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.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.