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Food Safety: From the U.S. to India, via Canada

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The Huffington Post
May 5, 2010
Shiv Chopra
Microbiologist and human rights activist
Posted: May 3, 2010 11:47 AM

I am one of many million Indians who during the last couple of hundred years settled abroad. I have lived in Canada for the last 50 years. Coming here initially as a post-graduate student of agro-medical sciences I made it my home in 1960. Since then, I earned a Masters and Ph.D. in microbiology and a fellowship of the World Health Organization in international safety and efficacy standards for vaccines. During 1969-2004 I worked as a senior food and drug regulator at Health Canada. I was partly responsible for the Canadian rejection of rBGH.

Canada may not be richest country on earth but it is pretty close to it. With vast amounts of arable land, fresh water and well educated farmers it can feed its entire population of 33 million on the healthiest of food. But, it does not. Another country that comes close to Canada in this regard is its next door neighbor and closest trading partner -- the United States. Most food in both these countries is heavily contaminated with hormones, antibiotics, slaughterhouse wastes, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. Due partly to these substances in food production there occurs in both these countries a greater and greater incidence of food-borne disease (FBD). The types of FBD that these products induce include cancer, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, neurological conditions, including Bovine Spongiform Disease (BSE), Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular, immune, reproductive, neurological and various other disorders.

To avoid these public health risks, hormones, antibiotics and rendered slaughterhouse wastes, are banned to be utilized in food production throughout the European Union countries. However, the U.S. and Canadian regulatory authorities insist that these substances pose no significant risk to public health, without the required proof of safety from their manufacturers. So, all five of these products continue to be utilized in Canada and the U.S. contrary to the Food and Drug Act of both these countries. Meanwhile, the issue is being contested between U.S/Canada on one side and E.U on the other in the World Trade Organization for approximately the last two decades. E.U. countries have also been reluctant to approve GMOs and some of them are promulgating to ban various agricultural pesticides. Should they decide to completely eliminate all five of the above substances their food will become the healthiest.

In contrast, U.S. and Canadian food has become the most toxic in the world. If and when the public finds out about it and demands action politicians proffer new and improved food safety standards such as the U.S. Modernization Act (S-510) or the Canadian Consumer Protection Act (C-6). Beside the home grown problems of food safety are imported into all the industrialized countries pesticide-laced fruits, vegetables and other foods from Mexico, China, India, Brazil and other less developed countries. What actually needs to happen is to demand international ban on the use of the following five substances in food production: hormones, antibiotics, slaughterhouse waste, GMOs and pesticides. In doing so, the entire food supply will become the way it used to be: organic.

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