GMOs—People Pushing Back
25 Mar, 2012
Journalist Ken Roseboro has been writing and reporting on the issue of genetically modified foods since their beginnings. In 2000, he saw and filled a vital need for a publication dedicated strictly to informing the public about GMOs, and his highly informative magazine The Organic & Non-GMO Report has been more than fulfilling that need for twelve years.
Having closely monitored the GMO situation for so long, Ken now sees the rising public groundswell on the subject as a major threat to the biotech industry and a considerable win for the public at large.
“Compared to, say, five years ago, there is much more awareness about GMOs in the US,” Roseboro told Organic Connections.“For example, there are more initiatives to get mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods going on now than at any time in the almost 13 years that I’ve been covering this topic. We have a ballot initiative happening in California to get a labeling law passed in the election this year. We have a petition that has been submitted to the FDA challenging the agency to change their outdated policy on genetically engineeredfoods—and this petition has been supported by nearly a million public comments, the most comments the FDA has ever received on any issue.
“There was also a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter that was recently signed by 55 members of Congresstelling the FDA to label genetically engineered foods.
“Along with this, ‘non-GMO’ is the fastest growing natural food category right now. Sales of Non-GMO Project–verified products are over a billion dollars, and growing at something like 24 percent per year.
“All of these are indications that more and more people are becoming aware of this issue, demanding the right to know and wanting non-GMO products. They want to avoid GMOs because of the risks to human health and the environment.”
Probably the key battle to be won against GMOs is that of clearly labeling them so they can be avoided or not, by choice. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and any other set of opposing factions can certainly agree that the public has a right to know if their food is genetically modified or not. And the demand for labeling is now reaching a fever pitch.
“On a state level, there are about 18 different states that have introduced bills to label genetically engineered foods,” Roseboro reported. “A bill was recently introduced in Washington State by two state representatives—one a Democrat and one a Republican—and it has the support of wheat farmers in eastern Washington. These farmers grow wheat that is exported to Asia, where there is mandatory labeling of GMOs. There is talk of introducing GM wheat to their region, which would basically destroy their export markets.
“At the same time there is a lot of interest in organic foods in the Seattle area, so this labeling bill has the support of those people as well. The supporters of this bill are going to reintroduce it in the fall and there will be a lot of lobbying. They had a rally at the state house in support of the bill, and the lawmakers were just blown away by how many people were supporting this measure.”
“There are a couple of other bills that are currently going through legislatures. There is one in Connecticut and one also in Vermont; evidently the one in Connecticut has plenty of support from both Democrats and Republicans. There is another bill that has been introduced in Hawaii as well.
“Some of these bills have been stalled because of intense lobbying from agribusiness and the biotechnology industry; they see them as a huge threat to their business. In fact, when mandatory labeling was introduced in Europe, the food manufacturers would not buy genetically engineered ingredients because they did not want to put GMO labels on their products. Essentially it killed the market for GMOs in Europe. The biotechnology industry is concerned that would happen here as well—and it very likely could.”
Roseboro’s publications are certainly assisting in this push by making consumers, producers and farmers aware of GMOs and their ramifications.
“Most Americans remain unaware of genetically engineered foods and the fact that they’re very widespread in the food supply,” Roseboro continued. “More than 70 percent of the processed food in the supermarkets contains ingredients from genetically engineered corn, soy, cotton, canola or sugar beets. It’s often the case that once people start to learn more about this topic, they want to avoid GMOs. So we’re educating consumers and also the industry: farmers, grain suppliers, seed companies and food manufacturers.
“We also publish a directory of suppliers of non-GMO products, called the Non-GMO Sourcebook. It is a directory of suppliers of non-GMO seeds, grains, ingredients in food products, and also animal feed. We’ve put all the various companies that are selling and producing non-GMO products into one place, so that when a farmer or even a home gardener wants to buy non-GMO seeds, or a food manufacturer is looking for non-GMO ingredients, or consumers are looking for non-GMO food products, they can find them.”
Because of the enormous lobbying power of the biotech industry, and because the major media has seen fit to completely avoid the issue of GMOs, it truly is up to the people. But now the people are growing rapidly in number and clamoring to be heard.
“I believe the broad public will be brought on board through continued education about this risky technology that’s being foisted upon us, and the raised awareness that they should have a right to know whether their foods are genetically engineered or not.” Roseboro concluded. “I think that any consumer can relate to that basic right.
“There is also now a trend toward increased transparency. People more and more want to know the origins of their food, and in some cases which farmer is producing it. Having the right to know whether our foods are genetically engineered or not goes right along with that trend.
“When surveys are done of just regular consumers about whether such foods should be labeled, there’s always an overwhelming majority—80 to 90 percent—who say yes. That is something that everybody can agree on. Now we just have to get the FDA to do it.”
For more information on The Organic & Non-GMO Report, and to subscribe, please visit www.non-gmoreport.com.
To learn more about The Non-GMO Sourcebook, go to www.nongmosourcebook.com.