Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 29 2008
Absence of food labeling laws keep U.S. consumers from knowing whether or not their food is genetically altered.
Back a couple of months, a couple of you asked how you could determine whether or not your food contained genetically modified organisms. It took a while, but I found a bit of information that might help you better understand this bomb-filled arena, or just add to your confusion.
Here's one point that's indisputable. It is difficult for consumers to know whether the food they're buying was genetically modified, especially in this country. Most of the industrialized countries demand that GMO products be labeled as such. But not the U.S.
The Pew Research Foundation reported that more than 90 percent of American shoppers want food labeled as to its contents, including GMO. Unless I missed it, there was nothing in the farm bill that finally passed last week that will give us a clue to the presence of GM ingredients.
Monsanto, which has a chokehold on the world's use of genetically modified seeds, is now using its extensive network of lawyers and lobbyists to pressure state agriculture agencies not to allow milk producers to label dairy products as not coming from cows fed with GM food or bovine growth hormone.
To learn more about Monsanto, check out this link to Don Barlett and Jim Steele's very well done and balanced investigative report in this month's Vanity Fair.
As with almost everything controversial, all the opinions on GMO have to be weighed by considering the source of the information. The Institute for Responsible Technology makes no pretense about its concern over the danger of using genetically modified substances in our food.
The institute, founded in 2003 by Jeffery Smith, the author of "Seeds of Deception," says many consumers in the U.S. mistakenly believe that the FDA approves GM foods through rigorous, in-depth, long-term studies. In reality, the agency has absolutely no safety testing requirements.
Smith says it's easy to understand the FDA's industry-friendly policy on regulation of GMOs when you see the revolving door between agency regulators and the companies they regulate.
The FDA has claimed it was not aware of any information showing that GM crops were different "in any meaningful or uniform way" from non-GMO crops and therefore didn't require testing. But Smith says that 44,000 internal FDA documents made public by a lawsuit show that this was not true.
But getting back to the original question of how to identify GMO-tainted food, the institute has released a four-page guide on what to watch out for, including a lengthy list of food items containing GM ingredients.
The guide and other GMO information can be found at the institute's Web site at this link.
As expected, Monsanto says its processes are safe and beneficial and it "helps farmers grow food more efficiently and in a more sustainable manner. We do this through science and the development of agricultural technology. Our products have changed the way food is grown, to the benefit of both farmers and consumers," its Web site states.
For the rest of the story, or at least Monsanto's side of the GMO issue, this link will take you to a long list of stories that the worldwide chemical company has presented on its position.
Good luck sorting through all of this.
Wouldn't shopping be an easier and possibly safer chore if all food were properly labeled?