Editorial: GMO and GE under attack

By Richard S. Gubbe
Contributing Writer

A crusade to make a dent in the genetically modified foods machine and prevent the creation of more genetically engineered food is gaining momentum.

The backlash against agri-business conglomerate Monsanto has been felt in the United States and abroad. Now, Monsanto is trying to maintain its grip on U.S. food production by sneaking in a bill that would stop proceedings against them in court.

The United States House of Representatives will consider a provision to the House Agricultural Appropriations Bill as soon as this week that would eliminate judicial review when trying to halt genetically engineered foods in court.

Opponents of the bill claim that hidden under the framework of a “Farmer Assurance Provision” (Section 733), the provision takes away the rights of federal courts to halt the sale and planting of genetically engineered crops during any legal appeals process.

Legal advocates have successfully won in the past the right to halt the sale and planting of unapproved GMO crops while the approval of those crops is under review by a federal judge. The provision, penned the Monsanto Protection Act, would strip judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer rights and the environment, while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new, untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, consumers and the environment.

Monsanto is intent on using its strong lobby to undermine more basic civil rights. Numerous online petitions are available to sign to keep the not-so-jolly giant from imposing GMOs as it attempted and failed for alfalfa and sugar beets. Petitions have signatures of more than 100,000 people thus far.

The Atlantic recently featured a scathing story about Monsanto and genetically engineered crops, pointing to the mixing of different strains of DNA into crops, saying, of course, that all is safe. The article called into question Monsanto’s claims.

The Atlantic article said genetically engineered crops are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GE crops. The story said GEs can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts and do not increase yield potential. The story also said GEs can lead to even more “superweeds” that resist herbicides.

The impact to our eco-system could be devastating and long lasting.

As a result of lack of labeling, many Americans still are unfamiliar with what is genetically engineered food. A California ballot initiative coming up in November would require labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients, and ban the routine industry practice of labeling and marketing such foods as “natural.” Natural foods are not scrutinized by the FDA, only foods that claim to be organic.

In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama said while campaigning for the presidency that he would label GE foods. The White House recently released the following statement:

Genetically modified crops hold out the promise of benefits like increased production and reduced reliance on pesticides. At the same time, some Americans want more information to help them choose their food. President Obama understands these concerns and is considering additional steps in this area.”

Comedian Bill Maher, a staunch supporter both verbally and financially of Obama, called for the labeling of GMOs and GEs on his Home Box Office show recently. He chastised the president for the lack of GMO labeling and for the naming of former Monsanto kingpin Michael Taylor to the FDA.

Organics buying shift

Organics in stores has shifted. USA Today reported this week that major grocery chain stores have caught up to specialty health food stores in the selling of organic food. Stores such as Kroger/Schnucks, Woodman’s and Target are outpacing the smaller stores in organic sales. The larger retailers are now offering staples in organics as well as specialty products. Target has its own line of organic and natural foods.

Bringing organic food to big retailers only enhances education of organics and helps implement them into daily use.

Monsanto abroad

Beginning in January, companies in India will have to specify whether food products contain genetically modified ingredients. The government in India installed new rules that mandate that packaged food products carry a “GM” tag.

Monsanto also reportedly lost a large lawsuit in Brazil recently regarding patents that could cost the companies big money.

To keep the pressure on GMO and GE foods, every citizen needs to get involved.

From the July 11-17, 2012, issue

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