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Food safety labeling includes GMOs and pesticides

Wed, 31 Oct 2012 14:17:00
5 / 5 (3 Votes)
Article by:
Sarah Morgan
Genetically engineered — GE — foods are hiding on the grocery store shelves. With more than 85 percent of corn, 88 percent of cotton and 91 percent of soy being modified with bacteria and viruses, it is becoming harder and harder for consumers to know the origin of their food and products.

Sixty-one countries, including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Peru, and Japan have all enforced consumer “right to know” laws that require some form of labeling on GE products. Proposition 37 enables voters in California to have their voice heard, as they demand that all genetically engineered foods to be properly labeled. If passed, California will be the first U.S. state to require such labeling.

“Prop 37 is really the only opportunity that we have to get labeling of genetically engineered foods right now, because the FDA has refused to label these foods,” said West Coast Director Rebecca Spector for the Center for Food Safety.

“For years we have seen poll after poll show more than 90 percent of consumers want GE foods to be labeled,” Spector stated. “They want the right to know how their food is produced, and GE foods is such a new way, a novel way of producing our food using bacteria and viruses, and people want to have this information about the food they are feeding themselves and their families.

“The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has done little to improve consumer awareness of Genetically Modified Organisms [GMOs] and the harm they may cause. Not only are soybeans and corn being tampered with for larger yields — fish, chicken and other animals are being genetically modified.”

According to the GMO Database, “it is obligatory to label animal feed that contain raw materials or additives that originate from genetically modified organisms. It is not necessary to label foodstuffs such as milk, meat, or eggs from animals that have been fed with such animal feed.”

Although food substances fed to animals are required to be labeled if these contain GMOs, those foods produced for human consumption are not required to be labeled. Further, not only are GMOs going unchecked, but the use of pesticides to control these foods is increasing at an alarming rate.

“Ninety-nine percent of genetically engineered crops on the market — namely corn, cotton and soy — are engineered to either contain a pesticide to repel pests or survive being doused with herbicides to kill nearby weeds. They have no other function,” said Paul Towers, spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network — PAN — based out of Oakland, California.

Towers further stated, “This has led to surging herbicide use; contamination of our air, soil, and water; millions of acres of farmland infested with herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’ and ‘superbugs’ — including 1 million acres in California; and a desperate recourse to older and more toxic pesticides driven by the pesticide companies themselves, and thus, a continuing cycle of pesticide-related illnesses.

“So every time we buy GE foods, we are also buying into a pesticide-dependent farming system that is poisoning our farm workers, our family farmers, rural and urban communities alike, our bees, and our environment as a whole. The pesticide industry is attempting to keep this dirty little secret under wraps.

“They know that genetically engineered seeds are no green solution to the world’s food needs. And as studies and US Department of Agriculture data released last month show — over the past 16 years, GE crops have driven an increase in over 400 million pounds of pesticides.”

According to PAN, Prop 37, even with its empowering consumers, has seen a backlash from farmer organizations, chambers of commerce, and pesticide companies. As of this writing, more than $4 million has been spent to promote Prop 37 and to encourage voters to say “Yes.”

Compare that to the almost $40 million spent by the opposition. Opponents of the legislation claim Prop 37 is simply just a moneymaker for lawyers, and that labeling GE foods would put an unfair burden on companies.

“[It’s a] complete falsehood that it’s going to increase lawsuits,” Spector said. “There are no financial incentives under Prop 37 to bring a lawsuit. There’s no money to be made from private attorneys. Under current California law, any attorney can sue a company for deceptive marketing. It is the same exact legal mechanism in Prop 37, so it is no different from CA law.”

Towers said that fighting Prop 37 is strictly a business decision for chemical companies, and not one that has the consumers in mind.

“Collectively the ‘Big 6’ — BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta — are the six largest opponents to Proposition 37 and have contributed more than $20 million to oppose the measure that would label genetically engineered food, including an intensive advertising campaign over the past two weeks,” Towers said.

“Control of the GE seed and pesticide markets, and the fact that GE crops drive up pesticide use, has benefited giant corporations at the expense of consumers. Monsanto, for example controls 23 percent of all the world's seeds, while Bayer controls 20 percent of all the world's pesticides,” Towers added.

“The handful of pesticide corporations behind GE food are resolute about keeping GE food unlabeled not because it is safe — we don’t know whether it is safe because they suppress that science; or because it is more sustainable — GE crops drive up pesticide use and have failed to deliver on every promise to farmers.

The pesticide industry wants to keep us in the dark to protect the markets that GE crops open up to their products. But we have a right to know,” concluded Towers.

Spector said the Center for Food Safety, along with their grassroots organization True Food Now Network, are not surprised the big chemical companies are fighting the legislation.

“These are companies that profit from genetically engineered crops because they spray their chemicals on their seed, and that’s how they make money,” Spector said. “They are the ones with financial interest in making sure that consumers are kept in the dark about genetically engineered food.”

Prop 37 appears on the ballot in November. To learn more, check the following websites:  http://www.gmo-compass.org, http://truefoodnow.org/, http://www.panna.org/, and/or http://www.noprop37.com/.
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