You Did It! The GMO Labeling Initiative WILL Be on the Ballot in California!May 1, 2012
Tomorrow, on May 2, the campaign will be turning in enough signatures to put the California Right to Know GMO labeling initiative on the ballot—nearly one MILLION signatures! This massive achievement represents the work of thousands of volunteers like you who are demanding the right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our families. ANH-USA has joined the campaign’s steering committee and is helping to plan and organize this important effort. Readers in California are invited to attend the celebration, which will be held simultaneously in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego. Join us in California on May 2 to celebrate!
But even if you can’t attend this historic event, you can help in a powerful way. ANH-USA is canceling our semi-annual membership drive. We are asking you to make your most generous donation to the Right to Know campaign instead.
If you think Monsanto is going to sit on the sidelines and let consumers win, you probably haven’t been reading the Pulse of Natural Health recently! As we reported throughout the last year, GE foods are being pushed through the USDA and FDA—agencies which happen to be widely staffed by former Monsanto executives—at a breakneck pace.
Monsanto and its “evil empire” are raising a multi-million dollar war chest to spread lies and propaganda to defeat the Right to Know Act. Just a few dollars from each supporter would make Monsanto’s war chest look like a toy chest!
This May 26 is the 20th anniversary of the FDA’s disastrous decision to deny consumers the right to know whether their food has been genetically engineered or not. On this day, ex-Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor (the current FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods) declared that genetically modified food was “substantially equivalent” to naturally grown food, and therefore should not be subject to any additional regulations.
Between now and May 26, the Right to Know Campaign is attempting to raise a one million dollar money bomb—online, through the mail, and on the phone—to support the California GE Foods Act and other state GMO-labeling campaigns.
A group of “Right to Know” public interest organizations and organic companies, have pledged to match the first million dollars raised in this nationwide “Drop the Money Bomb on Monsanto” campaign. They include:
- The Organic Consumers Association
- Food Democracy Now
- Nature’s Path
- Lundberg Family Farms
- Eden Foods, and
- the Organic Consumers Fund
The more you give, the more our matching donors will give. Your $5 will become $10, your $25 will become $50—your $500 will become $1,000! Let’s show the California Right to Know campaign the generosity that ANH-USA supporters are known for!
California’s labeling campaign will be a turning point in the battle against genetically engineered foods: if California requires labeling, it will be difficult for most manufacturers to create separate labels for their products sold in other states, which will be a great boon. But many food products are not sold nationally, so the battle needs to spread to other states as well.
Monsanto and their biotech allies have always been opposed to the labeling of their products, particularly the genetically engineered hormone rBGH that forces cows to artificially increase milk production by 10 to 15 percent; they use lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits to get their way. And it’s all because they’re scared. You may recall that in 1994, a Monsanto employee was quoted as saying, “If you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” People don’t want to consume GMOs, and they want to know what they’re eating.
The pro-GMO camp—the Coalition Against Costly Food Labeling—has already started their attack. Coalition spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks stated in a recent interview that the California legislation isn’t about the “right to know” but rather the “right to sue,” and claims it creates new opportunities for lawyers to file lawsuits without even “proof of violation.” This is a blatant untruth. The proposition outlines clear and specific requirements for labeling, and companies would be liable only if they were in violation—which means lawyers would need proof of the violation first. The bill has protections so that those who are in compliance never need to fear nuisance lawsuits.
Fairbanks also claims the bill will give rise to “bounty hunter lawsuits.” But there is no “bounty” built into the bill for plaintiffs who sue; there are only normal attorneys’ fees.
In the interview, Fairbanks makes the huge assumption that GMO is safe—even though most safety studies for GE foods have been conducted by industry (so they are hardly unbiased), and we have documented the many safety concerns scientists have about genetically engineered foods—sterilization in rats, potential allergenic effects, etc.
She conflates the gene splicing that happens in a lab with the sort of genetic modification that happens through hybrid planting techniques. These two techniques are wildly different, as our ANH-Europe colleagues point out:
Plant breeding works within the laws of nature. Nature doesn’t allow you to incorporate DNA from an unrelated species into a crop plant. It doesn’t, for example, allow you to put spider genes into maize plants. It also has a very specific rule system for allowing recombination of DNA between related species. It is therefore a gradual process and does not involve the forced introduction of foreign DNA, antibiotic marker genes and naked cauliflower mosaic virus into its native DNA.
Finally, she states that this measure “goes much further and is more extreme than any other [GE labeling ]requirement in the world.” This is patently absurd, as many countries have banned GE altogether—which the ballot initiative doesn’t even request.
Some fear that if you don’t label your product as containing GMOs and it turns out it has a trace of GMO that you didn’t know about, that they’ll be liable. However, that is not a concern: the proposition provides an exemption for companies that unknowingly used GE seed or food in their food product. A sworn statement from the company’s supplier that the ingredient or seed used was GE-free is enough to absolve the company from liability.
This provision also defeats the argument that foods will need to be tested to make sure it doesn’t contain GMOs, and that will be costly. In fact, the proposition doesn’t require food manufacturers to test anything. They can obtain a statement from the raw product manufacturer stating the food wasn’t raised with GMO, and that alone is sufficient—it protects them from need to label, it protects them from lawsuits, and it costs nothing.
Another argument the anti-labeling camp makes is that GE labeling itself will increase the cost of food. Research suggests that this is not true. Dr. Chris Viljoen, head of the GMO Testing Laboratory and the Department of Haematology and Cell Biology at the University of the Free State in South Africa, reported that a comprehensive EU study estimated that GMO labeling added no more than an additional 0.01% to 0.17% to the cost of food. And a 2007 study from Quebec’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food found that the initial fears of the cost were wildly inaccurate and would cost over Cdn$280 million less than estimated.
But let’s be reasonable here. Product packaging changes constantly. Every time they slap a “New and Improved!” or a “Now With 50% Less Sugar!” on the package, the labeling changes. Moreover, there is always a period of time before the provisions are enacted, so current stocks of packaging can be exhausted, and the new packaging can simply include the GMO in the new print run.
The point is, all of these complaints are merely attempts to throw shadow on the fact that polls consistently show that more than 90% of the public want to know if their food was produced using genetic engineering. It is our right to know what we are feeding our children. Period.
That’s why your donation to the Right to Know campaign is so very vital. As a special incentive, everyone who donates to the campaign through ANH-USA will receive a complimentary ANH-USA membership! Please give generously, spread this article to everyone you can, and encourage friends and family to donate as well.