By Lynda Schneekloth and Eveline Hartz
Are genetically engineered foods safe to eat? A significant amount of independent research says no, while Monsanto Corp.’s research says yes. The biotech industry spends millions of dollars on a continuous media campaign to assure consumers that genetically engineered/genetically modified organisms are safe. Plus the companies vehemently oppose mandatory GMO legislation.
Americans continue to be the unwitting guinea pigs for the biotech industry. We live in a country that allows items into the food system until they are proven to hurt people, unlike countries that operate by the “precautionary principle,” where items must be proven safe first. An example is the recent Food and Drug Administration ruling to eliminate hydrogenated fats from food. Instead of doing substantive and longitudinal studies of these manipulated fats when they were first introduced 40 years ago, it was only after thousands of Americans died of coronary disease that steps were taken to remove it from our foods. The same line of reasoning worked for the tobacco companies as well as for such products as DDT and PCBs.
The industry line is that we’ve been genetically modifying food for thousands of years. Yes, humans have been genetically modifying food through “selective breeding” of plants and animals since before agriculture. But genetic engineering is direct transfer of DNA from one organism to another at the molecular level. The first genetically engineered foods came on the market in the mid 1990s. This is only one generation of humans eating foods that have been genetically engineered – certainly not long enough to know the long-term consequences of gene manipulation and modification.
GE/GMOs have a broad impact on our world. We know they are dangerous to bees and pollinators as well as our pets; we know that the herbicide glyphosate is a known hormone disrupter and has recently been listed by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen. Ninety-nine percent of genetically engineered food is done to make the plant herbicide resistant, pest resistant or a combination of both. When plants are doused with herbicides, water is polluted, and when sprayed, the air is hazardous and super weeds and super bugs evolve.
The Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch and the Sierra Club are pushing to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food and food products as a part of packaging. Sixty-four countries, including Europe, require mandatory labeling. Labeling gives consumers a choice of what to put into their bodies. It provides transparency and accountability. People should have a choice about what they eat and what they feed their children.
Lynda Schneekloth is chairwoman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group. Eveline Hartz, R.N., represents Label It WNY.