One of the issues The Organic Adventurer has been wanting to cover for some time now is that of genetically modified foods and the heroic efforts undertaken by so many to force the food industry to label foods containing GMO ingredients.
Several things led to the decision to do a digest-style list for our readers: 1) GMO foods and labeling is a very complex issue, and the two cents of all the scientists, investigative journalists, documentarians and nonprofits who have come before us are worth more than we could ever say ourselves; 2) The recently released French study on the effects of feeding GMO corn to mice has raised the awareness of a LOT of people, many of whom may not have formerly known much about the issue; 3) There isn’t much time left to educate ourselves. For various reasons, many who are fighting for the right to know what is in the food we feed our families feel that whether or not California’s Proposition 37 (requiring food companies to label products containing GMO ingredients as such) passes will determine whether or not they have a chance at making national GMO labeling a reality—kind of an as-goes-California, so-goes-the-country thing. Early voting on Proposition 37 starts October 8. Of course, voting will continue through the general election on November 6.
Those who are able to vote in California will start doing so in less than a week, which may still be just enough time to jump in and learn enough to make an informed decision. Those who don’t live in California have just enough time to learn all about it and then get in touch with their friends and family in Cali and urge them to vote, because we all deserve the right to know what we are purchasing and what we are putting into our bodies.
*A note about bias: By this point, you’ve probably guessed where we stand on the issue and when you start looking through some of the links below, you’ll see that we don’t include much from “the other side.” No need to point that out to us in comments; we’re aware. We’ve read the arguments against GMO labeling, we’ve read the EU’s chief scientific advisor’s position on the issue and so on. We find the arguments to be irrelevant in some cases, based on faulty logic or studies funded by corporations that stand to benefit from keeping consumers in the dark in others, and, at times, to simply ignore the facts altogether. We wouldn’t waste our readers’ time. If you want to see for yourself though, the anti-Prop 37 website below should get you going.
What is a GMO? (This is an incredibly simplistic explanation, but it’s a start.)
Since time is so short and we do list a LOT of resources, here’s a quick summary that may help you focus your research. A GMO is a genetically modified organism, which is different from a hybrid. For a long time now, man has been cross-breeding organisms in order to create a new organism with desirable qualities from both of the “parent” organisms. That new organism is a hybrid. Man’s only intervention is to create conditions favorable to the combination of the parent genes, whereas those genes may not have normally had occasion to combine. An example would be crossing two different kinds of apples to come up with an apple that’s as crisp as one parent and as tart as the other. With a genetically modified organism, the organism’s DNA has been changed in ways that would be impossible in nature. The most widely reported-on example is a variety of corn produced by Monsanto. In simple terms, its DNA has been manipulated so that it can produce its own insecticide (more on this below).
Why does it matter?
Look into the studies, the information coming out of other countries where agribusiness isn’t quite as protected as it is in the U.S. (There’s a reason 50 countries already require GMO labeling and many countries – Japan and Switzerland among them – have banned GMOs altogether), the rush to production of GMO ingredients without proper testing, the nearly complete GMO domination of certain ubiquitous U.S. crops (up to 85 percent of corn and 91 percent of soy) and all the other evidence, and you will come to realize that we are the subjects of a giant science experiment. Proposition 37 seeks to, at the very least, make Americans aware of the experiment and give them the chance to opt out (as difficult as that might be considering that an estimated 70 percent or more of foods available to us contain GMO ingredients).
Let’s start with the two official websites for each side of the issue:
The website pro-Prop 37: http://www.carighttoknow.org/
The website anti-Prop 37: http://www.noprop37.com/
This page on the first site contains the text of the entire initiative: http://www.carighttoknow.org/read_the_initiative
The Cornucopia Institute explains a bit about the urgency of the situation: http://www.cornucopia.org/2012/08/this-might-be-our-only-chance-for-gmo-labeling-we-can-win-this-one/
The Center for Food Safety weighs in: http://truefoodnow.org/campaigns/genetically-engineered-foods/
The following links all relate to reports or studies revealing, at best, the need for more investigation into the effects of GMOs and, at worst, evidence of their toxic effects:
http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_25655.cfm, which comes from http://www.organicconsumers.org/bytes/ob334.htm. We include the second link because it contains even more information, including a list of which senators voted which way in the June 2012 vote on the (defeated) amendment that would have given states the right to require labeling.
Dr. Mercola’s report on Bt corn (corn whose DNA has been combined with the DNA from a soil bacteria that produces a pesticide): http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/06/dangerous-toxins-from-gmo-foods.aspx
Allegations of U.S./China study/experiment on children to test GMO rice: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/11/13796926-china-us-project-allegedly-tested-genetically-modified-golden-rice-on-kids?lite
And finally, the study that has recently created massive interest in the issue of GMOs:
The original story on the study: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/19/gmcrops-safety-idUSL5E8KJAGN20120919
Here is the study itself: http://research.sustainablefoodtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Final-Paper.pdf
We would also recommend that you look into the results of the widespread promotion by agribusiness of GMO crops in India and the human and animal health effects that have shown up. Aside from the following two links, we won’t get too far into what’s happened in India. It’s a saga all its own. But basically, when GMO cotton was approved there in 2002 and began to be grown, it was initially deemed a success. Yields went up, insect infestations (and, therefore, insecticide use) declined, poor farmers got less poor. Then farmers and livestock started getting sick, use of expensive pesticides increased because the resulting imbalance allowed previously controlled pest populations to explode, and more. Many farmers went bankrupt. Many committed suicide. Now many Indian farmers and scientists oppose the use and further approval of GMO crops.
Allergic reactions to Bt cotton, animal deaths: http://www.watershedsentinel.ca/content/health-impacts-gmo-food
Reaction in India as early as 2010:
So what are other countries and organizations doing in response?
Countries that have banned GMOs: http://www.examiner.com/article/what-countries-have-banned-gmo-crops
In Hungary, entire crops of illegal GMO corn were destroyed: http://www.naturalnews.com/033098_Hungary_GMOs.html
This grassroots group has formed as a result of the GMO issue: Millions Against Monsanto: https://www.facebook.com/millionsagainst
And how is it going?
Dr. Mercola interviews OCA’s Ronnie Cummins about GMO labeling: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_26161.cfm
8 reasons you want Prop 37 to pass: http://organicconsumers.org/letter-9-25.htm
By the way:
Prop 37 includes labeling pet food! http://www.truthaboutpetfood.com/articles/pet-food-consumer-right-to-know-gmo.html
So those are all web links that you could click on one by one as you read this post, but here are some audiovisuals:
The GMO Trilogy (Documentary: Unnatural Selection; Expose: Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals; Audio CD: You’re Eating What?) produced by Jeffrey Smith
Book: Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith
Documentary: The World According to Monsanto
Would you believe that even after that long list, we’d be the first to acknowledge that there are many, many more useful, informative, relevant resources out there? So if you have questions about GMOs, have a good resource to share or just want to contribute your two cents, please comment.
If you want to vote, but don’t live in California, vote with your shopping dollars. Visit http://www.nongmoproject.org/, which is already recruiting companies willing to verify that their products do not contain GMOs. On that site, you can see what the label looks like so you can find it in stores.
Finally, Proposition 37 is not perfect. There are loopholes (exemptions) and not everything that’s GMO or that contains GMO ingredients would have to be labeled. But it comes down to whether you think you have a right to know what’s in what you’re eating or whether you think you do not have a right to know. We have to start somewhere. So, California, we’re counting on you!