By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist
Between 2013 and 2014, Connecticut, Vermont, Alaska and Maine passed laws requiring the labeling of food products sold in their states that contain genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GMO) organisms.
Let’s be clear on what GE/GMO means. Unlike traditional agriculture where animals are crossbred or plants are cross-pollinated, GMO companies use technology to genetically combine species that cannot breed naturally. This creates unstable organisms, and the effects on humans are still unknown.
“It’s very very bad science,” according to David Suzuki, one of Canada’s top scientists and geneticists. “We assume that the principals governing the inheritance of genes vertically, applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There’s absolutely no reason to make that conclusion.”
In a 2014 interview with Jaime Athos, CEO of vegetarian food company Tofurky, he said, “I think that there’s very much that we don’t know about the consequences of this sort of genetic manipulation, and to state otherwise is completely irresponsible. Giving consumers accurate information is never misleading. It may cause them to make different choices than an agribusiness company might prefer, but that is ultimately the right of the consumer.”
More than 60 countries, including all of the European Union, significantly restrict or ban outright the production and sale of GMOs. The U.S., however, has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale.
Large food manufacturers pushed back hard against the independent state labeling laws. According to the nonprofit environmental research organization, the Environmental Working Group, between 2013 and 2014 the food and biotech industries spent $143 million in lobbying efforts against mandatory GMO labeling.
In July 2015, food manufacturers succeeded in getting the House of Representatives to pass a bill misleadingly named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, or H.R. 1599. This bill was written to block states from requiring GMO labeling and make labeling voluntary. The nickname given to the bill by opponents is “Deny Americans the Right to Know” (DARK) Act.
Thanks to EWG and other like-minded organizations, Americans were made acutely aware of the threat to our food supply. Many of us read the play by play via emails, and were urged to call and email our senators and make small financial contributions.
On March 16 of this year, the Senate voted on the DARK Act. It needed 60 votes to advance to the president’s desk, but only received 49 and didn’t pass. We the people were galvanized, took action and won.
This vote is not only a major win for consumers, but for America as a whole. It serves as a meaningful lesson that each of our voices counts and that collectively we are more powerful than the corporate/political machine. Corporations and politicians work for the American people – sometimes we need to remind them.
Food companies know that in order to sell their products, they have to offer what we want. A 2014 poll conducted by abcnews.com showed that 93 percent of respondents said the federal government should require labeling of GMO foods.
As of April 4, Mars, Incorporated; the Kellogg Company; General Mills, Inc.; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; and Campbell Soup Company are beginning to label products that contain genetically modified foods. Check out the Mars’ Peanut M&M’s package, and you will see the label “Partially produced with genetic engineering.”
As G.I. Joe said at the end of his public service announcements, closing each episode of the eponymous 1980s TV cartoon, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at email@example.com