The topic of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is all over the place lately. Or is it just the circles I run in? Every time I log into facebook, I am bombarded with the latest news in the fight to have GMOs labeled (currently a ballot initiative in California). Every time I buy food, I ask what the ingredients are and if they’re GMO. Every time I open my email, there are multiple messages about things I can do to help the GMO labeling cause. I love it. You see, I do not believe that pesticide producing corn, or soybeans that can withstand being sprayed with weed killer, or fast-growing salmon containing eel genes are acceptable foods for
humans my family to eat. I mean, the pesticide producing corn (Bt Corn) is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an insecticide, yet is sold at WalMart as just another ear of corn in the produce section. It’s just plain wrong, and I’m done with it.
The opponents of the GMO labeling movement will argue that it is already possible to avoid GMOs, and they’re right. You simply have to (a) avoid all processed foods unless they are certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, (b) buy only certified organic produce, (c) stalk your local farmers to make sure your vegetables are not grown from GMO seeds, your meat is not fed GMO grains or GMO alfalfa, and your dairy is not given the GMO hormone rBGH or rBST, and basically (d) never eat at a restaurant or a “normal” person’s house. No, seriously. Certified organic foods don’t contain GMOs, but pretty much EVERYTHING else does. I’m a stay at home mom with only one child (aka, I have way more time to devote to this than most people), and I prioritize avoiding GMOs in my diet, and I still don’t always succeed. There really needs to be a more user friendly way.
Say you want to avoid GMOs for one or more of the usual reasons (they haven’t been proven safe to eat, you don’t want to support the increased pesticide load to our environment, you are concerned about the lack of genetic diversity of our food supply, you realize there is no fool proof way to truly control GMO contamination of non-GMO crops, you don’t like the ways Monsanto treats farmers, your common sense makes you leary of plants/animals with baceria, viruses, or other plant/animal genes that would normally never occur in nature, etc.), that should be something you’re reasonably able to do as a consumer, correct? I mean, you can to avoid MSG, caramel coloring, or partially hodrogenated oils (trans fats), etc., because they are listed as ingredients on the packaged foods you buy. The USDA swears up and down that all of those ingredienst are safe, yet you still have the ability as a consumer to choose not to eat them. Why should you not be given the same option to avoid GMOs?
As fun as it is to complain, I wanted to actually do something, so I got involved with GMO Free USA and have been volunteering some of my time to support the Yes on 37 folks. Right now they are working hard in California to counteract the chemical companies and junk food companies spending literally more than 40 million dollars to prevent GMO labeling. (Mind you, the vote is not to make GMOs illegal, or prohibit their cultivation or sales- it is simply to label them if they are used to make a food item. They know nobody actually wants to eat GMOs, and if given the choice, the vast majority of people would choose a non-GMO option. Hence the opposition to labeling.)
The upcoming vote in California is extremely important, but it’s also important that my family and friends here in Tennessee know about GMOs too, so they can make up their own minds about whether or not they want to consume them. So I started GMO Free Tennessee. We are Tennessee’s representation in The Coalition of States for the Mandatory Labeling of GMOs, and our goals are to educate Tennesseans on GMOs and work toward GMO labeling legislature in Tennessee. Right now we’re just a Facebook group barely over a week old, but we’re already approaching 200 members and have big plans to keep right on going. My child will grow up eating this food if I don’t intervene, so intervene I will, because as Dr. Suess said, “somebody, SOMEBODY has to, you see.”
P.S. If you want to know more about GMOs, I recommend Genetic Roulette- a great documentary by the Institute of Responsible Technology. It’s free today, and I expect the free viewing period to be extended at least through the election.