rebelling against low expectations

Rachel Parent, Age 14: Anti-GMO Activist Debates Kevin O’Leary


(HuffPo) — Anti-GMO activist Rachel Parent got in a spirited debate with Kevin O’Leary on CBC’s “The Lang And O’Leary Exchange” Wednesday night.

Parent, who scored the debate after a speech she gave critical of O’Leary’s comments about GMOs was featured on HuffPost Canada, argued genetically-modified foods should be labelled in Canada and the United States. Europe, Japan, Australia and other nations require GMO labels, but Canada and the U.S. do not.

O’Leary was quick to suggest Parent is essentially operating as a lobbyist for anti-GMO groups and said changes to the DNA of crops will save lives.


“Let’s say you weren’t as lucky as you are, you were born in an Asian country, you’re 14 years old, your only food was rice that had no Vitamin A in it, you’re going blind and then you died,” O’Leary said. “Five-hundred-and-fifty-thousand people your age die that way every year. And a company like Monsanto could come along and offer you a genetically-modified rice that includes Vitamin A that could save your eyesight and your life.”

Parent was unfazed.

“Golden rice was scrapped because it didn’t work. And in order for the average 11-year-old boy to get enough Vitamin A from rice he would have to eat 27 bowls of rice per day,” she said. “The reason there is blindness isn’t because there is a lack of Vitamin A in the rice, it’s because their diets are simply rice.”

O’Leary asserted that golden rice is still being tested and that we shouldn’t put limits on science that could potentially alleviate the world’s hunger problems.

Parent acknowledged that we shouldn’t completely ban companies from growing GMO crops, but said non-industry groups and government need to do more testing and that we need mandatory labeling laws so consumers can choose for themselves. The teen activist said most testing is currently done by the very corporations that stand to profit from using GMOs.

Monsanto’s longest health trial on GMOs lasted 90 days, according to Parent.

O’Leary pointed out that long-term tests are underway, via the introduction of GMOs into the general food supply.

Roughly 90 per cent of the corn, cotton and soy planted in the United States is genetically modified, Lang said, before chiming in with what was probably the highlight of the segment

“We’re the lab rats,” the host said.

O’Leary said he was worried Parent was becoming a “shill” for anti-GMO groups because she is young and articulate and doesn’t actually understand the science. Lang subsequently tried to soften O’Leary’s “shill” accusation, saying the show had no evidence for the claim.

While the debate didn’t do much to change either combatant’s position on GMOs, it did give an excellent primer on the issues surrounding the explosion of foods with DNA altered to include characteristics from other organisms.

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Rachel Parent

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Good for her! Not only do I agree that GMO foods should be labeled, but it’s so awesome that she was able to stand up for herself and what she believed was right.

  • Kevin O’Leary was saying that she needs to answer his yes or no question to make sure that no one would take advantage of her. Sounded to me like he was taking advantage of her by trying to get her to answer a question that was indirectly related with her topic. Just a thought.

    • Yeah, Kevin O’Leary got kind of annoying after awhile, especially because whenever Rachel even said something, he would try to discourage her. It’s like, “Dude, she’s said her opinion. She’s fine if people want to eat GMOs, she just wants labeling. Now stop asking her the same question in just a different context.” I get it’s all because they’re on TV, and they want to make sure the public gets all there questions answered, but geez! I know I’m supposed to love others like Christ loved us, but O’Leary just got annoying.

  • Wow, this young lady got my vote for winning the debate. She has done
    her research very diligently and hope she has great success in waking
    up people in regards to how these biotech and chemical companies are
    poisoning the earth.

    Totally pathetic how he starts
    blaming her about how children will die with her way of thinking.. wow..
    her rebuttals were right on the mark!! And ironically, GMO foods are
    being developed to soft-kill humans and population control agendas such
    as foods being designed to create more infertility. Seeds in your fruits
    and vegetables contain vital minerals and enzymes that feed the human
    reproductive organs.

    Have you noticed how seeds are slowly disappearing in fruits and vegetables? So who’s really killing who??

    should have also questioned Kevin O’Leary what he has to gain or lose
    with GMO food production, perhaps his Monsanto share portfolio? He sure
    sounded like one of their spokesman to a T!!!

    That O’Leary character is sure one condescending putz and is the true ‘shill’.. a Monsanto shill no doubt!!

  • That’s right Rachel. If you truly believe in something don’t let anyone bully you into thinking different. Stand up for your beliefs. The fact that you are receiving so much opposition is actually in your favor.

    I was really impressed how informed you were on your topic. Good thing too, because he tried to trip you up numerous times!

  • Wow, Rachel did an excellent job refuting each straw man attack, and standing her ground about it being her idea. I agree with her that we can’t and should not stop people from making gmo foods, but that they should just be labeled. If the easiest thing is to give a farmer and his family in africa gmo seeds, so be it. I personally do not think it is a wise and Christlike thing to do, because gmo seeds only yield crops for one season. If you go to Home Depot or Lowes, and pick up a packet of seeds it will most likely be gmo and you will only get about a season of food from it, and we wonder why we are such bad farmers. Non gmo foods are better for us, they don’t have animal or any other DNA mixed in with it. I really wish that anything gmo would just label it.

  • This was not a debate on whether science is right or wrong, but rather I debate of choices. If people were given the information, they’ll have the choice on what to eat and not to eat. And that’s Parents’ stand on the issue that O’Leary should have put in mind.

    She is not against science but seeking for a responsible science in which people could live a more healthier lifestyle. And to learn the basis upon which she stands, she’s done her homework.

    And the issue itself is big, but behind that problem is a more major economic assault to the government.

    Because of modernity, we seek faster results and introduce ways into which people could gain, but what is to gain, if the studies show that as time goes by from history to history and generation to generation, the age of which a person lives becomes shorter, and a fact remains that one of its factor is the food we eat…

  • I’m impressed; she did a fantastic job with that debate! I’m not just saying this because I’m on her side either, because I’m not 😉

  • Excellent job representing yourself and your cause. O’leary was being condescending while you remained composed.

    A couple of thoughts. 1) When O’Leary was babbling about GMO rice spiked with vitamin A to help 11 year old boys in Asia, perhaps he could have been asked: What are the reasons the boys only have access to rice? (Has there been famine or drought? The true reason is due to tyrannical governments that purposefully keep their people poor.)

    2)Rachel said that these GMO crops do not reproduce seed. So what good would that be to these vitamin deficient boys? How about if Monsanto donates non-GMO seeds of carrot and spinach to these boys (which are easy to grow) to cure the deficiency?

    Clearly Monsanto is creating a monopoly for itself. Imagine being the provider of all seed for the world? $$$$$

  • Bravo to Rachel!!! I am sincerely impressed. I agree with labeling Genetically Modified Foods. The people should be aware of what they are getting into, even those who are not against GMOs. We have I right to know, and I would like to thank Rachel for protecting our rights!!

  • She is very convincing. I don’t know who’s right though, because I haven’t researched the subject. It does show that teenagers are just as capable as adults in debates and public speaking. Thanks for the post. 🙂

  • This just show that teens don’t have to just react to the world, we can be offensive (by offensive I mean that we can be active instead of defensive). Even though I personally don’t mind GMOs yet (key word, YET), this does make me wonder why there aren’t more of us doing more.

  • I admire the 14 year old girl for having won a debate against GMOs. But in truth, as a student majoring in science, GMOs are not at all bad. They were made to be good for humans. I just hope those industries give the people the right to know more about what they are having, and they test the GMOs more before they get placed in public markets.

    • Good point, Ericka. We didn’t post this video to make a point about GMO’s — rather to demonstrate that young people have the potential to be articulate and persuasive in standing up for what they believe.

  • Well, call me uninformed. I just spent about 30 minutes catching up on the harms of GMO’s and feel that not labeling foods GMO is a crime! We should now what is in our foods. The reason the government won’t label them is because they truly want “all” food to be genetically modified. At some point they see this as being our great savior. It would be nice to have a confidence in GMOs ability to yield more crops, stave off starvation, and end malnutrition but that hope is currently a facade. I have often wondered why there are far more food allergies than two decades ago, why HDHD is common place in more than half of all children in the USA, and why autism is on the increase. Something we all consume must be the cause and if it isn’t vaccines it must be our food!

    Here’s the catch though. If vaccines keep us from illness, and GMOs keep us from starvation, at what point are we willing to accept those benefits while also accepting the side effects? This is the bigger discussion IMO.

    • Shevi!! Where did you come from?? Is this your first comment?

      Of course I’m assuming you’re the Shevi I know…but who else could it be?

    • Hey you should totally follow the Rebelution. You’d be an AWESOME addition to the discussions! That’d be so fun!

      Who knew Shevi had an opinion on GMOs? Lol 🙂

      I thought you were a State fan. Evidently not. 😛

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