By Dr. Mercola
Between October 18 and November 5 the next big GMO-labeling vote will take place in the United States; this time in Washington State, where citizens will cast their votes for the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act."
Initiative 522 (I-522) will require seeds, raw agricultural commodities, and processed foods to be labeled if they’re produced using genetic engineering.1
The success of this ballot initiative is dependent on public donations, and we’re up against industry giants with very deep pockets, so please, help us win this key GMO labeling battle and continue to build momentum for GMO labeling in other states by making a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund (OCF) today.
The video above features Ronnie Cummins, the national director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the Organic Consumers Fund—one of our allies in the movement to build a sustainable and healthy system of food and farming in the United States.
Part of this food movement is the Millions Against Monsanto campaign, and campaigns pushing for labeling of genetically engineered foods across the US.
The first March Against Monsanto, which took place in May, 2013 was really an extraordinary event that did not get the media attention it deserved. Some two million people in 450 cities and 50 countries took to the streets with the same message—that genetic engineering and Monsanto are out of control, and we need labeling and safety testing.
According to Cummins:
“We need to get these crops off the market or marginalized. That’s what worries Monsanto and the rest of the food industry. Last November, they came close to a disaster when the California ballot initiative Proposition 37 nearly passed. We got 48.5 percent of the vote. They beat us by one and a half percentage points. Well, Monsanto and their allies – Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, and the rest – they had to spend 50 million dollars to beat us in California.”
Why Are Chemical Companies in Charge of Our Food Supply?
For a long time, Monsanto appeared to be perched on top of the world, making enormous profits and wielding near unparalleled political clout. One of the most recent examples of their political power was the insertion of the “Monsanto Protection Act” rider into the appropriation bill, back in January, which basically eliminated the power of the federal judiciary to control genetically engineered crops. As explained by Cummins:
“Under this Monsanto rider to the appropriation bill, even if a federal court rules that a genetically engineered crop has been improperly approved—that it could harm the environment or public health, they can’t stop it. Monsanto’s chief cheerleader in the Senate, Roy Blunt from Missouri, was very proud of this rider, and it went through.
But in a sign of change, millions of people complained, emailed and called Congress, and caused the backers of the bill to back off and say that, ‘Well, it’ll expire on September 30 and then it won’t be part of the Farm Bill or continuing appropriations.’”
Thankfully, the rider, which was renewed by the House of Representatives, was finally voted down by the Senate, thanks to your overwhelming support and affirmative action. As of September 30, the “Monsanto Protection Act” expired. It just goes to show how critical it is that we unite and address these issues together. It’s the only way we will make positive change.
It’s worth remembering though that Monsanto is not alone in recklessly pushing genetically engineered (GE) crops and foods. The following five multi-national chemical companies are also major players:
All of these chemical companies have tried to reposition themselves as “life science” companies, but, as Cummins points out, “they’re still the same old companies whose bottom line depends on selling as many toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides as possible.” Disturbingly, these chemical companies have also bought out most of the seed industry, worldwide, making it extremely difficult for farmers to buy non-GE seeds.
Monsanto’s Grip Slips as Americans Become Better Informed
While the overall picture looks bleak, a number of things have happened in the last 12 months that have shaken Monsanto’s image of invincibility. For example:
- A growing epidemic of genetically engineered (GE) super weeds and super pests is spreading across US farm fields. As reported by Cummins, 49 percent of American farmers are now battling Roundup resistant weeds in their corn and soy fields. In an effort to get rid of them, they’re resorting to ever-increasing amounts of Roundup herbicide, Monsanto’s flagship chemical weed killer, and/or other even more toxic herbicides such as Agent Orange 2,4-D or Dicamba. If you look at the statistics over the last decade, there are actually more herbicides than ever being used. As a result, the industry’s promise that GE crops would allow for fewer pesticides to be used has taken on a distinctively hollow ring.
- Also, part of the original rationale for using GE crops was that they could be sprayed with less toxic herbicides, such as Roundup—which was touted as harmless and biodegradable. Now, mounting research reveals that Roundup may actually be one of the most toxic chemicals ever to enter our food supply! Some scientists, like Dr. Don Huber, believe it may be even more toxic than DDT.
- Genetically engineered Bt seeds are also soaked in toxic fungicides called neonicotinoids, which have now been linked to the mass die-off of bees in the US and around the world. This in and of itself threatens about 70 percent of the US food supply (fruits, vegetables, berries and nuts that rely on bees for pollination) and the rapid demise of these pollinators has gained worldwide attention.
- Mounting research published in peer-reviewed journals reveals a wide variety of health hazards associated with consuming genetically engineered foods and the chemicals that accompany these crops.
- The environmental impact of GE crops and associated agricultural chemicals, like Roundup, is also coming into clearer focus as research reveals how they destroy soil microbes and inhibit the fertility of the soil.
Recent Events Highlight Necessity for GMO Labeling
In 2013, we’ve seen efforts to pass genetically engineered food labeling laws in 30 states, and the state legislatures in Connecticut and Maine have passed such laws. The next major event is November 5. The citizens’ ballot initiative in Washington State is very similar to the law that was proposed in California last year. Polls and focus groups indicate this ballot initiative is indeed going to win. A number of recent events have also heightened the public’s awareness of the necessity for GMO labeling, not to mention the need to implement the precautionary principle. For example:
- The federal government is considering approving the most controversial genetically engineered product since bovine growth hormone in 1994, namely genetically engineered salmon. Even FDA scientists are warning that the GE salmon created by Aquabounty appears to be allergenic to humans. Marine biologists and fishing communities are also pointing out that once these genetically engineered salmon escape into the wild, which they will, they will decimate the wild salmon population.
- Industry is also trying to get approval for a GE apple, which is anathema to Washington State’s apple producers. This apple is genetically engineered to not turn brown once sliced. Here too, scientists are warning that the genetic manipulation involved in producing this non-browning apple is unpredictable and possibly quite hazardous to human health.
- Unapproved genetically engineered wheat varieties, created by Monsanto, were recently discovered in the Northwest, causing overseas markets to temporarily cancel imports of American-grown wheat. This naturally caught the attention of wheat growers in Washington State as well.
Who Is Funding the Anti-Labeling Campaign?
Monsanto has so far donated $4.8 million to the No on 522 campaign. Dupont has kicked in another $3.4 million,2 and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) $2.2 million. Curiously absent from any list of donors are the big spenders from last year’s No on Prop 37 campaign. However, as explained by Cummins, this cannot be taken as a good sign:
“I think we’re going to win on November 5th, and industry sees that, too. That’s the reason none of the Big Food companies have been willing to donate money to defeat I-522 in Washington State, or at least they haven’t been willing to publicly donate money.
The main donations so far against labeling in Washington State, which is about two million dollars, have come disguised as a donation from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The Grocery Manufacturers Association is basically a trade association of 300 large corporations – food and manufacturing corporations – and supermarket chains.
No one wants to be identified with being against mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, so they’re trying to conceal their donations by giving them to the GMA, and then the GMA launders the money for them. But that’s not going to work. It’s going to be coming out more and more: Who is providing the money to try to keep consumers in the dark about labeling?”
New Hurdles to Be Faced as Big Biotech Fights to Maintain Control
Recent polls show that 64-66 percent of likely voters in Washington State strongly support GMO labeling, which puts further pressure on companies who’d rather not disclose such ingredients. So what is Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association apt to do, knowing that the Washington State ballot initiative is likely going to pass on November 5th?
According to Cummins, they’re presently hard at work on a number of fronts. For example, they’re trying to insert a measure into the Farm Bill—known as the King Amendment—which could make it very difficult for states to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws. They also tried and failed to keep the “Monsanto Protection Act” rider in the appropriations bill.
Worse yet, Big Biotech and the Grocery Manufacturers Association are also working on two secret trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). You can learn more about these trade agreements on Organic Consumers Association’s web site.3 As explained by Cummins:
“These so-called free trade agreements are expansions of the highly unpopular North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization Agreements (WTO) that has been described as NAFTA or WTO on steroids. Basically, these are secret trade agreements that are being worked on now by representatives of 600 large corporations that are designed to increase the power of corporations to stop nations, states, and municipalities from passing pro-consumer, pro-natural health, or pro-environmental laws.
Believe it or not, these negotiations are being conducted in secret, where not even the US Congress is allowed to look at what’s being discussed or what’s being proposed. The bottom line is that the reason why Monsanto, the biotech industry, and the Big Food corporations are fully in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is that corporations under these new trade rules will be able to force countries to lower their standards, their safety standards, labeling requirements, labor standards, and so on and so forth... People who have looked at them, like Alan Grayson from the US Congress, have said, ‘This is worse than you could even imagine.’”
Let’s Not Allow for Half-Measures...
On July 10, the Grocery Manufacturers of America held a closed-door meeting in Washington DC, to which 300 large food and chemical companies had been invited. According to Cummins, one of the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s suggestions for addressing the impending crisis of GMO labeling is to push for a labeling law via the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This law, of course, would be likely be merely voluntary, or else full of loopholes and exemptions, such as allowing products that contain five percent or less genetically engineered ingredients to avoid labeling. In short, we can expect them to use every trick in the book to defeat us.
“But the great thing is, I think, we have now built a coalition that understands food, farming, things like genetic engineering, and things like natural health,” Cummins says. “There are more people who understand these issues now than ever before: millions of readers of Mercola.com, we have a million people in our Organic Consumers’ Association network across the country, and we have millions of people who are members of our allies’ networks. We may not control the mass media like big corporate entities do, but we do have a lot of influence, dominant influence, on the Internet and the social media, and the message is getting out.
We can win this battle, at least stage one of this battle, but it’s going to take financial contributions. It’s going to take millions of hours literally of volunteer labor on the part of people – educating their friends and families and getting involved in activities in their local communities. It’s going to involve building a broader and broader coalition.
One of the very exciting things about Prop 37 in California last year was it was the first time in modern history that you saw the organic community and the natural health community working together. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen libertarians, liberals, radicals, and conservatives work together. I think what we realized now is that issues like food and farming, natural health, and the deterioration our environment and climate, these are not partisan issues.”
Why GE Cotton Is a Major Health Hazard
About 20 percent of genetically engineered (GE) crops are used in processed food. The remaining 80 percent of GE crops go into (non-organic) animal feed, cotton, biofuels, cosmetics, and nutritional supplements. This is one of the reasons why I recommend eating organically-raised, grass-fed or pastured meats only and shopping for certified organic clothing and other consumer products whenever possible. A major GMO crop that we need to think more about is genetically engineered cotton. More than 90 percent of the cotton grown in the US is so-called Bt-cotton—genetically engineered to contain its own pesticide, Bt. Sixty percent of what you harvest from a cotton field by weight is the cotton seed, which not only ends up in some processed foods in the form of cottonseed oil, but also in animal feed. There are a couple of health hazards at play when it comes to genetically engineered Bt cotton:
- Bt cotton is engineered to produce its own insecticide inside the plant itself, hence it cannot be washed off—it’s an integral part of the cellular composition of the plant—and its seeds. Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed the Bt toxin would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and not have any impact on humans eating Bt crops, such as Bt corn. However, in 2011, researcher discovered Bt-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women, completely shattering the industry’s claims.
- The US government, and many other nations, permits cotton to be sprayed with some of the most toxic herbicides on the market, including chemicals not permitted on other crops. The rationale is that cotton is not a food crop, so it “doesn’t matter.” But 60 percent of the cotton harvest DOES go into the food chain! The average American dairy cow, raised in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) consumes six to eight pounds of cottonseed every day, at least in the Northern climates, as a source of protein. When a cow eats these cotton seeds, these toxins are accumulated in its fatty tissues and milk.
As Cummins suggests, we have to start thinking in larger terms. The hazards of GMOs go far beyond the health ramifications of just eating a particular GMO grain. As he says:
“You go to the clothing store... and you see something labeled ‘All cotton.’ Well, I mean, it should say, ‘All genetically engineered cotton sprayed with ungodly amounts of pesticides whose waste product is in the food you’re eating (if you’re not eating organic food. Organic food, as you know, bans the use of genetically engineered inputs or ingredients and synthetic herbicides and pesticides.) We need to care about what we wear. We need to start thinking. We got millions of us now. When we pull out our wallet at the grocery store, we’re thinking about what we’re buying. Let’s spread that to clothing.’”
Opt for REAL Food
Why do Americans continue to buy 90-95 percent of the meat and animal products from factory farms, where animals are raised in wholly unnatural ways and on completely unnatural diets? Lack of truthful information is likely part of the equation. People just don’t know how their food is produced. “Meat is meat, right?” most assume. But there is actually very little similarity between CAFO beef, meat and dairy and grass-fed beef, meat and dairy.
CAFO beef and dairy comes from animals fed genetically engineered grains and often cotton seed, both of which are heavily contaminated with potent toxins. They’re also raised in crowded, prison-like conditions where they’re drugged with antibiotics and hormones to keep them relatively free from disease and to force them to grow faster. The end result is a meat product that is inevitably not going to be healthful for human consumption...
As Cummins says:
“Grass-fed meat, dairy, and eggs are the way to go. Organic production is the way to go... We need to know what we’re eating. We need to live in a country where we believe that if you give people information, objective information, if you give them a choice, they will do the right thing. This idea that Americans will always go for the cheaper food – that’s the reason why we have this factory farm system and this GMO system, why we have this obesity and heart disease epidemic, and why we spend twice as much money on so-called healthcare as any other industrial nation – it’s not true.
... I’m very happy to say that the Organic Consumers Fund, which is the lobbying ally of Organic Consumers Association, and Mercola are two of the major donors to the Yes on 522 so far. We’re well on track to raise enough money to have a full month or six weeks of TV and radio ads, so that we’re not going to be outspent on the advertising front in Washington. Spending one dollar on TV or radio ads in Washington is the equivalent of spending eight dollars in California. We don’t need to raise quite as much money as we raised in California.
Of course, it’s extremely important that the readers of Mercola.com and our nationwide network of organic consumers make financial contributions. The reason we were able to basically put in two and a half million dollars into the California effort last year was that 40,000 people made small contributions of 50 dollars or more. If you go to OrganicConsumers.org or Mercola.com, you’ll see that you can make a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund that will go into this decisive battle in Washington.”
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
Remember, 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.
As always, 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 beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. 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 chemical technology 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.