There are reasons why some people oppose food labeling for GMO foods. In this diary I analyze their rationales. I attempt to explain, why, in addition to the fact that the opponents of labeling haven't got a truthful nor rational reason for not labeling, why it is important that the pro-labeling forces win this fight. I also include suggestions for engaging the enemy.
WHY DO I SUPPORT GMO LABELING?
Private Industry, the Medical Profession, and the Federal Government present almost convincing arguments for the non-labeling of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods. If what they are saying is true, there is no reason whatsoever to avoid GMO foods, let alone label them. First, what are GMO's?
According to www.dictionary.reference.com/browse/, GMO is the abbreviation for genetically modified organism. "A GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there." The World Health Organization defines GMO as "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally." According to Wikepedia "The first GMOs were bacteria in 1973..."GMO s are not the result of cross pollination or hybridization.
So why not label foods for human consumption grown or raised with GMOs? In short, the following are four objections or rationales that GMO proponents hold in objecting to GMO labeling:
1) there is no valid scientific evidence that GMOs are harmful to human health
(2) GMO crops make better use of limited resources
(3) labeling would result in widespread panic
(4) labeling would raise the expense of food for growers and consumers
I will respond to each of these claims.
Rationale 1. Those promoting GMOs claim that there is no scientific evidence that GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are harmful to human health.
My Response. Since I am not a scientist, there is nothing to be gained from trying to argue this point. The scientist is always going to sound more convincing than the non-scientist. What I question is the claim that GMOs (even those not developed yet) have no negative effects on human health. Period. This is not a valid scientific nor logical statement. True science postulates theories. When most scientists agree with a theory based on the presented physical evidence, the theory is considered to be valid based on the present available data. A scientific theory is never considered immutable or unchangeable for the rest of time. Why? Because new valid data may be uncovered in the future which might contradict the present available data. When that happens, what was considered a valid scientific theory is invalidated. For example, at one time the planet Earth was theorized to be flat. When evidence was presented that the world was actually round, the Flat Earth theory was invalidated.
In the 1940's, DDT was considered the best thing since buttered toast. Less than 40 years later its use was banned in this country due to a public outcry that saved the Bald Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon from extinction.
Pre-1960 theory: Artificial food colorings derived from coal tar are inert substances that will not interact with physical bodies. Red Dye #1 was banned in 1960 as a suspected carcinogen.
Based on scientific testing, it was theorized that the following prescription drugs were safe for general use: MERIDIA (banned 2010), ZELNOAM (banned 2007), TEQUIN (banned 2006), BEXTRA (banned 2005), VIOXX (banned 2004), BAYCOL (banned 2001), PROPOLSIA (banned 2000), REZULIN (banned 2000), RAXAR (banned 1999), REDUX (banned 1997), AVANDIA (use restricted 2010). These are the marketed drugs deemed unsafe for unrestricted use from just 1997-2010 by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Scientists theorizing that a chemical or biological agent is safe for human consumption, won't prevent that agent from harming you. The same is true of GMOs.
The claim that GMOs are perfectly harmless is based on the available scientific research published in scientific journals. Can that published GMO research be trusted? An article in the August, 2009 issue of Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/...) explains that big agrotech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta require the purchasers of genetically modified seeds to sign an agreement that prohibits the seeds from being used for independent research.
"Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects."According to this article, research on genetically engineered seeds, presumably those supplied to scientists by the seed companies, has been published. But only those studies approved by the seed companies are published in peer-reviewed journals. I suspect that the researcher is required to agree not to publish findings until and unless the seed company approves the research. If there are any independent researchers reading this, please tell us what you know about this.
This peer-reviewed research approved by the seed companies as well as research from the companies' own scientists is what the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) uses to determine if GMOs are safe. Who in the FDA makes those determinations? Check out the article at
It documents the various high-ranking Monsanto employees that have been appointed to positions of responsibility in the FDA and the Department of Agriculture by Presidents Clinton and Obama.
One example is described by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) (http://www.organicconsumers.org/...). Margaret Miller, a Monsanto researcher, contributed to a research report on a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone for the FDA. Shortly before the report was submitted to the FDA, Miller was hired by the FDA. Her first job was to review the same report. The artificial hormone was subsequently approved by the FDA. The FDA official who decided milk produced from cows given the hormone would not have to be labeled was a former Monsanto lawyer.
In an article entitled "Critics Slam Obama For 'Protecting' Monsanto" by Lindsey Boerma, CBS News (March 28, 2013) (http://www.cbsnews.com/...), it was reported that a provision was surreptitiously included in a 2013 budget bill which
"protects genetically modified seeds from litigation suits over health risks posed by the crops' consumption."That should have read "protects the manufacturer" (one of which is Monsanto). If Monsanto is so convinced that GMOs are safe, I can't help wondering why they would be worried about losing law suits. In their defense, it is costly even for a multi-billion dollar international corporation to defend itself in court. On the other hand, I can't imagine Congress taking away the right of American citizens to sue car companies that decide to suppress information about safety defects rather than issuing prompt recalls.
m> For some problems there is a scientific solution. There is also a sensible solution. They aren't always the same. Richard Geiger Rationale 2. The GMO backers claim that Genetically Modified crops make better use of the limited resources of land, water and fertilizer.
My Response: In fact, all physical resources on the planet are limited. The intended implication is that there is not enough land, water and fertilizer to feed everyone on the planet. But actually, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization ((FAO) of the United Nations (www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/),
"one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally."That amounts to 1.3 billion tons annually. On October 21, 2013 the FAO Director-General Jose' Grozianoda Silva said,
"If we reduce food loss and waste to zero it would give us additional food to feed two billion people."According to FAO 1.15 billion of the earth's people were undernourished from 2011-2013. So, if all food loss and waste were prevented, there would be more than enough food produced to feed everyone. It follows that there must be enough land, water and fertilizer to produce more than enough food to feed everyone. The problem of undernourishment is not due to limited resources. It is due to other factors involving distribution, preservation, pricing, etc.
There would be more arable (suitable for planting) land, particularly in this country, if the same class that is making millions from GMOs had not made millions more by constructing shopping malls and housing projects on perfectly fertile farm land all over this country. (According to American Farmland Trust at www.farmland.org/resources/fote/ between 1982 and 2007, 45,404,300 acres of U.S. agricultural land was converted to developed uses.)
There would be more fresh water if everyone would stop wasting it. There would be more water available for agriculture in North America if 90% of the wetlands in the U.S. and Canada had not been drained and converted to other uses (source - FAO). The drought conditions we are experiencing world-wide is probably the result of the increased rate of global warming. The increased rate of Global Warming (climate change) is due mostly to the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). Instead of building oil pipelines all over the country, perhaps we should build water pipelines between areas of the country that are prone to flooding and those areas stricken with drought. It would happen if someone could figure out how to make millions in profit from doing it. According to the U.N. (www.unep.org/wed/2013/quickfacts/) the U.S. throws away 30% of all the food it produces. The largest human use of water is agriculture. An estimated 50% of the water used to produce this wasted food is itself wasted.
Human produced chemical fertilizers would not be necessary if we did not throw so much yard waste/nutrient-rich food/food waste/animal and human waste into landfills instead of converting it to fertilizer. If the population continues to increase, there may indeed be resource shortages. If GMOs are perfectly safe and cheap and good for the environment, fewer people will die from starvation. The more people that survive to child-bearing age, the faster the world population will increase. Feeding the hungry does not solve the other problems resulting from overpopulation.
The big agrochemical companies also claim that GMOs decrease the need for pesticides. That is because they can genetically engineer the seed to produce pesticides that are lethal to specific insect pests. So while GMO food may have less chemical pesticide residue on it, the pesticide is in some of the GMO food that we consume. There are also reports of "Super Pests", insects that have developed an immunity to the genetically engineered pesticides in specific GMO crops.
Then there is the problem of Superweeds. Superweeds are a dozen species of weeds that have developed an immunity to Monsanto's Rodeo Roundup herbicide. They are tougher and bigger than their non-genetically modified relatives. They have been known to damage farm equipment. Of course, they also deprive the crop of needed moisture and nutrients. To control Superweeds farmers use stronger combinations of herbicides. (www.ucsusas.org/news/press_release/superweeds-overrun-farmlands...)
Rationale 3. Proponents of GMOs claim that letting people know which foods contain GMOs would result in widespread panic.
My Response: I am aware of no research that suggests that the level of concern most Americans have for their health would rise to the level of panic due to food labeling. An article at www.labelshechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/05/about-60-percent-pay-attention-to-nutrition-facts/ by Dr. Sanjay Gupta refers to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that found that only 43.8 % of people pay attention to health claims on food labels.
I read the ingredients on all food I purchase. I don't like consuming any man-made chemicals not found in nature. If food can be produced without artificial colors, flavors and preservatives , then these things do not add to the nutritive value of the food and are unnecessary. Why should we have to ingest things in our food that Nature never intended? These artificial chemicals allegedly cause no harm but are listed. To not list GMOs because they allegedly cause no harm is contradictory and senseless.
Rationale 4. GMO supporters claim that labeling would result in economic hardship for consumers as well as growers.
My Response: That claim, I suspect, is not based on the expense of writing "This food contains GMOs" on each food label. I suspect it is more likely that the supporters of GMOs fear that people will opt to buy products without that disclosure statement. Let's face it. People aren't going to suddenly eat less if GMO labeling is required. So the problem for GMO backers, growers and users is that their products may be less in demand. But that is good news for food manufacturers that don't use Genetically Engineered ingredients. Their products will be more in demand. The last time I checked we are still supposed to have a free market system in the United States. That would seem to preclude certain companies from gaining advantages over other companies through government legislation.
According to the Organic Consumers Organization (OCA), members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association spent about $68 million just to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522). They tried the same thing in Vermont but failed. I have read that they plan on challenging the Vermont law in court.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has introduced a bill (HR 4432) in Congress that would block states from enacting GE food labeling laws. It would give the FDA the exclusive power to decide if a GE food should be labeled. If the FDA deems the product safe, the manufacturer will not have to label it as a GMO. (http://beta.congress.gov/...). If the FDA deems it dangerous, they would probably not allow it to be sold in this country. If this law passes, it will deprive consumers of their right to know what they are eating.
In regard to the claim that GMOs make products more affordable, according to www.justlabelit.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/science...,superweeds (which require more herbicide to kill) have increased the cost of growing cotton from between $50-$75/hectare a few years ago to $370/hectare. Growing soybeans in Illinois used to cost $25/hectare. That has increased to $160/hectare. That extra cost has been passed on to consumers.
I think it's ironic that to avoid GMO consumption without labeling, the alternative is to eat organic. Organic produce, unless one grows it oneself, is more expensive than non-organic. The irony is that people who are profiting the most from GMOs are the same people who can more easily afford to purchase organically grown food.
Another related fact is that when GMO pollen blows into an organic farm and pollinates the organic crop, that crop can not be sold as organic. This factor decreases the available supply of organic produce, as well as doing economic damage to the organic farm.
Monsanto's ambition is not limited to America. An article from Rueters announced a plan coordinated by the Obama Administration for companies like Monsanto to invest billions of dollars to "improve" agriculture in Africa. Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, said,
"The problem is all this is based on large-scale commercial agriculture. Who does it benefit? All of these things are supporting the formation of large-scale commercial agriculture, which will hurt small farmers. They could spend far less but focus on providing credit facilities, ensuring open markets and ensuring the rights of small holder farmers."(http://www.reuters.com/...)
This grand plan for Africa will result in wealthy landowners raising large GMO mono crops.
So, where does that leave us? We have a large multi-billion dollar multi-national company, Monsanto, that virtually controls the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture making false, misleading and unsupportable claims in order to keep profiting from ts patented seeds and agro-chemicals.
The objective of Monsanto, many believe, is to control human life on the planet. He who controls the food supply, controls life. If and when the majority of farmers on earth are all raising GMO produce, they will be completely dependent on Monsanto or a similar company, not only for the seeds for each growing season but also for the chemical fertilizers/herbicides that are designed to work with those particular seeds.
The issue is a simple one. Should people have a right to know if the food they are eating contains GMOs or has been produced through means of genetic engineering? Sixty -four countries, including members of the European Union,
"enforce consumer 'right to know' laws for GE foods"according to the Center for Food Safety (http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/... international-labeling-laws).
I compare this issue to skydiving. An imperfect analogy but the best I've got at the moment.
Some people are not meant to skydive. They may have an intuition about it. Sky-diving enthusiasts will never understand those people. They will insist your chances of not suffering any ill-effects are 99.5% or whatever. If I were to force someone who is not meant to skydive, to do it because the danger is miniscule, I would be violating their basic rights.
Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association wants to coerce people into eating food whose genes have been artificially manipulated by banning mandatory GMO labeling. This is abusive and a violation of human rights.
I would feel the same way if the FDA approved adding sawdust from rare tropical forest trees to processed foods as a fiber supplement. Even if the FDA deemed it safe to eat, I would remain morally bound to boycott that food. I could not do that if the food containing the offensive ingredient was not labeled as such. People who don't care, have a right to not know what is in the food they eat. All they have to do is not listen to the information and not read food labels. People who do care should likewise have the right to know what the food they eat contains.
Is this the most pressing problem today? Probably not, by itself. It is, however, one aspect of a very serious problem that the main stream media chooses to ignore. That problem is sometimes called Plutocracy. Others prefer the term Oligarchy. It boils down to those with the greatest wealth getting wealthier by means of controlling the government, while those with the least wealth and power get poorer and more powerless.
I support people's right to know what's in their food. I favor the labeling of every man-made substance not found in Nature that is in or on the food we eat. "
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing".Edmund Burke
WHAT HAVE I DONE ABOUT IT?
There are people who, upon reading and understanding the issue will claim they can't do anything about the problem. So, this is what I have done.
There is a pledge at Causes.com sponsored by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to boycott the companies that belong to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). I have taken that pledge. I also listed the most popular companies and some of the brands familiar to me in a Daily Kos diary. This way the reader can contribute to the boycott even if he/she can't sign the pledge.
I have published other diaries concerning GMOs on Daily Kos.
I wrote "GMO Opinionated Fact Sheet" and "GMOs and Human Rights", made about 140 copies of each so far and have been passing/mailing them to others. I also sent them to each of my State and Federal congressional representatives and to Mrs. Obama. I am also in the process of e-mailing the companies on the above-mentioned list whose products I have previously purchased to let them know why I will no longer be using those products. Examples follow:
I have been using nothing but Ajax for Dishes since the 1970s when Consumer Reports found that it was the most economical product for its use. I have been buying Colgate toothpaste for several years now for myself and lately for my significant other as well. I am sorry to have to inform you that I will not be buying these nor any other Colgate-Palmolive products henceforth. Your membership in the Grocery Manufacturer's Association supports that organization's efforts to deprive Americans of their right to know what is in the food they purchase. I appreciate the quality of your products, but I choose not to help finance the effort to deprive my fellow citizens of their right to know. I will also be encouraging others to boycott Colgate-Palmolive products unless and until you terminate your membership in GMA and support GMO labeling.
To: Pepsi Co.
I contacted you a few weeks ago about GMOs. I have yet to hear back with any answer, reasonable or otherwise. I want to inform you that even though I used to buy several Pepsis every week and used to eat Quaker Oats and even Frito-Lays on occasion, I will no longer be purchasing your products and will be encouraging others to boycott as well. Since you spent $4.8 million to help defeat GMO food labeling voter initiatives in California and Washington,you do not deserve the support of those whose rights you would deprive. If you decide to renounce your membership in the Grocery Manufacturer's Association and publicly support GMO food labeling, let me know. I still am thirsting for a pepsi.
To: Coca-Cola Co.
I am very disappointed that your company spent $3.2 million to help defeat GMO food labeling voter initiatives in Washington and California. I will no longer be contributing to your financial ability to take away the right of American citizens to know what is in their food. No more Coke or Minute Maid fruit juice for me and mine. I will encourage others to boycott your products as well. Should you decide to renounce the Grocery Manufacturer's Association and publicly support mandatory GMO labeling, please let me know. I'm going to miss my Minute Maid.