Girl asks Guides to live by group’s own motto

Young Victoria Girl Guide petitions the national organization to take GMOs out of cookies

Maya Fischer (right) and her mother Linda Cirella have vowed to stop selling Girl Guide cookies until the national organization replaces genetically modified ingredients with natural ones. Fischer’s online petition has nearly 800 signatures in support.

Young Victoria Girl Guide petitions the national organization to take GMOs out of cookies

Maya Fischer believes in the Girl Guide motto. She knows it by heart: I promise to do my best, to be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada; I will take action for a better world.

Now, the nine-year-old Saanich resident is asking the Girl Guides of Canada to follow it too — by removing GMOs from Guide Guide cookies. Fischer might be one of Victoria’s youngest people to speak out about genetically modified food, but her petition on Change.org, which started just two weeks ago, has already gained 795 signatures.

“I care about what my community and friends eat, and the Girl Guides of Canada teaches us to take action for a better world, so that’s what I’m doing,” says Fischer, who has been a part of the organization for four years, first as a Spark, then Brownie then Guide.

Since discovering her favourite cookies contained GMOs earlier this year, Fischer and her family have stopped eating them and have vowed to stop selling the products until Girl Guides of Canada addresses the issue.

“People are unaware that 90 per cent of all corn, soy, canola, beet sugar and cotton seed oils are made with GMOs,” says Linda Cirella, Fischer’s mother and a leader in her Girl Guide troop. “And what Maya is asking for is not that much — they could trade canola oil for sunflower oil, soy lecithin for sunflower lecithin and corn starch for tapioca or potato starch.”

Fischer and Cirella have contacted the B.C. Council Girl Guides of Canada, who, upon hearing about the petition have notified Cirella that, as a guide leader, she may be acting in a way that contravenes the guiding law. The council could not be reached by press time. Cirella says no official action has been taken yet, but every guide is expected to sell at least two boxes of cookies each year, and the mother and daughter have made their intent not to sell clear. Fischer did receive a call back from the “cookie guy,” who reiterated that all ingredients in the cookies are approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“We’re really not sure if we’ll be met with higher fees for not selling cookies, or kicked out for the petition or what, but this is an important issue and the signatures are showing that,” says Cirella. “The fact that they are telling us to ‘stop’ and take down the petition is telling, too.”

Fischer’s stand is the first of its kind in Canada, though the young activist got the idea after watching the 2012 film Genetic Roulette — The Gamble of Our Lives, which showcases a young American Girl Scout forging a similar petition. The film won the 2012 Movie of the Year award by the Solari Report, the Top Transformational Film of 2012 by AwareGuide and Fischer’s admiration.

“I saw the movie and thought, I want to do that, too!” says Fischer, who adds that she’s been aware of the impacts of GMOs for a few years now. “GMOs happen when genes from one thing are forced into another, and that doesn’t exist in nature. It changes the whole DNA code, and it’s not proven safe.”

Fischer and Cirella have tried to rid their entire house of GMOs, though Cirella says they are literally in everything, even in Fischer’s favourite veggie chips that the two had assumed were healthy. While Fischer’s Girl Guide group is aware of the petition, no others have vowed to halt cookie sales yet, though many of her friends have signed the petition.

“I think the real lesson we’ve learned here is that GMOs are everywhere, and you have to do more than read labels — you have to understand where GMOs are found,” says Cirella. “The Girl Guides of Canada are a grassroots organization that represents wholesomeness and standing up for what’s right. We really hope they hear that message.” M

To sign the petition, visit change.org/petitions/girl-guides-of-canada-take-all-gmo-ingredients-out-of-girl-guide-cookies.  

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