By Dr. Mercola
A bill has recently been introduced in the Vermont state legislature that would require food to be labeled as genetically engineered if it is entirely or partially produced with genetically engineered ingredients.
If passed, the bill, H.722, also known as the ‘VT Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act’ i, will take effect in 2014.
The bill also forbids any such food from using advertising or promotional material that states or implies that the food is:
- “naturally made”
- “naturally grown”
- “all natural,” or
- Any words of similar meaning
According to the language of the bill, it would require:
“… in the case of a raw agricultural commodity, on the package offered for retail sale … the clear and conspicuous words, ‘genetically engineered’ on the front of the package … [or] on a label appearing on the retail store shelf or bin in which such commodity is displayed for sale.
… in the case of any processed food, in clear and conspicuous language on the front or back of the package … the words, ‘partially produced with genetic engineering’ or ‘may be partially produced with genetic engineering'”. ii
Finally we’re starting to see some real opposition against genetically engineered foods in general, and unlabeled GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) in particular, in the U.S.! Aside from this Vermont bill, California, Michigan and Washington are also working on ballot initiatives to get mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods in their states. Vermont takes it a step further though, as the legislation would effectively also end phony “all natural” claims for products that in actuality contain wholly unnatural, GMOs.
Personally, I believe GM foods must be banned entirely, but labeling is the most efficient way to achieve this. Since 85 percent of the public will refuse to buy foods they know to be genetically modified, this will effectively eliminate them from the market just the way it was done in Europe.
Sheer ignorance on the part of American consumers has allowed Monsanto and other biotech companies to saturate the market with their genetically altered wares. And misuse of the “all natural” label has only made matters worse. According to a 2010 Hartman Group poll, more than 60 percent of consumers erroneously believe that the “natural” label implies or suggests the absence of GM ingredients, but that is sadly NOT the case… In fact, at the current time, the ONLY label that can protect you against GM ingredients is the USDA 100% Organic label.
After reading the Cornucopia Institutes’ 2011 report Cereal Crimesiii, many, including myself, were shocked to discover some of their favorite natural and even some organic brands were using GM ingredients! For example, natural products that contained 100 percent genetically modified grains included:
General Mills Kix®
Two breakfast cereal products that are currently enrolled in the Non-GMO Project, Barbara’s Bakery’s Puffins and Whole Foods’ 365® Corn Flakes, contained more than 50 percent GM corn. Meanwhile, the control, Nature’s Path® USDA certified organic corn flakes, contained only trace amounts of GM contamination (less than 0.5 percent). Another sign that American consumers are getting fed up with being stonewalled on the GMO labeling issue is the fact that lawsuits are starting to crop up, accusing food manufacturers of deceptive and misleading practices over their “all natural” claims. Here are just a couple of recent examples:
- Frito-Lay is being sued by a New York consumer over their ‘all natural’ snacks that are actually made using GM ingredients, such as Tostitos and SunChipsiv
- On August 31, 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed against Kellogg/Kashi® for allegedly misleading consumers with its “natural” claims. One Kashi® product in particular, GoLean® Shakes, is composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients, according to the plaintiff
As I said earlier, mandatory labeling may be the only way to stop the proliferation of GM foods in the U.S. because while GM seeds are banned in several European countries such as Hungary, Germany and Ireland, in the United States, certain states are passing legislation that protects the use of GM seeds and allows for unabated expansion! At present, no less than 14 states have passed such legislation. Michigan’s Senate Bill 777v, if passed, would make that 15. The Michigan bill would prevent anti-GMO laws, and would remove “any authority local governments may have to adopt and enforce ordinances that prohibit or regulate the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower or forest tree seeds.”
While this type of legislation sounds like crazy nonsense to normal people, such bills are essentially bought and paid for through the millions of dollars Monsanto and other biotech companies spend lobbying the U.S. government each year. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Monsanto spent $1.4 million on lobbying the federal government — a drop from a year earlier, when they spent $2.5 million during the same quarter.
Their efforts of persuasion are also made infinitely easier by the fact that an ever growing list of former Monsanto employees are now in positions of power within the federal government.
Due to lack of labeling, many Americans are still unfamiliar with what GM foods are. We have a plan to change that, and I urge you to participate and to continue learning more about GM foods and helping your friends and family do the same.
To start, please print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. You can also download a free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
Your BEST strategy, however, is to simply buy USDA 100% Organic products whenever possible, (as these do not permit GM ingredients) or buy whole fresh produce and meat from local farmers. The majority of the GMO’s you’re exposed to are via processed foods, so by cooking from scratch with whole foods, you can be sure you’re not inadvertently consuming something laced with GM ingredients. When you do purchase processed food, avoid products containing anything related to corn or soy that are not 100 percent organic, as any foods containing these two non-organic ingredients are virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, as well as toxic herbicide residues.
To learn more about GM foods, I highly recommend the following films and lectures:
In 2007, then-Presidential candidate Obama promised to “immediately” require GM labeling if elected. So far, nothing of the sort has transpired.
Labeling of genetically engineered food is way overdue… Here’s how you can get involved to rectify the situation:
- Whether you live in California or not, please donate money to this historic effort
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the California Ballot. It may be the only chance we have to label genetically engineered foods.
- Distribute WIDELY the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you identify and avoid foods with GMOs. Look for products (including organic products) that feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal to be sure that at-risk ingredients have been tested for GMO content. You can also download the free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
- For timely updates, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Look for in-depth coverage of the issue at the Institute for Responsible Technology, subscribe to Spilling the Beans, and check out their Facebook or Twitter.
In the meantime, the simplest way to avoid genetically engineered foods is to buy whole, certified organic foods. By definition, foods that are certified organic must never intentionally use genetically engineered organisms, must be produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers and come from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs. Additionally, grass-fed beef will not have been fed genetically engineered corn feed, although now that genetically engineered alfalfa is approved, grass-fed will not always mean they animals have not consumed genetically engineered feeds.vi
Be assured that what happens in California will affect the remainder of the U.S., so please support this important state initiative, even if you do not live there!