In early October, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demanding the agency require labeling of all food produced using genetic engineering.
The petition was filed on behalf of the Just Label It campaign, a coalition of more than 350 companies, organizations, scientists, doctors and individuals who believe consumers have a right to know if the food they’re eating has been genetically altered.
“FDA’s current policy uses 19th century rationale for a 21st century issue, leaving consumers in the dark to hidden changes to their food,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety. “It is long overdue that FDA acknowledge the myriad reasons genetically engineered (GE) foods should be labeled.”
The agency’s nearly two decades old decision is based on the nonscientific and laughable premise that sight, touch, smell, and taste of GE food is the same as food not genetically engineered, and therefore harmless.
This asinine policy is still in effect today, despite the majority of other countries worldwide requiring GE food labeling. Tamara Ward, an FDA spokeswoman, says the agency “has not found that foods from genetically engineered organisms, as a class, present different or greater safety concerns than their conventional counterparts.”
Throughout the European Union, Russia, Japan and even Communist China, GE food is required to be labeled. CFS has documented that polls consistently show that more than 90 percent of Americans want GE foods to be labeled.
“This is about the consumer’s right to transparency,” says Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm and a member of the Just Label It coalition. “People deserve the right to know what they’re eating.”
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) points out that their petition identifies a number of scientific and legal grounds requiring GE foods be labeled: the very fact that GE food is not labeled renders GE foods misleading, and in violation of FDA’s duties under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
USAToday reports executives at the Biotechnology Industry Organization insist there’s no need for labeling. “Anyone who has ever studied the issue has come to the conclusion that there are no health issues here,” says CEO Jim Greenwood. “Unless the scientists have stopped being scientific, this will be rejected.”
There have been very few independent, comprehensive studies of their long-term human health and environmental impacts of GE foods, said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “Labeling is the first step to allow consumers to the right to know what is in their food and make informed decisions about what they eat.”
Monsanto has now planted GM seeds for corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa, and is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops.
According to the USDA, almost 90% of the corn planted in the US is genetically engineered. Monsanto’s GM Roundup Ready gene is in 93 percent of U.S. soybean seeds.
GE beets have been planted on about 95 percent of all sugar beet acreage last year, and were harvested in spite of a federal judge throwing out the approval of the GM beet crop for commercial planting.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack authorize the unrestricted commercial cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, alfalfa, which is the nation’s fourth-largest crop by acreage behind corn, soybeans and wheat.
About 75% of all processed food on grocery shelves contain GE engineered ingredients. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used as a sweetener in virtually everything from cereal to ketchup, is genetically engineered.
Family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, including thousands of certified organic family farmers, have recently filed a lawsuit against Monsanto challenging the company’s patents on genetically modified seed.
In January, Dr. Don Huber, a retired emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University who has done research for Monsanto, warned USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack of a link between genetically modified crops and sudden death syndrome in crops and infertility in livestock.
Earth Open Source, a UK non-profit, claims industry regulators in Europe have known for years that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. The UK group drew its conclusions from studies conducted in Argentina, Brazil, France and the United States.
Additionally, a laboratory study done in France in 2005 found Roundup and glyphosate caused the death of human placental cells.
And another study conducted in 2009 found Roundup caused total cell death in human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells within 24 hours.
We All Have a Right To Know
As I stated earlier, Jim Greenwood, CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry lobby group, insist there’s no need for labeling GE food. Greenwood claims “anyone who has ever studied the issue has come to the conclusion that there are no health issues.”
Anyone can see Greenwood is clearly wrong. Even if there’s the slightest doubt that GE food is a risk to human health, we all have a right to know what the hell is in our food so we can make our own decisions.