by Elinka Boyle
GMO—the food industry’s biggest and latest buzz word—stands for genetically modified organism. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines GMOs as “organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.” What does this have to do with food?
Genetically modifying food actually started decades ago and has been a common practice ever since. Scientists were able to artificially create corn and soy plants that are resistant to pests and herbicides, thus increasing crop yield. Salmon has been genetically modified to grow bigger, faster and continuously. Genetically altering plants, animals or microorganisms was and is a booming business. And, initially, genetic modification was touted as the solution to end world hunger. Who could argue against ending world hunger?
In recent years, however, genetic modification has been used to “enhance” produce to make it more appealing to consumers—such as making tomatoes more red or apples that won’t brown when cut open and exposed to air.
Not only have we not solved the world hunger problem but many issues have been raised about whether GMOs are safe for human consumption and are environmentally conscientious. For instance, GMO crops are typically sprayed with glyphosate, the main ingredient in a widely used herbicide. Glyphosate has been classified as a “probable carcinogen” to humans by WHO.
Unless an individual has been extremely cognizant of what he/she and his/her family has been buying, eating or being served, it is highly probable that the individual has been consuming GMOs in some form or another for years without even knowing it.
In an attempt to change that, a handful of states, including Vermont, have introduced or passed “right-to-know” legislation that would force companies to label genetically engineered products. In response, those big companies lobbied intensively and passed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (H.R. 1599) in the House in July. Among activists that are for the labeling of GMOs, H.R. 1599 is also called the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act, or DARK Act, because it strips states’ rights to mandate labeling of GMO products.
The issue of GMOs is a very controversial one to say the least. There are dozens of studies, websites, organizations, etc., that are devoted to the subject. Call your senator now and ask him/her to stop H.R. 1599 in the Senate before it becomes law. It is easy and fast to do so. By calling 888-897-0174 and keying in your zip code, the call will be directed to your senator and will take less than one minute.
Elinka Boyle is part of a growing group of citizens that are concerned with the food we are serving our families. As a mother of four, she focuses her efforts on environmental and ecological issues. Her son Max is seen in photo above holding up his gagutz squash from their backyard garden, grown completely without GMOs.