By Ronnie Cummins
Since genetically engineered (GE) crops, foods, and animal drugs were brazenly forced onto the market in 1994 by Monsanto and the FDA, with neither pre-market safety testing nor labels required, consumers and small farmers worldwide have mobilized to ban, label, or boycott these controversial "Frankenfoods."
With mounting scientific evidence1 underlining the human health and environmental toxicity of GE foods, and growing alarm over the toxic pesticides such as Monsanto's Roundup that invariably accompany genetically modified organisms (GMOs), currently 64 nations require mandatory labeling of GMOs.
Numerous states and regions in the European Union, and several dozen entire nations, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, and Russia, have banned GMO crops altogether.2
In the European Union (EU), where mandatory labeling laws are in effect, little or no GMO crops or food are on the market (except for imported GMO animal feed). In addition to banning GMOs, a growing number of countries, including El Salvador and Sri Lanka, have begun to ban the use of Monsanto's Roundup.
This toxic herbicide is sprayed heavily on 84 percent of all GMO crops, and increasingly applied as a pre-harvest desiccant, or drying agent, on scores of other non-GMO crops including wheat, rice, beans, potatoes, barley, oats, flax, peas, lentils, and sugar cane.
Even in the US where 168 million acres of GE crops are under cultivation (including 90 percent or more of all corn, soy, cotton, canola, and sugar beets), survey after survey has shown that Americans, especially mothers and parents of small children, are either suspicious of, or alarmed by, unlabeled GMOs.
This is understandable given the toxic track records of the chemical companies pushing this technology (Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Dupont, BASF, and Bayer), as well as the mounting scientific evidence that these controversial foods and crops—and the toxic herbicides and insecticides sprayed on them or laced into their cells—severely damage or kill birds, bees, butterflies, lab rats, farm animals, and humans.
Currently US regulatory agencies, in sharp contrast to Europe, rely on industry's own indentured scientists to determine whether GMOs—and the toxic chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers that accompany their use—are "safe" for human health, animals, the environment, and the climate.
Meanwhile mass media journalists and food industry representatives monotonously regurgitate Monsanto's dangerous mantra: Genetically engineered foods and crops are just as safe as "conventional" foods and crops, and there is no "mainstream scientific evidence" that GMOs are dangerous.
Consumers Want Genetically Engineered Foods to Be Labeled
Polls consistently indicate that 90 percent of Americans want to know whether or not their food has been genetically engineered, even though massive lobbying and advertising by the GMO lobby has prevented labeling laws from passing at the federal level and in most US states.
The notable exceptions are mandatory GMO fish labels in Alaska (passed in 2005) and mandatory food labels in Vermont (passed in 2014). In addition nine counties in the US have banned the cultivation of GMOs.
Stimulating demands for GMO labeling or bans, the prestigious IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) of the World Health Organization published a report3 in March 2015 declaring that Monsanto's Roundup herbicide (active agent glyphosate), sprayed heavily on 84 percent of all GMO crops (including soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets) is a "probable carcinogen."
After reviewing 44 scientific studies, half of the IARC panel thought that that glyphosate should be classified as a Group 1 "known carcinogen," with the other half opting for a Group 2 "probable carcinogen" rating.
Given the fact that new peer-reviewed studies damning glyphosate are being published nearly every week, the IARC may very well reclassify glyphosate as a "known carcinogen" in the near future.
Conscious Consumers Wield Enormous Power
While continuing to push for mandatory labeling, stringent safety-testing and outright bans on GMOs, glyphosate, and other toxic chemicals and animal drugs, consumers need to understand that their purchasing power in itself has major potential to marginalize or drive GMOs and pesticides out of the marketplace altogether.
In the US, consumer pressure has prompted the nation's largest retailer of organic and natural foods, Whole Foods Market (WFM), to announce that all 40,000 or so food items in their stores will have to be labeled by 2018 if they contain GMOs. This labeling policy includes meat, eggs, dairy, and all deli or take-out items.
Again, although this policy will only affect the 40,000 or so food products sold in WFM stores, brands selling to Whole Foods will suffer a public relations disaster if they are forced to label their items in WFM as GMO-tainted, but then refuse to do so in other stores.
Many of the thousands of suppliers to Whole Foods are now racing to get GMOs out of their products so they won't have to put the proverbial GMO "skull and crossbones" on their products in 2018.
Other natural food chains such as the Natural Grocer are following in Whole Foods' footsteps, either banning or requiring mandatory labels on all GMO and GMO-derived foods.
On the restaurant front, consumer pressure has forced the highly profitable Chipotle restaurant chain to make a similar promise. Other grocery brands and restaurant chains (most of whom are watching their profits decrease, while WFM's and Chipotle's rise) will shortly be facing enormous pressures from their customers to do the same.
Monsanto's Minions in Washington Aim to Preempt Labeling Laws
Monsanto's minions in Washington are currently lobbying for passage of the infamous Pompeo bill that will prohibit states from requiring GMO labels.4 They are also pushing through approvals of super-toxic Agent Orange and dicamba resistant crops,5 and negotiating secret international trade deals to stop mandatory labeling or bans on GMOs and glyphosate.
Big Food and the Gene Giants have made make it clear that they are quite willing to abolish the last vestiges of democracy, if necessary, in order to protect the massive profits of their paymasters, the big corporations.
But consumers still have massive power to educate themselves, via the alternative mass media of the internet, and massive economic clout via boycotts and "buycotts" (buying organic and non-GMO foods) to avoid GMOs and toxic pesticides and vote with their food dollars for an organic and healthy food and farming system.
Consumers in the US suffer under a food and farming system that is both abusive and bankrupt, but is kept on life support with government-sponsored taxpayer subsidies and corporate handouts.
Government subsidies and corporate cronyism engender not health and environmental sustainability, but rather diabetes, heart disease, cancer, strokes, obesity, water pollution, oceanic dead zones, excessive greenhouse gas emissions, and soil and water degeneration.
For the first time in history, the entire human species is confronted with a deadly universal threat: GMOs, toxic pesticides, junk foods, factory farms, and catastrophic climate change. The good news is that this common threat gives us the potential, for the first time ever, to unite the world's population in a cooperative effort to save the human species.
Farmers and gardeners: vote with your farming and gardening practices to save the Earth and the climate. Consumers: vote with your forks, spoons, and knives to stop this destructive form of food production and distribution.
GMOs—Just as 'Safe' as Toxic 'Conventional' Foods?
When Monsanto, the FDA, or the Biotechnology Industry Organization are asked whether GMO-tainted foods are safe, notice that they always say that GMOs as "just as safe" as "conventional" (i.e. chemical and drug-tainted) foods, and pose no "unique" risks to human health or the environment. In a twisted sense they are right, because both GMO and non-GMO chemical-intensive, factory-farmed crops and foods are dangerous.
Both GMO and non-GMO chemical-intensive foods destroy public health, animal health, soil health, the environment, and are the major driving forces behind global warming and climate change.
GMOs and Roundup, neonicotinoids, 2,4 D, atrazine, glufosinate, and dicamba—and all the other chemicals being sprayed on the food that we eat, and ultimately running off into water that we drink—are poison. The major reason chronic diseases like cancer, autism, diabetes, and obesity, along with reproductive, behavioral, endocrine and immune system disorders, are spiraling out of control is that our environment is toxic, and we are ingesting, from the womb, to the hospital, to the grave—poisoned, pesticide-laden food.
Certainly we want mandatory labeling of GMOs at the state level (the feds are obviously too corrupt to trust on GMO labeling). But the main reason we want labeling is to defend ourselves, our families and the environment from further assault—by boycotting and driving GMO food, animal feed (most GMOs go into animal feed and biofuels, not human food), and Roundup off the market.
This means that organic and grass-fed or pasture-based foods must move from being five percent of the market to becoming the dominant force in US food and farming, as soon as possible. To achieve this, we need to boycott not just GMO foods, but all chemically contaminated foods, including factory farmed GMO-fed meat and animal products, as well as non-organic foods such as wheat, potatoes, or beans sprayed with Roundup "pre-harvest,"6 not just in the US, but globally as well.
US Regulators May Start Testing Food for Glyphosate Residues
It appears that concerns over glyphosate's toxicity are finally starting to be taken seriously. The US EPA recently announced it may start testing for glyphosate residues on food. While thousands of foods are tested for about 400 different pesticides each year, glyphosate is not on that list simply because it's been thought to be safe.
According to the EPA:7 "Given increased public interest in glyphosate, EPA may recommend sampling for glyphosate in the future."
While that's good news, it's worth noting that the EPA raised the allowable limits for glyphosate in food in 2013, and the allowable levels may be too high to protect human health, based on mounting research. Root and tuber vegetables (with the exception of sugar) got one of the largest boosts, with allowable residue limits being raised from 0.2 ppm to 6.0 ppm.
"The amount of allowable glyphosate in oilseed crops (except for canola and soy) went up from 20 ppm to 40 ppm, 100 000 times the amount needed to induce breast cancer cells." [Emphasis mine]
10 Actions We Need to Take to Protect Ourselves and Our Families
- Stop Congress from passing the Pompeo bill (HR #4432) in 2015, which would take away states' rights to pass mandatory GMO food labeling bills, and make it legal for unscrupulous food and beverage companies to continue mislabeling GMO-tainted foods as "natural" or "all natural."
- Stop Congress from "fast-tracking" and passing secretly negotiated "Free Trade" agreements (the TPP-Trans-Pacific Partnership, and TTIP-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that would weaken consumer and states' rights to label and safety test GMO and factory-farmed foods. Contact your member of Congress and tell them to oppose Fast Track.
- Support the passage of more state laws requiring mandatory labels on GMOs.
- Pass more bans on GMOs, neonicotinoids, and Roundup (glyphosate) at the township, city, and county levels.
- Support Vermont, Maui (Hawaii), Jackson, and Josephine counties (Oregon) in their federal and state legal battles to uphold their laws requiring labels and/or bans on GMOs.
- Educate the public on the dangers and cruelty of GMO-fed, factory-farmed meat, dairy and egg products, and join the "Great Boycott" of all factory-farmed foods.
- Support mandatory state legislation to label dairy products and chain restaurant food coming from factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).
- Pressure natural food stores, coops, and restaurants to follow the lead of Whole Foods Market and the Natural Grocer to label and/or ban all GMO-derived foods, including meat and animal products and deli foods.
- Educate your friends and family on the positive health, environmental, ethical, and climate friendly (greenhouse gas sequestering) attributes of organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised food and farming.
- Boycott the "Traitor Brand" products of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Snack Food Association.10
Also please consider making a donation to the Organic Consumers Association. Your donation today will help us support GMO labeling efforts in New England, including Maine and Massachusetts.