Heidi Osterman, left, and Dieter Wittel collect signatures for their petition opposing genetically modified organisms Saturday at the Penticton Farmer's Market.
A certified nutritionist from Kelowna says allowing a genetically modified organism (GMO) into the food chain will have a catastrophic effect on the future of organic farming.
Heidi Osterman is also president of the True Food Foundation. She and foundation vice-president Dieter Wittel were collecting signatures opposing the use of GMOs Saturday at the Penticton Farmer's Market.
Osterman called their use a biological experiment that comes with "irreversible results."
She said genetically engineered fruits such as the Arctic Apple, which has been genetically altered to prevent it from turning brown once it's been cut, will give old fruit the appearance of looking fresh.
"They're fooling the consumer," said Osterman.
Wittel pointed to scientific evidence showing an apple that has been genetically altered is 100 times more susceptible to infection.
Concerns have been expressed by the organic farming community about cross-pollination. If a bee were to transfer pollen to an organic tree from one that is genetically modified, the resulting contamination could effectively wipe out an organic farmer, as he or she would lose certification. Commercial growers would also be prohibited from selling to their local packing house.
The push to alter foods genetically comes from large, multinational corporations such as Monsanto that are aiming to control and manipulate the food supply, said Osterman.
More than 50 countries have laws that require GMO foods to be labelled, but Canada and the United States do not. In Canada, more than 85 per cent of corn, canola, soy and sugar beets are gene-altered.
In Europe, such foods are labelled to allow consumers to make an informed choice when they're shopping. Europe also refuses to import Canada's gene-altered crops.
Currently, no long-term studies have been conducted regarding the health effects of consuming genetically modified foods.
Osterman and Wittel will be forwarding a copy of their petition to local and federal governments, and they plan to organize a protest in September.
The True Food Foundation is one of four Okanagan groups asking Okanagan Specialty Fruits and its founder, Neal Carter, to withdraw its applications for approval of the Arctic Apple in Canada and the United States, and to stop all attempts to introduce the apple. The others are Bee SAFE, Okanagan Greens Society and the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Treefruit Growers Association.
The groups have also launched a petition asking the provincial government to take action, arguing the work of Okanagan Specialty Fruits jeopardizes the reputation of the Okanagan as a pristine fruit-growing area.
If approved, it would be the first GM apple anywhere in the world. A recent consumer poll found that 69 per cent of Canadians do not want the GM apple.
"The company has named itself after the Okanagan, but our communities don't want the GM apple they're pushing," said Wendy Wright of the Okanagan Greens Society. "This company is using our valley's name to promote a GM apple that nobody wants."
"Okanagan growers were the first to reject this GM apple more than 10 years ago. Now, the name of our beautiful valley is being sullied by association with this GM apple," said Fred Danenhower, president of the Similkameen Okanagan Organic Treefruit Growers Association. "Organic and conventional apple growers are very concerned for their future if this GM apple is approved."
Osterman said she and her colleagues don't want the Okanagan Valley to be known across the world as the home of the GM apple.
"We want all Canadians to know that we'll protect our apples from this genetic experiment," she said.