According to a recent poll conducted by The Mellman Group, 9 out of 10 (or 91 percent of) Americans support mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms — “Frankenfoods,” as some people in the food revolution movement often call them.
This preference for GMO labeling has been supported by eight other polls, according to the Center for Food Safety. On top of that public demand, a group of CEOs from 127 food companies wrote to President Obama, urging him to support labeling of GMO foods. Most recently, in response to the FDA’s approval of GMO salmon for human consumption, a New York Times editorial called for mandatory GMO labeling.
Yet despite this overwhelming support, many food companies have staunchly opposed requirements for labeling foods containing GMOs. They have spent millions of dollars in lobbying, trying to convince the FDA and Congress that GMOs are safe and necessary. Meanwhile consumers remain in the dark about what’s really in our food — serving as guinea pigs, in my opinion.
But what exactly are GMOs? According to consumer advocate Jeffrey Smith, genetically modified organisms are “the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans.” Basically food companies have decided they are smarter than God.
The materials of my shoes are labeled. So are the materials of my clothes. Bleach and other household chemicals are labeled for the poison they are. So why the mystery surrounding these Frankenfoods? If it is so safe, why the strong opposition to allowing people, who are spending their hard-earned dollars, the option to decide which food items to buy? Clearly something is amiss.
Yet the government we have put in place to do the will of the people has blindly sided with food companies, ignoring the pleas of the majority of ordinary Americans. They have pushed through legislation (H.R. Bill 1599) that not only bans states from requiring GMO labeling, but they have also included a provision to roll back GMO label laws in states that already have mandatory GMO labeling laws on their books. Sovereignty be damned.
But what is the big deal? Let’s look at three of the arguments against and three of the arguments in favor of GMO labeling.
- Labeling will increase the cost of foods and burden food companies with unnecessary legislation.
- GMOs are safe and therefore should not require labeling since they pose no health threat.
- Labels aren’t worth the cost.
- Consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing, eating and feeding their children.
- We should decide what we purchase — GMO or non-GMO.
- Government and corporations should not decide what we eat.
I don’t understand the stiff opposition to labeling. I think the cost argument is a smoke screen. If it’s safe, then label it.
GMO foods are banned in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Switzerland. In addition, 64 countries, including China, Russia and Japan, have mandatory GMO labeling laws. Yet not only has the U.S. government refused to ban GMOs, it has wholeheartedly supported food companies in their creation of these unknown Frankenfoods at the expense of its constituents.
Further, although the FDA has recommended labeling guidelines for food manufacturers, can we really trust food companies to police themselves? Did we learn nothing from tobacco companies?
If Congress passes and the president signs H.R. 1599 — aptly called the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act — into law, it needn’t be the end of our food independence.
Currently there are plenty of food experts and organizations dedicated to promoting continued access to safe, affordable, organic foods. I recommend:
- Labeling all non-GMO foods, thereby making it easy for consumers to recognize them.
- Organizing and incentivizing consumers to refuse to purchase any foods that lack non-GMO labeling, effectively creating a boycott of GMOs.
- Asking non-GMO food manufacturers to give bloggers, followers and customers incentives to spread the word about companies that produce non-GMO foods.
Social media, I have discovered, has become the great equalizer for the common person. Advocates such as John Robbins (The Food Revolution Network), Food Matters TV and The Food Babe, among others, have massive followings of people who are sick of being sick and whom I believe could be turned into persistent advocates for non-GMO foods.
Finally, GMO labeling should be on every state ballot next year. We have an unprecedented opportunity to affect the change we want to see in the United States.
We can’t afford to take chances with our precious babies. Ten or 20 years from now, when the real effects of eating an ongoing diet of genetically modified organisms are evident, it may be too late. Any negative effects will most likely not be reversible.
If the DARK Act succeeds, I believe the ultimate solution would be a massive, coordinated, public awareness campaign to spread the word about non-GMOs, thereby crowding out the noise of big players who oppose GMO labeling.
By doing so successfully, those against mandatory labeling will soon discover it would have been more cost effective for them to #justlabelit.
Find more from Jennifer (JRosemarie) Francis at www.jrosemarie.com.