Originally Published: October 20, 2016 5:57 a.m.
On July 29 President Obama signed legislation that opponents have dubbed the “DARK Act” (Deny Americans the Right to Know). The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act gives companies labeling options for GMO foods and prevents individual states from implementing labeling of genetically modified organisms. But many say this bill does little, if anything, to help Americans out of the dark regarding their food choices.
This poorly written and discriminatory law supersedes previously enacted legislation such as Vermont’s “Right to Know” Act of 2014. It does not designate labeling be in a form we are all used to seeing, plain text. Instead, the law allows companies to use 1- 800 numbers, URLs or QR codes to obtain information about genetically modified ingredients in their foods by. This makes it much more difficult for consumers to quickly access the GMO ingredients in food. Customers will be forced to make a call, look up and navigate a website or follow a QR trail. This is extremely burdensome for busy shoppers even if they own a smartphone. And, nearly a third of U.S. Citizens do not (100 million Americans).
A recent poll shows that over 72 percent of Americans asked about GMO labeling said they would not knowingly buy foods containing GMOs. This bill cleverly allows meaningless labeling and clearly this was a last-ditch effort by the GMO-laden processed-food industry to prevent consumers from knowing what they are buying and putting in their mouths.
“Just as the FDA scientists recommended during the 1990s that genetically engineered foods should undergo special testing and questioned their safety, the FDA has now refuted the new GMO labeling law stating it may exclude many GMO ingredients and has other serious flaws, ” said Shea Richland, Founder of GMO-Free Prescott.
The important thing for most consumers to parse out is that this labeling law will not mean that they will no longer need to read labels. On the contrary it is more important than ever to be proactive and know which foods contain GMOs and recognize them in the ingredients on the labels. Adding to the GMO labeling confusion is the trend for many food products that have not been genetically modified to carry the Non-GMO Project Verified label. Food manufacturers clearly see the marketing advantage of sporting this label but whether this unnecessary added labeling increases the cost of non-genetically engineered foods remains unclear.
A health concern that goes hand in hand with GMO foods is the use of glyphosate, the ‘active’ ingredient in the herbicide Roundup™. Glyphosate is liberally used on genetically engineered Roundup Ready™ food crops and has been linked to cancer, autism, Parkinson’s and other chronic diseases. Robert Zieve, M.D., a Prescott Integrative Oncologist, says, “glyphosate has been found to double the risk of one blood cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and increase the risk of a related cancer. In a report released in late July of 2015, the world’s leading cancer experts at the International Agency for Research on Cancer shed new light on the cancer-causing properties of glyphosate.”
Even if consumers are undecided about GMOs, they should be aware of whether their food is doused in cancer-linked pesticides. More than one hundred nongmo crops can be sprayed with glyphosate and carry legal amounts of pesticide residue.
So, how can consumers protect themselves and their families?
• By choosing USDA Certified Organic labeled foods, GMOs are avoided as well as synthetic pesticides and herbicides. The genetically engineered foods currently commercialized in the United States are: corn, soybean, canola, cotton, some yellow squash and zucchini, sugar beets (source of sugar in many foods), Hawaiian Papaya, Simplot potato, Arctic apple, AquaAdvantage Salmon, and alfalfa.
• GMOs can also be avoided by selecting Non-GMO Project Verified products which require testing for GMO contamination, unlike Organic rules which don’t include that requirement. However, their label does not prohibit synthetic chemical use.
• Buying food from the local Farmers Markets may be good choice as most small vegetable farmers don’t use GMO seeds (and most fruits and vegetables have not been genetically engineered). Talk to the farmer and ask about their growing practices. Meat and dairy products, however, may have come from animals fed GMO feed and processed products may contain ingredients from GMO crops.
On Thursday, October 20th at 6:30 p.m. GMO-Free Prescott and the Natural History Institute are hosting the documentary film Symphony of the Soil at 312 Grove Avenue in Prescott. Since our food comes from soil this film provides an understanding of the elaborate relationships and mutuality between soil, water, the atmosphere, plants and animals helping us to appreciate the complex and dynamic nature of this precious resource. There will be free organic popcorn. Pre-registration required, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about GMOs, visit gmofreeprescottaz.org, Responsible Technology.org or NonGMOProject.org.