Tag Archives: Genetically Modified food

Taking action on GMO Foods – Something you can do today!

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Last week Reuters reported that The Center for Food Safety has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that seeks mandatory labeling for foods made from genetically engineered crops.

The point of the CFS position is to require companies to label foods, letting consumers know that the product they’re purchasing is genetically modified. Currently the food industry is able to sell any GMO food without consumer notification. This step by the Center for Food Safety is just the first step towards the ultimate goal of filing a lawsuit against the FDA to force proper labeling of GMO products.

With literally thousands of unlabeled food items containing some trace of genetically altered crops, there is currently no way for consumers to make an educated decision as to whether or not to purchase GMO products. The response from big biotech companies who oppose labeling has been that the crops and foods made from genetically modified seed are identical to non-GMO foods in composition, nutrition and safety. The opposing voices to this position are growing in numbers every day. Currently, the CFS is backed by 350 organizations including health care companies, food and farming businesses and organizations, consumer advocates and environmentalists.

It’s interesting to note that 15 European Union nations, Japan, Brazil, Russia, China and Australia all have consumer labeling laws for genetically engineered foods. According to a poll conducted by the Consumers Union 95% of American consumers want genetically engineered foods to be labeled and 93% believe that the federal government should require mandatory labeling. Regardless of the feelings of the biotech companies, the mandatory safety requirements that new drugs need to adhere to – things like clinical trials, tests for carcinogenicity, long-term testing for human health risks -don’t exist at all for genetically modified food.

You can add your voice to those who are demanding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration take action.   justlabelit.org has been launched to allow concerned consumers to notify the FDA of their support for the CFA position. One click is all you need to make sure your concerns are heard. You can also use this easy to navigate site to become more educated and informed about GMO foods and why food labeling is the best way to make sure the freedom of choice Americans enjoy on so many other levels also applies to our consumption of GMO food products.

FoodFacts.com would like to remind everyone that the best way to avoid GMO food products is to purchase USDA certified organic. The standards companies need to meet in order to become certified strictly prohibit the use of GE ingredients. When you purchase unprocessed, fresh certified organic foods and avoid packaged foods you can be sure you are consuming food products that you know and understand.

Check out justlabelit.org and click to make your voice heard to get GMO food products labeled today!

Why Aren’t G.M.O Foods Labeled?

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Foodfacts.com has been looking into G.M.O Labeling. If you want to avoid sugar, aspartame, trans-fats, MSG, or just about anything else, you read the label. If you want to avoid G.M.O.’s — genetically modified organisms — you’re out of luck. They’re not listed. You could, until now, simply buy organic foods, which by law can’t contain more than 5 percent G.M.O.’s. Now, however, even that may not work.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered (G.E.) foods: alfalfa (which becomes hay), a type of corn grown to produce ethanol), and sugar beets. And the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a super-fast-growing salmon — the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last — may not be far behind.

It’s unlikely that these products’ potential benefits could possibly outweigh their potential for harm. But even more unbelievable is that the F.D.A.and the U.S.D.A. will not require any of these products, or foods containing them, to be labeled as genetically engineered, because they don’t want to “suggest or imply” that these foods are “different.” (Labels with half-truths about health benefits appear to be O.K., but that’s another story.)

They are arguably different, but more important, people are leery of them. Nearly an entire continent — it’s called Europe — is so wary that G.E. crops are barely grown there and there are strict bans on imports (that policy is in danger). Furthermore, most foods containing more than 0.9 percent G.M.O.’s must be labeled.

G.E. products may grow faster, require fewer pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, and reduce stress on land, water and other resources; they may be more profitable to farmers. But many of these claims are in dispute, and advances in conventional agriculture, some as simple as drip irrigation, may achieve these same goals more simply. Certainly conventional agriculture is more affordable for poor farmers, and most of the worlds’ farmers are poor. (The surge in suicides among Indian farmers has been attributed by some, at least in part, to G.E. crops, and it’s entirely possible that what’s needed to feed the world’s hungry is not new technology but a better distribution system and a reduction of waste.)

To be fair, two of the biggest fears about G.E. crops and animals — their potential to provoke allergic reactions and the transfer to humans of antibiotic-resistant properties of G.M.O.’s — have not come to pass. (As far as I can tell, though, they remain real dangers.) But there has been cross-breeding of natural crops and species with those that have been genetically engineered, and when ethanol corn cross-pollinates feed corn, the results could degrade the feed corn; when G.E. alfalfa cross-pollinates organic alfalfa, that alfalfa is no longer organic; if a G.E. salmon egg is fertilized by a wild salmon, or a transgenic fish escapes into the wild and breeds with a wild fish … it’s not clear what will happen.

This last scenario is impossible, say the creators of the G.E. salmon — a biotech company called AquaBounty — whose interest in approval makes their judgment all but useless. (One Fish and Wildlife Service scientist wrote in material obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, “Maybe they should watch ‘Jurassic Park.’ “)

Also curious is that the salmon is being categorized as a “new animal drug” which means that the advisory committee in charge of evaluating it is composed mostly of veterinarians and animal scientists, instead of, say, fish ecologists or experts in food safety. Not surprisingly, the biotech industry has spent over half a billion dollars on G.M.O. lobbyists in the last decade, and Michael Taylor, the F.D.A. deputy commissioner for foods, was once vice president for public policy at Monsanto. Numerous groups of consumers, farmers, environmental advocates, scientists, supporters of organic food and now even congressmen — last week, a bill was introduced to ban G.E. salmon — believe that the approval process demonstrated a bias towards the industry.

Cross-breeding is guaranteed with alfalfa and likely with corn. (The U.S.D.A. claims to be figuring out ways to avoid this happening, but by then the damage may already be done.) And the organic dairy industry is going to suffer immediate and frightening losses when G.E. alfalfa is widely grown, since many dairy cows eat dried alfalfa (hay), and the contamination of organic alfalfa means the milk of animals fed with that hay can no longer be called organic. Likewise, when feed corn is contaminated by G.E. ethanol corn, the products produced from it won’t be organic. (On the one hand, U.S.D.A. joins the F.D.A. in not seeing G.E. foods as materially different; on the other it limits the amount found in organic foods. Hello? Guys? Could you at least pretend to be consistent?)

The subject is unquestionably complex. Few people outside of scientists working in the field — self included — understand much of anything about gene altering. Still, an older ABC poll found that a majority of Americans believe that G.M.O.’s are unsafe, even more say they’re less likely to buy them, and a more recent CBS/NYT poll found a whopping 87 percent — you don’t see a poll number like that too often — wants them labeled.

In the long run, genetic engineering may prove to be useful. Or not. The science is adolescent at best; not even its strongest advocates can guarantee that there aren’t hidden dangers. So consumers are understandably cautious, and whether that’s justified or paranoid, it would seem we have a right to know as much as Europeans do.

Even more than questionable approvals, it’s the unwillingness to label these products as such — even the G.E. salmon will be sold without distinction — that is demeaning and undemocratic, and the real reason is clear: producers and producer-friendly agencies correctly suspect that consumers will steer clear of G.E. products if they can identify them. Which may make them unprofitable. Where is the free market when we need it?

A majority of our food already contains G.M.O.’s, and there’s little reason to think more isn’t on the way. It seems our “regulators” are using us and the environment as guinea pigs, rather than demanding conclusive tests. And without labeling, we have no say in the matter whatsoever.

Article Provided by: Mark Bittman