By Elena Day
The European Union labels all foods. Genetically modified, (GM) crops are banned except for a GM corn that accounts for 1.56 percent of the corn acreage in cultivation in the EU, and this only in five EU member states. There are 57.4 million hectares of GM corn in cultivation worldwide and EU’s share is .26 percent. (A hectare is 2.471 acres. There’s lots of GM corn out there, and Roundup, too.) The EU does import 30 million tons of GM animal feed (corn and soybeans).
Russian law also requires labeling, and GMO seed is unlikely to be certified anytime soon. In May, some Russian parliamentarians sought to pass a law to criminally prosecute producers of genetically modified organisms harmful to health or the environment as “terrorists.”
Ingredients are listed on the labels of junk foods many Americans eat. Most of us hardly understand what these ingredients are or how they affect us. However, it’s always good to know what you’re putting into your body.
A telephone poll conducted in June by ABCNews.com found that 93 percent of those surveyed believe the Feds should require GM labeling. Only one-third of the respondents believed that GM foods are safe. Fifty-two percent view them as unsafe. Fifty-seven percent say they would be less likely to buy GM-labeled foods. Sixty-two percent of women believe GM foods are unsafe to eat. Women do most of the food shopping and, of course, this does not sit well with the food industry.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has done a poor job of assessing GM foods. The FDA generally takes the industry’s word regarding safety of GM foods.
But it gives one pause when the fact is that 95 percent of research on genetically modified or engineered crops is funded/controlled by Monsanto. As Maine State Representative Lance Harvell, a Republican, said, “If they are going to allow the American people to be lab rats in an experiment, could they at least know where it is so they can decide whether they want to participate or not.” Rep. Harvell’s bill requiring mandatory labeling of GM food and seed stock was signed into law in July 2013. The Maine law, however, will not go into effect until five neighboring states pass similar legislation.
Connecticut passed a GMO labeling law in December 2013, but with a provision that four other states must pass a labeling bill and the combination must add up to 20 million Northeastern residents.
This past May Vermont followed with its law and no such provisions. The Green Mountain State immediately was sued by Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Food Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.
The vote outcome in the GMO labeling campaign in Oregon remains undecided. A recount on Measure 92 will be in the works despite the deep pockets of opponents Monsanto, DuPont, and GMA members Pepsi, Coca Cola, Land O’Lakes, General Mills and Kellogg Co., among others. Opponents of Measure 92 raised more than $20 million, making it the highest-funded ballot measure campaign in Oregon history! To date, only 812 votes separate yes and no.
Please note: Starbucks is a member of the GMA. Recently singer/songwriter Neil Young announced he would personally boycott Starbucks because of the GMA lawsuit to overturn the Vermont law to label GMO’s by July 2016. Starbucks claimed it was not part of the lawsuit. However, Starbucks has not forgone its membership in the GMA. Starbucks has refused for years to source milk and cream that is free of bovine growth hormone (rBGH). It would preferable if Starbucks quit the rBGH, considering its huge market share of coffee drinkers. When I was recently in New York City I noted at least one Starbucks per block as I walked on 7th Avenue from Penn Station to Central Park, a distance of at least 20 or so blocks. Often, there was a Starbucks on both sides of the street. I’d like them to support GM labeling.
Currently, there is bad news regarding state initiatives to pass GMO labeling. H.R. 4432 was introduced last April by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KA) as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act at the behest of Monsanto, the GMA, and others. It has become known as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. If this bill passes, it will strip the states and Congress of the right to pass GMO labeling laws. It would establish a voluntary federal labeling standard for GM and genetically engineered [GE] foods. It would allow food manufacturers to use the word “natural” on products that contain GMO’s. At this point, I hope few of us are fooled by the “natural” label, currently rendered meaningless by our food industry.
The first hearing for DARK is December 10 and food activists hope to have a crowd there to stop the bill before it gathers any momentum for passage. To get involved, call the Organic Consumers Association at 218-226-4164.
I enjoyed reading recently about the Church of Stop Shopping’s Reverend Billy, who has close family ties in our community, and the Stop Shopping Choir’s organic Thanksgiving dinner on the snow-covered lawn of Monsanto’s headquarters in Creve Coeur, Missouri.
For a good understanding of the relationship of Monsanto and our federal government I recommended reading “The Monsanto Menace,” in Village Voice, July 24, 2013. The story’s subheading is: “The feds see no evil as a belligerent strongman seeks control of America’s food supply.”
Meanwhile, Happy Holidays!