[Below is a letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal in response to an editorial in the WSJ on March 7th opposing the labeling of genetically engineered foods]
The Vermont law requiring labeling of all foods containing genetically engineered ingredients goes into effect on July 1st this year. You oppose it. Your editorial on March 7th could have been written by the public relations department of any of the giant chemical/seed corporations. The problem is that it contains just plain false information.
You said, “No agricultural innovation has been more maligned than GMOs, though the technology has proven safe, reliable, affordable and good for the environment”. None of that is true. The technology has not been proven safe. It is haphazard, reckless, and risky. The techniques are crude and potentially very disruptive to native genomes with potentially catastrophic consequences to human health and the environment. To now, the primary reason for GE corn and soy (the major crops) has been to allow them to be massively dosed with glyphosate or other pesticides without killing the crop but killing all vegetation around it. Now glyphosate has been determined to be carcinogenic. Pesticide residues follow the crop to livestock and to the dinner table. Studies have shown serious health consequences to livestock fed genetically engineered feed. So, there are serious safety issues about the genetically engineered crops themselves and as a result of the pesticides found with them.
As a past daily newspaper publisher and as a genetic scientist, I am an adamant believer in the right of the public to know all that is involved in the raising and production of the food they put on their families tables. It is the right of people to make that decision. It is not the right of the chemical/seed companies and corporate farmers to make decisions about what to tell and what not to tell in secret.
Over 60 countries world wide made the decision to either ban or label genetically engineered foods. Several now are considering banning genetically engineered crops altogether. Of those who did adopt genetically engineered crops and used the pesticides designed for them, many are seeing very serious health issues in their populations, particularly among farm workers. I add that over 60 countries cannot be wrong.
The WSJ needs to do more homework. The bill now in the US Senate should never see the light of day. As you concluded… “let the consumers decide what to eat”. Vermont leads the way.
It is only February, but soon the countryside will be filled with tractors plowing and planting crops for this year. About all that will be seen from horizon to horizon are fields dedicated to growing genetically modified, or genetically engineered, corn and soybeans. The final destinations for these crops following harvest this fall will be livestock feed and, in one form or another, food for our tables. No one will know that though because none will be labeled, “GMO”, or genetically modified.
That label is required for GMO’s in over 60 countries worldwide. These include all of Europe, Australia, Japan, Russia and dozens of others. Some countries ban genetically modified foods altogether. One has to wonder if other countries know something we don’t. The big seed and chemical companies do not want labels. They have successfully stopped labeling in the United States so far. They do not want people to know what is in the food they eat. It is a secret to be kept by them only.
There are many questions concerning genetically modified foods and their long term safety for people and the environment. More and more evidence is accumulating saying all is not well. All is not well for people and animals that eat these foods. All is not well for the natural environment and the genetic contamination GMOs bring. All is not well with the use of toxic chemical poisons, herbicides and pesticides, used on the crops or in the case of GMO corn with the pesticide that each and every cell in the plant produces on its own — and that wind up every corn kernel. All is not well with the pesticide residues on harvested crops. All is not well. But all that is to be kept secret, too.
The historical record shows that even the scientists in the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) were concerned about the safety of genetically modified crops over 20 years ago. That did not matter because the people that approved them were political appointees. One key appointee at the FDA was an attorney for a firm doing work for Monsanto before he came to the FDA. Although he has been in and out of the FDA and Monsanto more than once, he is even now in a key food safety position at the FDA in the Obama administration.
Many states have had GMO labeling legislation introduced. The most visible one was California. The big agriculture and food corporations spent about $45 million on a publicity campaign to narrowly defeat Proposition 37 there. That is a lot of money. The private citizens who believe they have a right to know what is in their food could not match that kind of steamrolling propaganda effort. One wonders what there is to hide if that kind of money is spent to defeat a law that would simply tell people what is in their food.
This is reminiscent of the tobacco companies that kept people in the dark for decades about the bad long term health effects of smoking. The corporate executives even lied to Congress. The largest GMO seed and chemical corporation that wants us to trust them is the one that gave us DDT, Dioxin, PCBs, Agent Orange and more. Do you trust them?
The Publishers Report will now deal only with issues in science, the environment, and agriculture. There is plenty to write about with these subjects. In many ways, the train is off the track.
All of my postings can be found at kentblacklidge.wordpress.com. There you will find political and other comment in addition to what will be published here. If you don’t like politics and world affairs, don’t go there.