A very intelligent and talented friend of ours, Lisa Becker (author of Click: An Online Love Story) met with us and a small group of friends earlier this week to have our own morning discussion about GMO’s and Propostion 37. We are so grateful and lucky to have her guest contribute on Pier to Peer sharing her thoughts about a very important issue.
Eight months ago, an hour and a half in front of the TV changed my life. After watching the food/health documentary Forks Over Knives, I became interested in and concerned about the food my family and I were eating. I started watching more documentaries, reading books and studying up on food issues. What I learned frightened me to the point of not wanting to eat anything. And while my thighs could certainly allow for me to skip a few meals, the reality was that I would need to both eat and feed my family. So what were the best choices for us? What could we do to be healthier?
One of the simplest things I believed we could do was to avoid GMOs or genetically modified organisms. With GMOs, plants such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets have seen their DNA altered to make them more resistant to pests. In fact, GMO corn produces pesticides in its own tissue. The GMO hope was that technology could increase crop yields to feed our growing planet while reducing the amount of chemicals needed to keep pests at bay. These GMOs were quietly introduced into the US food supply about 20 years ago. So, why do I believe GMOs are so bad for us?
- There have been no long term studies on the effects of GMOs on people. Anecdotally, we’ve seen lots of changes in personal health linked to diet over the last 20 years, especially among children, including increases in obesity, food allergies, Type II diabetes, cancer, etc. Coincidence? I don’t know and no one’s studied it. But it sure makes me take pause.
- Animal testing to date suggests GMOs cause cancer, digestive issues and infertility. Years ago, we saw horrific health effects on animals from exposure to nicotine and cigarettes, yet it took decades before science and the tobacco industry conceded that smoking is bad for people. I’m not willing to risk my family’s health on the GMO science experiment.
- GMOs have been shown to require growing use of increasingly powerful pesticides, as weeds and pests adapt and change. Sticking to organic products isn’t enough, as these pesticides not only get into the food but pollute the air and water supply used by us all.
- GMOs are being touted as safe by their originators – the same chemical companies that invented DDT and Agent Orange, namely Monsanto and Dow. Even the government agencies currently tasked with overseeing food safety, such as the FDA and USDA, have strong ties to these chemical companies, which makes me skeptical of their impartiality.
For those reasons and many more, I support Prop 37. Despite what the opposition to Prop 37 says, it’s a simple labeling law that would require manufacturers of processed foods to label if their ingredients include GMOs. Fifty countries around the world – representing more than 40% of the world’s population – already required GMO labeling including Europe. Japan, India and China.
The opposition to Prop 37 is spending about $1 million a day to defeat this measure. These companies aren’t defending their products as safe, beneficial or superior. Nor are they spending their dollars educating consumers about GMOs. Instead, opponents are attacking the proposition as flawed, burdensome and ultimately costly to consumers as a scare tactic. In fact, most consumers, when asked, would like to know if foods contain GMOs so they can avoid them. Monsanto, the biggest contributor to the “No on 37” effort concedes this fact, as the president of one of their subsidiaries once said, “If you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull a crossbones on it.”
If Prop 37 passes, Californians will continue to be free to choose what we want to eat and how to feed our families. We’ll just be armed with accurate information to make informed choices. As the expression goes, when California sneezes, the country gets a cold. I believe we have an opportunity to start a food advocacy movement with health and environmental benefits for the country.
As for me, I’ve started contacting manufacturers of foods my family likes to determine whether they contain GMOs. Based on what I’ve learned, our family has:
- Discontinued eating certain brands/products
- Found organic alternatives (legally, organic products must be GMO free)
- Switched to comparable GMO free products (private label Trader Joe’s brand items are all GMO free)
I encourage you all to learn more about the facts on Prop 37. I hope your informed decision on this Proposition will result in an ability for all of us to make informed choices on our food in the future.