The GMO Labeling Revolution
16 Jun, 2012
by Marty Kassowitz
There’s a revolt in progress in America. It’s a quiet, non-violent revolt, but it is a revolt nonetheless.
People are taking GMO labeling into their own hands—going into supermarkets and doing shopping cart drive-by labeling of GMO laden food products. No one knows how many are participating, but why people are getting involved is of little surprise.
With an estimated 80 percent of conventional processed food in the United States containing GMOs, often hidden behind labels like “natural,” “all natural,” “naturally made” and “naturally grown,” there are a lot of targets for this grassroots rebellion.
The movement even has its own website: www.labelityourself.org.
The Label It Yourself (#LIY) is a decentralized, autonomous grassroots campaign born out of our broken food system. We have been asking our government to label food products so we can make educated decisions about what we eat. The government has ignored our requests and so we are taking matters into our own hands.
Using LIY’s resources, we encourage people to: autonomously label GMOs and empower others to do so, rescue words like “All Natural” and “Natural Flavors” from being hijacked, expose unfair labor practices. We have a right to know what is in our food and where it is coming from.
The sources of the frustration fueling this movement are only too obvious.
Despite receiving over 1 million signatures to a petition demanding the labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients, the FDA has so far declined to respond in any way. Well, they did try to change the million plus number into a few hundred—possibly a new type of government-only mathematics. The big biotech companies pushing GMOs, Monsanto in particular, have shown a remarkable ability to bend the FDA, USDA and even the White House to their will.
Monsanto even managed to turn the Bush Administration State Department into an extension of its sales force to try and force GMOs into the European Union, as disclosed by Wikileaks.
A few state legislatures have taken the initiative to introduce GMO labeling laws. All have been defeated by the biotech lobby, the latest being Vermont and Connecticut.
Meanwhile public concern over the safety of GMO foods has only grown. There are countless articles about the health, environmental and ethical issues surrounding GMO foods, many of which have been published right here by Organic Connections.
With surveys by organizations such as the Mellman Group showing that 90 percent of voters are in favor of labeling, it is little wonder that public frustration is being converted into guerilla actions.
The Mellman Group results were also consistent with other surveys:
- 93% believe GE foods should be labeled (10/10, Thomson Reuters PULSE™ Healthcare Survey, “National Survey of Healthcare Consumers: Genetically Engineered Food”)
- 96% believe genetically modified foods should be labeled (6/11, MSNBC)
- 95% of consumers believe GE foods should be labeled (11/08, Consumers Union, “Food-Labeling Poll: 2008,” p. 13)
- 94% believe genetically modified food should be labeled (9/10, Washington Post)
- 93% of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (6/11, ABC News)
Add to this the continually growing knowledge afforded to consumers by the Internet and social media. More and more people are simply ignoring the messages poured at them by mainstream media outlets on behalf of biotech and food industry advertisers. The same surveys by the Mellman Group showed that more and more people simply don’t believe messages from these organizations.
The pent up frustration of consumers over the desire to know what is in their food is fast becoming a defining human rights issue in the United States.
This is no more apparent than in California. In a watershed event, the issue of GMO labeling has now been taken away from the hands of politicians for the first time. The California Secretary of State has certified the GMO Right to Know Initiative for the November 2012 ballot. And as Tom Philpott of Mother Jones opined, “California could force the rest of the US to label GMO foods.”
Revolutions, at least those based on popular movements, are generally about rights. The GMO labeling issue is no exception. We as consumers have the right to know what is in our food. Opposing this is a group of biotech companies and industrial food giants who feel their rights to profit can override customer preference. Possibly the overarching fact in this fight is that we as consumers are the far greater power. All the advertising, lies, lobbying, agency corruption and even legal threats by the biotech and food industries amount to only one thing: getting us to part with money and flow it to them.
What You Can Do
There are the legitimate factors of ownership and private property that come into play in the Label It Yourself effort. Civil disobedience has become regarded as a legitimate means of protest. But since grocery stores are private property and not civil entities, this could be a problem. There are however powerful tools available to us to make the changes that are needed.
- We can vote with our wallets right now. Simply stop buying foods that obviously contain GMO contents. The Non-GMO Project has tools and a database to help.
- Californians can vote in November. You can help support the California campaign here: www.carighttoknow.org.
- Perhaps the most important tool is education. Let people know about the issues of GMO ingredients in foods. Too often we hear, “What’s a GMO?” That’s exactly what the biotech companies hope for—ignorance of the issues. The more people remain uninformed, the more successful these companies become. (Isn’t it interesting that while most businesses thrive on informing their potential customers about their products, the biotech industry fights disclosure tooth and nail and thrives on our ignorance?) There are LOTs of resources. This site has numerous articles and links to important consumer advocate groups like the Center for Food Safety, Institute for Responsible Technology and of course the Non-GMO Project.
Here’s to a healthier food future.