FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Fight for GMO-Free Food

by KARL GROSSMAN

Will New York State be the first state in the nation to require the labeling of food containing what has become known as GMO—genetically modified organisms?

More than 60 countries have enacted laws banning the use of GMO in producing food or requiring the labeling of food with ingredients that have utilized genetic modification or genetic engineering. But because of heavy pressure by the biotechnology industry, there are no such laws or regulations in the United States.

There was an attempt in California in November to pass a referendum—Proposition 37—requiring labeling of GMO food. But despite initial strong public support, it failed after an advertising blitz led by biotech giant Monsanto.

“There was a very well-funded misinformation campaign,” said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute. “Forty-six million”—the amount of dollars industry poured into the campaign against the proposition, five times as much as labeling supporters—“buys an awful lot of confusion and misunderstanding,” he commented.

Now political action on a state level for labeling genetically modified food has come to New York with a bill before its State Legislature requiring it.

“Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, especially concerning products for which health and environmental concerns have been raised,” says the sponsor of the measure in the State Senate, Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson. A long-time educator and an attorney. he says: “My bill was introduced to give consumers the freedom to choose between GMOs and conventional products. Essentially, if a foodstuff is produced using genetic engineering, this must be indicated on its label.”

Kathleen Furey, education and media director of GMO Free NY—www.gmofreeny.net—has been busy criss-crossing Long Island, New York City and elsewhere in the state challenging GMOs and pressing for passage of the proposed law.

Crops using GMOs were introduced commercially in the United States in 1996. But “Americans are still dining in the dark,” said Ms. Furey in a recent presentation in Sag Harbor, New York. Ms. Furey, a graduate of Stony Brook University’s Sustainability Studies Department with a degree in environmental humanities, said that now in the U.S., 88% of corn, 90% of sugar beets and 94% of soybeans are grown using GMO.  Some 80% of “bottled, boxed or canned foods in the U.S.” contain GMO ingredients.  And livestock feed “is comprised mostly of GMO corn and soybeans.” GMOs “dominate the agricultural landscape” of America today, she said.

People have “the right to make informed choices about what we eat,” she emphasized. “We have the right to be protected from food health risks and the right to stop being used as guinea pigs.”

GMO technology is used to create “transgenic species” of plants and animals. Through it, genes from one often unrelated species are introduced into another.

The biotechnology industry insists GMO technology doesn’t harm people and is useful. It points to how, with genetic modification, plants resistant to some pests have been developed.

But GMO opponents hold it is harmful and various uses have backfired. Moreover, they charge that the U.S. government—including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency empowered to protect Americans from contaminants in their food—has been acting as a rubber stamp for the biotechnology industry, doing its bidding. And it’s not that inside of government there isn’t an awareness of the dangers of GMOs, noted Ms. Furey. She pointed to “internal memos from FDA scientists citing the risks of GMO safety and toxicity that were disregarded by their superiors.”

On pest resistance through GMOs, Ms. Furey spoke of how “superbugs resistant to pest-resistanct GMO crops have evolved and are destroying those crops.” Also, “superweeds resistant to herbicides sprayed on GMO crops have evolved and caused farmers to spray more herbicide per acre and resort to the use of even more-toxic herbicides.”

Ms. Furey and GMO Free NY are supported by national organizations.

The Institute for Responsible Technology—http://www.responsibletechnology.org—based in Iowa, describes genetically modified foods as “not safe.” Its literature stresses a report by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine citing studies finding “serious health risks associated” with GMO food including “infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging…and changes to major organs and the gastrointestinal system.”

Food & Water Watch—http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org—headquartered in Washington, D.C., is warning on its website about the Food and Drug Administration now “paving the way for genetically engineered salmon,” which it calls “frankenfish.” This, furthermore, “would open the floodgates” for genetically modified “cows and pigs which biotech companies are waiting in the wings to finally commercialize after years of research and development.”

Just last month, the U.S. Congress passed and President Barack Obama approved what GMO foes call the “Monsanto Protection Act”—a measure to last initially six months stripping federal courts of the authority to halt the planting and sale of genetically modified crops if litigation is brought alleging health risks. Ms. Furey calls it “incredibly unconstitutional.”

The reach of the biotechnology industry extends into the U.S. Supreme Court. The court had before it in February a case involving Monsanto and genetically engineered seeds, yet Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly a Monsanto attorney, refused to recuse himself.  He refused to recuse himself, too, in 2010 in another case involving Monsanto and GMO seeds and joined in the decision favoring Monsanto’s position. “It’s outrageous,” says Ms. Furey.

Overall, the biotechnology industry’s drive for GMOs has been incredibly undemocratic and the process is quite likely unhealthy. Labeling is a minimum—so people can at least know what food is genetically modified and choose what’s still GMO-free.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail