absence of mandatory GMO food labelling in Canada and the US.
I felt it was not only unfair that we do not get to decide what foods we put in our bodies, but that this also went against the very core of democratic values. Access to nutritious food is our most basic right, yet because of the lack of transparency, we don’t even have the right to choose which foods we consume.
Rather than standing by for someone else to act, I decided to take action.
My first small act was simply starting a Twitter account, which led to creating a march in downtown Toronto. I then created a website and formed a non-profit organization, Kids Right to Know. Shortly thereafter, I challenged Kevin O’Leary to a debate on GMOs on CBC television, after he publicly smeared critics of GMOs. The debate went viral with almost 10 million views.
This fight for transparency and proper labelling within our food system has led me to a larger fight of the protection of our planet against destructive corporations. I realized that our food not only impacts our health, but also the health of our planet, contributing to climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, and water and soil contamination, to name a few. Every bite of food we take is supporting a system of agriculture that is either regenerative and a part of the solution to improve our planet and our health or is a destructive means of profit for corporations that are contaminating our earth with toxic chemicals. On a broader scale, our food choices are a vote for the world we want to live in.
There’s no planet B. This destructive system of destroying our earth with chemicals is undermining our own survival. There is no money, no materialism, no economy, without an environment.
2. What are some of the challenges you face when speaking about the food climate considering fast food restaurants being on the rise and becoming so dominant?
Throughout my journey, I’ve faced opposition from powerful corporations and their hired scientists and media figures. I’ve been attacked for my work as a youth activist and for standing up for my future, but I refuse to lose hope or give up. I’m often asked why I even bother challenging large corporations like Monsanto when they have unlimited funds and huge lobbying power. My answer is simple. I’m fighting for my future and the future of our planet. We cannot afford to become disengaged and to allow apathy to consume our lives. Instead, we need to stand up in the face of adversity and speak up for what is right.
3. How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
It can be overwhelming as an activist to see the number of issues we are facing. I think the youth are particularly hit hard with this reality. We are facing issues no generation before we had to. But I think there is hope and as a young person, my heart is filled with enthusiasm for what we, as a global community, can accomplish. Knowing that there are solutions and actions we can take, like regenerative agriculture, which helps reverse climate change through carbon sequestration, gives me great hope.
4. What are some of the small things others can do to help young people to choose healthier options as well as bring awareness to food safety?
One of the greatest forms of action anyone can take is voting with their dollar, and demanding ethical agriculture that respects all life, diversity, and nature, such as organic and regeneratively grown foods. Also, avoiding GMOs by purchasing Non-GMO Project certified products, and by reading labels to ensure the product you purchase don’t contain corn, canola, soy, and sugar from sugar beet, the majority of which are genetically modified.
Know the farmers, and try to buy certified organic whenever possible, as harmful chemicals such as Roundup and glyphosate are also used on some non-genetically modified crops.
We need to put our consumerism in check and realize that with every purchase or form of consumption, whether it be clothing, food or cosmetics, we are impacting the ecosystem that is our planet.