I have not been as active here at SmartLifeways as I would have liked to be over the last months, actually for most of 2012, but it has all been for good productive work in other areas. But…now here in New Mexico a bill has been introduced to require labeling of food containing GMO’s. If this is passed we would be the first state to require labeling. Yesterday there was a press conference to talk about the bill, New Mexico Senate Bill 18 introduced by Senator Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, and I was able to give a statement on the issue.
It ran a bit long, I can get on a soapbox on this issue, but the text is below. If you have questions about GMO’s or wonder what the fuss is all about this will get you started with some information. You can also see some of my earlier posts on GMO’s for more info as well.
And here is the text from yesterday’s press conference. Feel free to share it to educate your friends and family. It’s up to us to protect our food supply:
I am here today on behalf of all of my fellow food eaters, which hopefully includes everyone. As an informed consumer I am well aware of which foods more than likely have GMO’s but most people do not even know what they are, let alone that they are probably consuming them every day.
I am also here today as a citizen of the state of New Mexico who votes and who believes that all of us have the right to know what is in our food. Apparently our government also agrees that we have the right to know what is in our food and that is why we have labels that tell us how much sugar, protein and fats are in our food, as well as the ingredients and even if the food was processed in a facility that also processes food with nuts. For good reasons our government has decided that it is important for consumers to have this information when they shop.
So why is it that there has been so much difficulty in having our food labels also tell us that the soy, canola and a host of other ingredients are genetically modified? Polls show that the vast majority of Americans would like their food labeled if there are GE ingredients.
Do the companies that produce GE seed have something to hide? Could it be that they are afraid if the truth comes out about all of the aspects of GMO seed people will not buy these products?
Why is it that in the European Union and in many other countries including Japan, India and even China there are mandatory labeling laws for food with GMO ingredients? The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations in the world that does not require labeling of GMO products. How can this be? Isn’t America the hallmark of democracy and a free market? What could be more important to a democracy than the right to know what we put in our bodies, and isn’t transparency an essential element in a free market?
This last fall the voters in California were told that the costs associated with GMO labeling would increase annual food costs for the average family by $600, but when a company decides to add a new label of “natural”, or associates their product with the latest blockbuster film there are no increases in costs to the consumer. Why is it when a study was done in the UK on GE labeling price increases they estimated increases to be less than 0.17%. And how is it when the US government mandates labeling for ingredients, sugar, fat and other information on our food packaging our food costs don’t increase?
Perhaps part of the $45 million that was spent to oppose Proposition 37 misinformed the cash-strapped public to vote against this ballot initiative that would have mandated labeling of food with genetically engineered ingredients. How else in these challenging economic times do you change public opinion. In September over 60% of Californians favored the proposition, but after a media barrage that cost over $1 million per day some voters changed their minds perhaps worried about how they could afford the extra $600 in food costs.
Just as I have the right to choose buying something manufactured in America or overseas I should have the right to know what went into the food that I put in my body. I am able to buy organic when it is available but when I have to step into the waters of commercial food I want to know if the product has genetically modified ingredients.
You might ask what is the big deal when we are told that there is no significant difference between GMO food and non-GMO food. And I would answer that it is because the verdict is not yet out on the health effects of eating this genetically altered food and the impact on farmers and our ecosystem is not something that I want to support.
I want to support the farmers of America because they are crucial to the survival of our nation, to the survival of all of us on the planet as healthy citizens.
When farmers buy GMO seed they are not allowed to use the seed for future plantings which is the way farmers have grown food since the beginning of agriculture. This puts farmers at the mercy of rising seed prices from seed suppliers. Just as one example, from 2002-2008 GE soybean seed prices rose 7% annually. By 2009 Roundup ready soybean seed-Monsanto’s seeds, cost twice as much as conventional seed.
Over the last decade companies like Monsanto (now the largest seed supplier in the world) have been buying up smaller seed companies decreasing the availability of non-GMO seed. We need to support our smaller businesses for a healthy economy and a healthy democracy.
GMO seeds are patented and I disagree with the patenting of life and the seeds that grow the food that feeds us are the basis of life. This is a dangerous situation when a handful of corporations control the global seed supply which translates to controlling the global food supply and if I can do anything to slow this down with my shopping dollars I feel that is my responsibility.
Shopping for food or any other item I buy is an effective way that I can use my shopping dollars to voice my opinions. Just as I have the choice to buy a tee shirt from a sweat shop or from a company that I know pays fair wages I should have the right to buy food that supports farmers or puts them in bondage to big Agri-Business.
I want to support my farmers to not need to use dangerous herbicides that can make them, their families and their workers sick. These herbicides also pollute our precious groundwater. GE seed suppliers have claimed that their seeds require less herbicides but how can that be the truth when these seeds are developed to withstand massive spraying of chemicals that kill all other plant life?
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready contains the chemical glyphosate and there is much evidence that it is harmful to animals and humans not to mention what it does to the water supply. If you could spray a chemical that kills everything but your crop you might use it too. Another problem that has arisen from the excessive use of glyphosate is that farmers now have to contend with super weeds that have become tolerant to the herbicide and so now other stronger more toxic herbicides must be used. Is this the future we want for our farmers? for our food?
As a consumer I have the right to know that the soybeans, corn, sugar or canola listed as an ingredient came from GE seed because that also means it probably had excessive herbicides used in growing the crops.
Monsanto is not the only corporation involved and that is important to know. As super weeds have developed that are glyphosate resistant other companies are stepping up with their even stronger, more toxic chemicals to use on our food supply. Biotech companies such as Syngenta and Dow are patenting and selling their versions of GE seed that are tolerant to their particular herbicides. Unfortunately Syngenta’s herbicides contain atrazine, which is banned in the EU and is a known endocrine disrupter. And Dow’s herbicide has 2,4D in it and this was a major ingredient in agent orange…and this is to be sprayed on our food! Ask most veterans from Vietnam if they feel agent orange was safe, but I can tell you what their answer will be.
We all have the right to know if the farmers that grew the food we buy used toxic chemicals and if the food is genetically engineered chances are good that they received massive doses of herbicides.
What many people don’t know is that the newer generation of GE seeds actually modify the plant so that it creates its own internal pesticide factory so that if an insect eats that plant it dies. It does this by actually producing a toxin which is poisonous to insects, the Bt toxin causes the digestive system of insects to be damaged and then the insect dies. The verdict is still not out on how this affects humans when that GMO crop is turned into our breakfast cereal or some other food we buy unknowingly at our neighborhood market. Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die
I have to mention that many people who have experienced serious intestinal issues have had them disappear when they switch from a commercial food diet to a strictly GMO free diet. The same results have been found in livestock when their feed is changed from GMO to non-GMO feed. I think this says that humans, and animals, just might be having their health compromised from GMO’s.
I am not a guinea pig and I have the right to choose if I want to be a part of this mass experiment. Doctors used to appear on cigarette ads and commercials and we know that the public had been deceived about the safety of smoking for years, and we know the result of that-increased cancer deaths. Do we face the same situation with GMO’s in our food? WIth rising health care costs and rising rates of disease we have the right to protect ourselves and our families from food that might be harmful, but without labeling we cannot do this easily.
The companies that produce GMO seed have their beginnings in the industrial chemical world and the success of organic farmers around the globe have shown that organic farming is viable and often far more productive than chemical farming, and less costly too. We need jobs in this country and organic farming provides far more jobs, and safer ones than industrial agriculture with its high seed costs, high herbicide costs and high pollution and health costs.
If farmers want to grow GMO seed that is their choice but consumers need to know what they are putting in their bodies and their families bodies. When I go to the store and want to buy chicken or meat I want to know whether or not the animal was fed GMO seed and today that is not possible, unless I buy organic, and for many people they do not even know what questions to ask. When they are told a product is “natural” they assume it is.
Imagine, natural can mean GMO seed and GMO ingredients, and if it is truly natural how can Monsanto or Syngenta own the patent for the seed? How can a corporation own the rights to a seed that feeds us, this is the essence of life for humans. As these huge Agri-Business/BioTech corporations patent more and more seeds they literally ‘own’ our global food supply and that sounds pretty risky to me. And don’t forget, this is all driving sales of herbicides that the same corporations produce that patent the seeds.
If farmers want to grow GMO crops that is their choice but what about the farmer that does not want to grow these crops? When seeds from a GMO farm blow in the wind and begin to grow in someone else’s field those farmers are being sued by Monsanto and other seed companies for patent infringement. It seems to me that the GMO farmer and seed company are responsible and need to be held accountable rather than the innocent farmers having to defend themselves. We need to stand up and protect these farmers from this abuse. Many farmers have had to settle lawsuits because they did not have the money to defend themselves in court against these mega Agri-Business/BioTech corporations. If I can choose to not support companies that are doing this that is my right as a consumer so that I can support more ethical companies.
In the end this is a simple request, let us know what is in our food. If there is nothing wrong with GMO’s then what are these companies afraid of? Surely the excuse of higher costs for labeling is not the truth when you just look at all of the information already on our food labels.
In New Mexico we have an opportunity to be the first state to mandate labeling of genetically engineered ingredients in our food. This is good for consumers, local farmers and local business. It’s also good for our environment and our water supplies. And, it’s good for democracy.
Please support Senator Peter Wirth and Senate Bill 18 which has this important labeling amendment and let NM be the first state to require labeling of GMO’s. Call your representatives and join us at the Roundhouse when this bill moves through the Senate and hopefully then the House.