A Victoria girl’s online petition calling on Girl Guides of Canada to rid their famous cookies of genetically modified organisms has gone viral, garnering more than 20,000 signatures since Tuesday.
Maya Fischer, who turns 10 on Sunday, started the petition in June after hearing about a similar one created by Girl Scout Alicia Serratos in the U.S.
The number of signatures hovered at 1,400 on Monday, but by Thursday afternoon the petition on change.org had more than 22,000 supporters.
Genetically modified foods feature genetic material that has been altered using genetic engineering, a practice that Maya and others believe results in unsafe food.
GMO ingredients in Girl Guide cookies include corn starch, canola oil and soya lecithin.
“The idea is just gross,” Maya said Thursday. “Usually corn doesn’t make pesticides, for instance. Usually a tomato doesn’t cross with a fish. It doesn’t make sense.”
Fischer loves being in Girl Guides and loves the cookies — but refuses to sell them.
“I just don’t like the fact there’s GMOs in there,” Maya said. “I think they can change it so everybody is OK with the cookies and they can be safe for everybody.”
Fischer’s mother, Linda Cirella, said the online popularity of the petition is exciting.
“It feels like there’s a movement and the more people that agree with it, the more likely Girl Guides will look at this and take it more seriously,” Cirella said.
Maya has loved her experience in Sparks, Brownies and now Girl Guides, Cirella said.
“She loves it all — she loves the camping, she loves the games, she loves the girls and hanging out with good friends,” she said.
“This is not a way for her to hurt Girl Guides in any way.”
Cirella said her family has consciously removed genetically modified foods from their diet.
“In doing that, you really have to educate yourself,” she said.
“Most people don’t realize there are GMOs in food.”
Cookie sales are the only way Girl Guides in B.C. fund their programs, said Laurie Hooker, provincial public relations adviser for the organization’s B.C. Council.
The cookies are manufactured for the Girl Guides by Dare Foods.
Genetically modified ingredients are “not really something that Girl Guides can do anything about,” Hooker said.
“Is there enough GMO-free supply that would supply a cookie at a cost that the end consumer would pay for? When you do the math of all that — no,” she said.
“We’re not trying to sell broccoli disguised as a cookie.”
Hooker commends Maya for taking a leadership role but said this issue “is bigger than all of us. It’s the suppliers who supply the manufacturers. We’re way down the totem pole in who can make a difference.”
Hooker noted that a camp next summer will see 3,000 girls gather in Enderby — and the number of Sparks, Brownies and Guides is greater than the community’s population.
“That’s a $1-million event that happens because we sell cookies,” she said.