A Victoria Girl Guide is refusing to sell any Girl Guide cookies.
Nine-year-old Maya Fischer and her mother Linda Cirella believe the cookies may be unhealthy and unsafe because they contain Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) ingredients.
Those ingredients are corn starch, sugar and canola oil, Linda told Global News. “That might seem very surprising because there’s no GMO label on the cookies,” she said.
The mother and daughter started a petition back in June, which now has more than 15,000 signatures, and they are continuing to raise awareness about the issue as another season of selling the cookies gets underway.
“Girl guides teaches girls about healthy living, respect for the environment and taking action for a better world,” said Maya and Linda on the petition. “We’re concerned because there have been no long-term studies showing that it is safe for people to eat or grow GMO foods.”
Global News has reached out to the Girl Guides of Canada for a statement about their cookies.
Both Maya and Linda started their campaign after watching a documentary about GMOs and seeing a similar petition started in the U.S. by Girl Scout Alicia Serratos.
“The idea of GMOs is pretty gross,” said Maya. “They take genes from different animals and plants and put them together. And if we don’t know they’re safe yet why would Girl Guides want kids eating them? I think they’ll agree with us.” Maya has been with the Girl Guides Organization for over four years, starting as a Spark, then Brownie, and then becoming a Girl Guide last year.
“Maya really gets it,” said Linda of her daughter. “When we go grocery shopping, she’s right there checking out ingredients lists. When she found out about Alicia’s petition, I was so impressed that she wanted to do the same here in Canada.”
“There is a lack of information from the government.”
Maya and Linda state on their petition page, “many large companies are phasing out GMO ingredients. Department store Target, for example, has promised to remove all GMOs from its Simply Balanced line by 2014.”
“Right now the Girl Guides are doing the bare minimum outlined by the Canadian Government, but given the unknown risks that GMOs pose and the strong positions from other big companies, Maya and I are asking them to be leaders for health, the environment, and for kids like her,” said Linda.
Girl Guide cookies are sold from October to December, and from March to June, and the proceeds go back to the Girl Guides organization. Each Girl Guide is required to sell 24 boxes. “Our family is so conflicted about this,” said Maya and Linda. “We don’t eat the cookies or buy them, and we refuse to sell unsafe cookies to our friends and family, but we do want to support the Girl Guides. We want to sell cookies that are healthy, safe for the earth, and that all Girl Guides can be proud of.”
Linda has heard from the Girl Guides of Canada about their campaign. She said they told her their ingredients conform to Canadian regulatory standards. “However, those standards are tied up in government and corporate bureaucracy,” said Linda.
They also told her if they removed the GMO ingredients the cost of the cookies would triple in cost. However, Linda said that is not the case as there are cookies, such as a GMO-free version by Newman’s Own, that retails for $5.50. Girl Guide cookies are $5 a box. “A little more expensive but that’s not tripling the cost,” she said.
The two hope the awareness around their petition on Change.org will prompt action from the Girl Guides, who they point out have made several positive changes to their cookies in the past, including the removal trans-fats and the use of boxes made from 100% recycled paper.