50 Countries Label Genetically Engineered Foods – When Will Americans have the Right to Know and Choose?
By Dr. Mercola
The greatest opportunity to give people the right to know if their food is genetically engineered will occur with the California ballot initiative – officially known as Proposition 37 – which is coming up for vote on November 6. Proposition 37 will require labeling of genetically engineered foods, and end the routine industry practice of labeling and marketing such foods as "natural."
Your support, regardless of what state you live in, can make all the difference between winning and losing.
As summed up by Mark Bittman in a recent New York Times piece:1
"Polls show Prop 37 to be overwhelmingly popular: roughly 65 percent 'for', to 20 percent 'against', with 15 percent undecided. Nationally, on the broader issue of labeling, in answer to the question of whether the Food and Drug Administration should require that:
'foods which have been genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients be labeled to indicate that,' a whopping 91 percent of voters say 'yes' and 5 percent say 'no'. This is as nonpartisan as an issue gets, and the polls haven't changed much in the last couple of years.
...Prop 37 isn't a ban on foods containing genetically engineered material; it's a right-to-know law. As things stand, you can find out whether your salmon is wild or farm-raised, and where it's from, but under existing legislation you won't be able to find out whether it contains the gene of an eel.
That has to change. We have a right to know what's in the food we eat and a right to know how it's produced. This is true even if food containing or produced using GMO's were the greatest thing since crusty bread.
...If genetically engineered food is so terrific, persuade us; if it's not, well, fine. In any case, it should be up to us to buy it or not, but first we have to know what it is."
Yes. Bittman hits the nail on the proverbial head in his short but sweet blog. Proposition 37 is about the most basic of principles – the right to know what you're eating. The fact that we even have to fight for this right is mindboggling, but that's where we're at, and it would behoove everyone to get involved, lest we let this opportunity slip out of our grasp.
It's important to realize that genetically engineered foods must be labeled in nearly 50 other nations around the world, yet "the land of the free" has persistently denied its citizens the right to know whether or not a food is genetically engineered. The industry, led by Monsanto, the worst company of 2011 according to Natural Society, has gone so far as to threaten states with costly lawsuits, should they decide to label GE foods. This is about as un-American as it can get.
Meanwhile, what little research is actually done on GE food keeps revealing disturbing results. The latest comes from France, where rats fed Monsanto's GE corn, or exposed to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup), suffered tumors and multiple organ damage.2
Food Companies, including "Organic" Brands, are Spending Millions to Prevent You From Knowing what's in Your Food
As of September 17, Monsanto alone has donated a total of $7.1 million to defeat Proposition 37.3 But a long list of food companies, including some "organic" and "natural" brands, have donated millions to the opposition as well. It's difficult to understand how any company could be so stupid as to take an official stand against the consumers they depend on for their livelihood, but that's what they've done.
The corporate owners of popular brands like Kashi, Larabar, Horizon, Odwalla and Back to Nature, just to name a few,4 have literally taken earnings they made from unaware consumers and spent it on an anti-labeling campaign in order to prevent you from ever knowing what's really in the food they charge you a premium for...
These brands present a wholesome, all-natural, environmentally-conscious façade, yet genetically engineered crops end up requiring far more agricultural chemicals than others, and some of them even have the pesticide built in! Agricultural chemicals are denaturing and destroying soil composition at a staggering rate, courtesy of glyphosate-hungry GE seeds.
And whether or not you believe agricultural chemicals belong in a wholesome diet is beside the point. You still ought to have the right to decide whether you want to spend your money on foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, as environmental sustainability is another major concern for many of today's consumers.
Silent Spring's 50th Anniversary: What Would Rachel Carson Say Now?
In an article with the same headline as this subhead, Paul Ehrlich discusses the 50th anniversary of Rachael Carson's famous book, Silent Spring, which exposed the dangers of widespread pesticide use,5 effectively launching the environmental movement. He writes:
"Rachel Carson's legacy looms huge today. Many people have the impression that climate disruption is the worst environmental problem humanity faces, and indeed, its consequences may be catastrophic. But the spread of toxic chemicals from pole to pole may be the dark horse in the race. Carson may have started environmentalism by illuminating exactly the right issue.
This is especially the case as recent research has shown that many synthetic chemicals, called endocrine-disrupting compounds, may do nasty things to you at high doses but can have different harmful effects at very low doses. These low-dose effects can increase the probabilities of altered sex determination, behavioral changes, developing cancers and more.
A mass of evidence should alert humanity to the risks of toxifying Earth from pole to pole with synthetic chemicals...
Infant mosquito fish exposed to small doses of 4-nonylphenol, a widely used industrial chemical, produced adults all with the female phenotype although the normal 50-50 male-female ratio persisted in the sex organs. In the wild, a high frequency of alligators in a Florida lake polluted with an endocrine-disrupting pesticide had developmental abnormalities leading to sterility. A recent, thorough review of the literature documented the pervasive evidence for low-dose effects in populations of human beings and of wildlife.
One of its conclusions (conservative in my view) is that 'regulatory action to minimize or eliminate human exposures to endocrine disruptors could significantly benefit human health.' Today humanity is faced with a series of epidemics in which toxics may be involved: asthma, autism, hormone-related cancers, ADHD, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and learning disabilities, just to name a few. Of course, toxics may be found innocent in many cases, but is it wise to keep releasing them ad lib into the environment on the assumption they are not involved?"
One of the signs that agricultural chemicals are taking their toll is resistance (herbicide-resistant weeds, and pesticide-resistant pests). For example, Monsanto's YieldGard corn, genetically engineered to produce the Cry3Bb1 protein from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide, is already failing after just nine years on the market. Last year, resistant rootworms infested corn fields in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Unfortunately, the industry's standard response is to recommend using higher amounts of the chemicals in question, and/or additional chemical cocktails to keep up with increasing resistance. In the case of genetically engineered crops, we're now looking at new crops designed to withstand one of the main ingredients of Agent Orange, an herbicide called 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D)... Agent Orange was a horrific chemical concoction that never should have been used, and if you want to see some of its effects on children who were exposed in the womb, you can do so here – but I warn you the photos are very graphic and upsetting.
Now they're about to make such toxic chemicals a standard part of our agriculture, and hence our diet – and they don't want to give you any hint as to which foods it might be in... Really think about that and let it sink in. Where will it end?
We simply must insist on the right to know if a food contains genetically engineered ingredients. Only then will the free market decide whether such foods will become the number one agricultural product or not.
Passing Prop 37 is Key to Expanding Sustainable Agriculture in North America
Although many organic consumers and natural health activists already understand the importance of Proposition 37, it cannot be overemphasized that winning the battle over Prop 37 is perhaps the most important food fight Americans – not just Californians – have faced so far. But in order to win this fight for the right to know what's in our food, we need your help, as the biotech industry will surely outspend us by 100 to 1, if not more, for their propaganda.
Please remember, the failure or success of this ballot initiative is wholly dependent on your support and funding! There are no major industry pockets funding this endeavor, which was created by a California grandmother. In order to have a chance against the deep pockets of Big Biotech and transnational food corporations, it needs donations from average citizens. So please, if you have the ability, I strongly encourage you to make a donation to this cause.
It's important to realize that getting this law passed in California would have the same overall effect as a national law, as large companies are not likely going to label their products as genetically engineered when sold in California (the 8th largest economy in the world), but not when sold in other states. Doing so would be a costly PR disaster. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort, through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in California and want to get involved, please contact CARightToKnow.org. They will go through all volunteer requests to put you into a position that is suitable for you, based on your stated interests and location.
- No matter where you live, please help spread the word in your personal networks, on Facebook, and Twitter. For help with the messaging, please see CARightToKnow.org.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to label genetically engineered foods.
(Send your news to email@example.com, Foodconsumer.org is part of the Infoplus.com ™ news and information network)
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