Rachel Parent, a 14-year-old anti-GMO activist, more than held her own against Canadian television host Kevin O’Leary.
A Canadian television host’s attempts to school a 14-year-old girl did not quite go according to plan.
Kevin O’Leary, the co-host of the popular CBC business news program “The Lang and O’Leary Exchange,” must have thought he had laid the perfect trap for teen anti-GMO activist Rachel Parent.
The problem for O’Leary is that Parent, the founder of the pro-GMO labeling group Kids Right to Know, proved to be no pushover.
Following a spirited debate on whether the governments of Canada and the United States should rely on health studies conducted by genetically modified seed makers Monsanto, and the question of whether possible health benefits of GMO crops outweighed environmental concerns, O’Leary seemed to concede that the marketplace trend was heading toward greater transparency.
Throughout the interview, which aired last week, an incredulous O’Leary pressed his contention that Parent had been co-opted by anti-GMO groups, rather than having arrived at her conclusions independently.
“You know, you’re very articulate, that’s a positive, what I’m concerned about and what I’m exploring with you is whether you’ve become a shill for a group that wants to use you because you’re young, you’re articulate, you’re getting lots of media—and I’m happy for you on that—but I’m trying to find out whether you really deep down believe this,” O’Leary said.
“That you should stop all scientific approach to looking at food, even it if has long term benefits down the road for people that really are not as lucky as we are in North America. That don’t have access to all the protein that we do. That can’t be your position. I don’t believe it,” O’Leary said.
Remaining as composed as she had over the course of the entire interview, Parent fired back.
“It’s not necessarily that, and this brings me again back to the labeling, because, I mean, at least test it [GMO crops] properly, adequately. That way we know, as the consumer, if it’s safe. And you know what, OK, whoever wants to eat it, or whoever wants to experiment with it, go ahead, but the people—” Parent said before being interrupted by O’Leary.
“OK, Rachel, I give you the labeling,” O’Leary said. “Let’s say we mandate everything’s labeled, got that. Would you allow companies like Monsanto and many others to try and modify foods to the benefit of all human beings?”
“Are you anti-science, I guess is the question,” co-host Amanda Lang interjected.
“I’m not anti-science, but I am for responsible science and ethical progress. Science that’s proven safe by not the very same companies that stand to gain by their [GMO crops] approval.”
The clip of the debate between Parent and O’Leary quickly went viral, and has been viewed on YouTube more than 400,000 times.
Posted to the websites of several anti-GMO groups, Parent has since been lauded as a rising star for the movement, while O’Leary, a multi-millionaire businessman, has been largely ridiculed.
Even on business websites, O’Leary has come in for criticism.
“O’Leary’s behavior was astonishing, and not in a good sense,” commenter David C wrote. “Rachel Parent stuck to her points and didn’t rise to him trying to put words into her mouth (or saying things she hadn’t even said). Good for her. And what a di– O’Leary is.”