You can avoid sugar, aspartame, trans-fats, or MSG if you're a savvy reader of labels. But if you want to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMO's), it's not so easy. They're not listed on labels. You could buy organic foods, which by law can't contain more than 5 percent GMO's -- but now that might not work either.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered foods -- alfalfa, a type of corn, and sugar beets. And the FDA will likely soon approve GM salmon, which would become the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last. And the FDA and USDA will not require any of these products, or foods containing them, to be labeled as genetically engineered.
This despite the fact that over 95 percent of people polled say they think GM foods should require a label.
According to an editorial in the New York Times:
"Even more than questionable approvals, it's the unwillingness to label these products as such -- even the G.E. salmon will be sold without distinction -- that is demeaning and undemocratic, and the real reason is clear: producers and producer-friendly agencies correctly suspect that consumers will steer clear of G.E. products if they can identify them. Which may make them unprofitable. Where is the free market when we need it?"
Even more alarming, Dr. Don M. Huber, one of the senior scientists in the U.S., has alerted the federal government to a newly discovered organism related to GM crops may be causing plant death, and infertility and spontaneous abortion in animals fed GM crops.
Dr. Huber believes the appearance and prevalence of this unnamed new organism may be related to the nation's over-reliance on the weed killer known as Roundup, and to genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops.
In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Huber called on the government to immediately stop deregulation of Roundup Ready crops. According to the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, the letter read, in part:
"Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science! ... I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high-risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency."
And finally, in other alarming GM crop related news, Terry Redman, the West Australian Minister for Agriculture, wants to redefine the word "organic" to include genetically modified (GM) crops. Not that the difference between organic and GM crops will be a distinction for much longer anyway, according to current farming trends.
Some organic farmers, of course, have already unwillingly been growing GM crops in their fields. Steve Marsh, an Australian organic farmer, one year found his wheat and oats testing 70 percent positive for novel DNA thanks to cross-pollination from nearby farms.
Monsanto, of course, thinks the farmer should pay them for what amounts to the complete loss of his organic farm business -- no matter that the genes were most likely wind or bee-propagated, they say they were illegally in his plants, and he should pay them $400,000...
Lastly, are GM crops at least being tested for safety? Somewhere?
The answer is no, and we might never learn the true risks of GM crops during this generation, because the multinational companies that control the patents on GM seeds refuse to allow them to be used by independent scientists for safety testing. This is apparently just another legal perk of having a corporate patent on what has now become a major part of the American food chain.According to a recent CBS/NYT poll, 89 percent of respondents said they wanted to see GE foods labeled as such.
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
The food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State - to prevent you from knowing what’s in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right; all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and to share what you’ve learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beets, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as certified organics do not permit GMO’s. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the biotech industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.