VICTORIA – The co-founder of a B.C.-based organic juice company is shocked at the levels of poisons found in his kids and is demanding European-grade standards and regulations on toxic substances and genetically engineered foods to protect consumers.
Gregor Robertson, now the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, said Wednesday he was motivated to draft a pair of private members’ bills after his wife and four children were screened for toxins in a national study last year.
“On average my kids and my wife had about 30 of those toxic substances present in their bodies, which was a real shock to us,” he said.
“We were organic farmers when the kids were younger and they’ve grown up as healthy as can be, so it was very unsettling to see the presence of PCBs and heavy metals and flame retardants and chemicals we didn’t think were really present in our lifestyle.”
He said the study, titled Polluted Children, Toxic Nation, was conducted by an organization called Environmental Defense. It screened for about 70 toxic substances.
“They’re everywhere and they’re in all of us and that’s what really catalysed me into action on looking at what regulations are necessary.”
Robertson said the two bills he will introduce Monday – the Right to Know Act and the Toxic Use Reduction Act – would create North America’s strongest laws regulating toxic substances.
“Right now, B.C. is trailing the pack by far,” he said, referring to regulations of toxics.
“We are way behind Ontario and Quebec, we’re way behind most U.S. states, and of course Europe has led the charge in terms of reducing toxics in the environment.”
He said his first bill would require suppliers and producers to warn B.C. consumers if their products expose them to toxic chemicals or genetically engineered food.
“There have been correlations to toxicity with some genetically engineered ingredients, but they are present in this bill, primarily as a right to know issue,” said the co-founder of Happy Planet Foods.
“Many consumers are concerned about genetic engineering.”
Robertson’s companion legislation would ban toxic substances that are already prohibited for use or for sale in other provinces, states and OECD countries and would also ban pesticides for residential or cosmetic use, on public lands and around children in schools, playgrounds and day care centres.
“It’s comprehensive in terms of reducing what toxics are produced here in B.C. and eliminating the worst of the toxics that are imported from elsewhere,” he said.
Robertson is hoping the issues and his private member’s bills will find non-partisan support when they are introduced next week. But he was clear he doesn’t think much of the Liberal government’s current stance.
“They’re out to lunch in terms of recognizing the impacts of toxics on our health and the impact it’s having on our environment,” he said.
Environment Minister Barry Penner said Robertson’s companion bills were totally off his radar.
“I’d be interested to see what he’s got and look forward to seeing (them) introduced in the house,” he said. “I’ll have to take a look at what he’s got in (these bills.)”
Robertson, meantime, rejected any suggestion that the bills, if passed, would help his organic juice company.
“Well, no. It’s an example of a business that would need to look at all our ingredients and make sure we don’t have toxic substances present,” he said, adding that’s something Happy Planet has been doing on its own without any regulations in place.