Recently a lot of controversy has surrounded the subject of GMOs. A line has been drawn, a battle is about to ensue but amidst the varying news sources, it's sometimes hard to know what to believe. So, we did some research.
It wasn't always easy deciphering the facts from the rest. We watched Dr. Oz, combed through countless YouTube videos, read articles and opinion blogs. One thing we found was that news sources that look at numbers--statistics on GMO use worldwide, the costs of labeling, economic costs and benefits to using GMOs and driving shareholder return are far better that the "news" sources that simply tell you how to think as a consumer. At this point, awareness and concern about GMOs is widespread enough that something has got to give, one article we found in the Huffington Post said it best:
"The food industry has a choice to make: stand with the chemical companies or stand with its consumers."
They also innumerated the reasons why we all should be weighing in on this issue:
- The novelty of these ingredients is so unprecedented that the Environmental Protection Agency now regulates genetically engineered corn as a pesticide. Before GMOs, insecticide was sprayed on corn and could be washed off. With the introduction of GMOs, corn is engineered to produce its own insecticide. Why label? If you had a choice between the two kinds of corn, one that is regulated as a food and the other regulated as a pesticide, which would you choose?
- The Food and Drug Administration says that these foods look, taste, and smell the same, that they are "substantially equivalent," but the United States Patent and Trademark Office says they are substantially different, with GMOs being so unique that the office has granted patents to the chemical companies that invented them. Not unlike Intel Inside, we now have GMO Inside.
- Chemical companies engineered food crops like soy and corn to withstand increasing doses of their chemicals. It's a brilliant business model if you're selling chemicals. And while shareholder reports note what a remarkable impact that has had on the top lines of weed killer and other chemical products, the President's Cancer Panel is telling all of us, especially those of us with kids, to reduce our exposure to these very same chemicals. Wouldn't you like to know which corn and which soy has been saturated?
- Twenty-five states have introduced GMO-labeling legislation, and more than 6 million residents voted for labels in California, the first state to introduce a labeling initiative last year.
- Sixty-four countries around the world label these ingredients. A partial list includes every country in the European Union, Japan, Australia, and even Russia, India, and China.
- More than 20 countries around the world flat out banned GMOs, didn't introduce them at all. The reasons vary, from no long-term human health studies and no synergistic toxicity studies (eating a pesticide sprayed with other weed killers, anyone?) to no prenatal studies and concerns over everything from cancer to allergies.
We also found an article in The Washington Post that studied the points GMO supporters and opponents actually agree upon. They found three items that even the food industry cannot refute. First, that "GMOs have contributed to the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds and pesticide-resistant insects." And while it is well known that resistance would happen regardless of GMOs, the ecological effects of this phenomena are yet to be seen, and certainly ominous. Second, they found that "Most of the benefits of GMOs accrue to biotech firms and farmers, leaving little to balance consumers’ assessment of risks." So just to be clear now--even the food industry agrees, this isn't about "feeding the world," it's about turning a profit, and is simply another case of economic shortsightedness in our society--the person making the profit has decided that the short-term rewards outweigh the long-term costs of their practices. Finally, they found that, "We need to evaluate GMOs on a case-by-case basis." The bottom line is, we don't know how GMOs are going to affect us physiologically, because they haven't been around that long. It is not unfathomable that some might be worse that others.
All this being said--regardless of whether or not you personally are willing to consume food with GMOs--it is time that we start demanding our right to know what is in our food. From there, it is up to each of us as individuals to decide what we put in our bodies.
So what can we do to help?
The answer is simple: you vote with your dollars each time you shop at the grocery store--so make an informed decision. An easy way to do this is to look for products that clearly label that they do not use GMOs; food companies that have gotten onboard with the non-GMO movement are wisely marketing their products and boosting their sales by letting consumers know where they stand. Not sure if a product has GMOs in it? We went to the non-GMO Project's website and found this list where you can browse non-GMO products by brand. By buying only non-GMO products not only are you ensuring the health and safety of yourself and your family, but you are telling the companies that control the food in our country that they need to change their ways if they want to survive. It's so funny how powerless the average person feels about this issue, yet we alone have the power to change the profit margins that make it worthwhile for these companies to continue to not label and use GMOs.
Before we go, we wanted to leave you with a brief look at some of the companies that are working hard to keep the FDA from requiring GMO labeling. It is unfortunate that the brands that we all grew up with have refused to ensure that their "new and improved" products are safe for consumption, but we must be aware that they should no longer be considered "household names." It is time to let these companies know that we do have the power to change this situation--by changing our minds about what we are willing to put in our bodies.