GMO Food Labeling Deception

GMO Food Labeling DeceptionAre you equipped to navigate the food labeling deception? Going to the grocery store today is both a difficult and time consuming task. In order to be a savvy consumer, you have to read labels if you want to know what you are eating. Due to labeling regulatory loop-holes, it is almost impossible to decode what the product contains. Unfortunately, the art of reading food labels almost requires being a professor in chemistry: long lists with weird and confusing names that do not make sense. They no longer resemble foods that your grandmother would have known. Are they derived from plant, animal, petri dish or genetic fabrication? One wonders, what are these strange ingredients doing in our food?

Food Labeling Deception

However, at the far bottom of the label, there is ONE piece of useful information. It relates to possible food allergens (“contains gluten, soy, dairy, shellfish, nuts,” etc.). But one very significant piece of information is missing – whether or not the food contains or is based upon engineered, synthetic or artificial elements. People expect these factors be made known in labeling. Our bodies do not recognize these newer foods and substances. When foods are alien to our bodies, there is a significant potential for allergic and toxic reactions. In order to guard our own health, it is crucial to know what is in the food we eat. If regulation allows labeling of some ingredients that people have reactions to, then we should be able to label “engineered foods” as well.

Zero Safety Studies Done on Bio-Engineered Foods

How might humans react to these new foods? Actually, nobody really knows for sure (not yet that is). The FDA does not test for the safety of bio-engineered foods before they approve and allow them on the market. In fact, they rely upon the manufacturing company to provide sufficient information to determine food safety. The process of “approval” is subjective, voluntary for manufacturers, contains no transparency, and is absent of thorough “safety” measures for consumers (e.g. informed consent and long term testing). The FDA makes “consultations” available to manufactures if the manufacturer believes there might be a safety concern. If a manufacturer has a fundamental belief that there are no safety concerns with their product, they do not have to schedule a consultation. The list of FDA finalized consultations and their outcomes is quite long, but remains an optional step before these products might turn up on a supermarket shelf (or are fed to livestock).

The only research presented to the FDA is based upon the discretion of the manufacturing company. NO independent research is requested by the FDA. How our bodies might react to these newer, manipulated foods is not investigated. Monsanto themselves state that it is not necessary to test for safety, because their crops are considered “substantially equivalent” to their conventional counterpart. Well isn’t that nice and reassuring? Who then is looking out for our safety? In short…NOBODY! No-one addresses the potential long-term effects. We may not drop dead an hour after we eat a food…but what happens five, ten or even thirty years later? Or what happens to the developing fetus of a pregnant woman, who is consuming engineered foods?

While a label is needed, “GMO” is both insufficient and misleading.

GMO is the most commonly used term to describe a food that is “different.” It has been helpful in highlighting the emergence of new, technology-based foods, but the term is no longer functional. Unfortunately, when referring to “GMO,” most people only think of pesticide resistant corn, soy, cotton and perhaps canola…and Monsanto. However, the list of engineered foods is considerably longer and Monsanto is not the only company involved. Dow Agro, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF and others are also creating engineered foods. A GMO label would not provide details on exactly how a food was either created, manufactured or constructed. Specifically, it does not identify foods created through synthetic means.

Most of our current produce (e.g. the straight cucumber, the uniform red tomato, the common banana, the Navel orange and most commercial grains) are modified on the genetic level already (through skills learned through generations – known as cultivation and hybridization). Hybridization and cultivation were achieved through hard, meticulous work, patience, trial and error. These are understood to be the “conventional” produce, but actually include organic as well.

The primary argument used by corporations against a so-called GMO label is that their products are no more modified than the conventional. This is the problem with the term “genetically modified organism.” It is too broad. And this is the point where the opposing parties clash and what is the essence of the new ‘anti labeling bill’ H.R.1599.

USDA-Organic is allowed to contain synthetics.

Legislators that are against labeling claim the consumer is already provided the “right to know” through the option of buying US Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certified foods.

Unfortunately, this is incorrect, since up to 5% of products that are labeled USDA-certified may be of non-organic and/or synthetic origin. Currently when people buy organic, they assume that they are not buying synthetic or engineered foods. However, even when choosing USDA organic, one might still be consuming synthetically engineered products.

The newer foods, that concerned consumers are asking to be labeled, are biologically and chemically altered through artificial methods that would not take place in nature on its own (e.g. artificial insertion of toxins into corn). These synthetic changes, whether biological or chemical, constitute a significant difference from the centuries old methods done in collaboration with nature. Therefore they should be required to be labeled. One organic product which includes synthetic ingredients is flour from Arrowhead Organic. The flour is enriched with synthetic vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid and niacin).

The concerning irony of it all, food manufacturers are not required to rename this “new” food. They still call it the food we have always known (e.g. corn or even cornstarch or cornflakes). So, when on a shelf, we don’t recognize the older corn from the newer engineered corn. They’ve even taken it outside of produce and are now working on animals (e.g. a human-breast-milk-producing cow).

Novelty Foods – A Lab-Created Food Supply

The rise of bio engineering began in the late 1970’s and had long manifested itself within the drug industry, before it reached your table.

  • The growing of engineered crops was established in the United States from the very beginning of the innovation.
  • It began in 1996, constituted 4.2 million acres, and was used for both human and animal food as well as for industrial purposes.
  • One of the justifications for the start of bio-engineered crops was that “consumers wanted it.”
  • Were you asked?
  • The magnitude of the field of bio-engineered food has grown ever since, expanding to a whopping 447 million acres in 28 countries in 2014.
  • We are STILL not asked.
  • In fact, when some were asked, 57% of people said they would choose non-genetically modified foods (non-GMO). People would rather eat real food! And even more importantly, over 90% of those asked said they would prefer labeling informing them what is in their food.
  • Despite this, U.S. legislators continue to try to keep us in the dark and prevent us from knowing what is in our food via the current HR 1599, titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015,” but dubbed the “DARK Act” by opponents (Deny Americans the Right to Know).
  • Pursuant to HR 1599, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be responsible for determining which foods are “safe.” The person presently in charge, and responsible for food labeling in the FDA, is Michael Taylor, who was formerly the Vice President of Monsanto (one of the leading developers of bio-engineered foods globally).

Summary: bio-engineered foods silently entered our food supply without our knowledge or permission, we were told that they are “safe,” and now they refuse to tell us which foods contain it! We are being treated as if we are expendable lab rats.

 

Established History of Exposure Cover-Ups

The track record of the engineered crop and substance companies are not comforting. We are still feeling the aftermath of lead, PCB, DDT, dioxin, Thalidomide, methyl mercury and a lot more chemicals, pesticides and drugs. NOTE most companies still do not acknowledge their responsibility despite massive cases following contamination – cases are settled, not sentenced in court. We had research proving the toxins hazardous decades before they were forced to cease or reduce production or initiate environmental clean-up.

Based on what we now know of accumulated toxic effects of these and other chemicals, who determines long term safety of bio-engineered food substances and the pesticides used to grow them? Who determines what is allowed to be produced (e.g. will human DNA be allowed to be inserted into a plant)? Might we soon have a potato crossed with an insect (calling it a “potsect”)?

By not labeling which foods contain bio-engineered and synthetic ingredients, we are left in the dark and denied the option of utilizing an informed choice. We no longer know what we are eating. That’s been intentional. Those who grow or create our food have become corporations (even massive industrial farms). The small organic farmer is becoming an endangered entity — limiting our sources of unaltered and non-constructed foods. Corporations, food manufacturers and the large farming industry want to keep us confused. They continue altering our foods at their own discretion for corporate profit, in the alleged name of reducing hunger, increasing yields and limiting pesticide use (which has proven incorrect). Our own government does not assure our, nor the organic farmers’, safety. And now they refuse to label and deny us to even know what is in our food!

More than 60% of processed foods now contain engineered products

    • Virus-resistant papaya (from Hawaii)
    • Alfalfa
    • Rapid growing salmon (with eel gene)
    • Non-browning apples from Canada (inhibited gene)
    • Beta-carotene enhanced “Golden Rice”
    • Eggplants
    • Yeast (bread, beer, wine)
    • Cheese (chymosin)
    • Additives/supplements (riboflavin/Vitamin B2, ascorbic acid/Vitamin C, turmeric, beta-carotene, etc.)
    • Synthetic bio vanillin
    • Potatoes (lower acrylamide)
    • Many more (as recognized by the European Union)

 

We need a transparent, fully informed label — something to replace the outdated “GMO.”

As stated above, the use of the GMO term is too vague. Because a majority of our food supply is now bio-engineered, a new term is called for. What do we call this new class of food? Perhaps the term “SynBio” would be more fitting. SYN: Not only are many of these foods synthetic, future productions are already on the way of complete synthetic (e.g. vanilla). BIO: The complete biochemistry of the food and how it interacts with our own has been changed. A SynBio (or SynBio Engineered/SBE) label would encompass the new types of foods, whether they have been changed through genetic means, use of enzymes, chemicals or other synthetic means.

We have a right to know what is in our food – what our food has become. Organic foods are not always what they seem to be. The GMO term is outdated and not constructive towards proper labeling. Corporations have thus far succeeded in arguing against labeling, since most modern produce is already modified through cultivation and hybridization. The activities in support of GMO labeling have actually been blocking the process of achieving complete transparency in labeling. If we truly want full disclosure, the first step is to reject the DARK Act (HR 1599). Contact your legislator to request that they reject the DARK Act. The next is to require labeling of all engineered foods. Encourage your legislator instead to REQUIRE labeling of engineered foods in the name of full disclosure and informed consent. Also be sure to ask your supermarket or grocer for more disclosure. And finally, get involved in determining a label for said engineered foods – one that is more specific and all-inclusive. We’ve suggested the use of SynBio (or SBE).

Thank you for your passion and camaraderie. Please share this blog to bring awareness toward labeling laws. The matter is urgent if we are to influence the rejection of the DARK act. The wider we spread this knowledge, the more awareness brought to this issue, the larger chance we as consumers have to make a difference.

Written in collaboration between The Inquisitive Inquirer and Angela Griffiths, DC.

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2 Responses to GMO Food Labeling Deception

  1. Our country has been in an uphill battle concerning food labeling since 1906 when food safety laws were first written. At the time, there was no knowledge about manipulating the DNA of our foods or about transgenic foods so no consideration in the laws were made for these new foods that have since plagued our food supply. Politics and money play a huge role in how our food labeling system has developed. Corporations such as Monsanto use their financial might to prevent any required labeling that may give the buyer the impression that their food is tainted or unhealthy or inferior to comparable foods that have not been modified by their biotechnology. These big corporations use the FDAs science based approach to their advantage by putting the burden of proof that their products that have been modified in some way are digested differently and have adverse effects on humans, which is difficult to prove without a shadow of a doubt because our technology is not advanced enough to do this, and these foods have not been in existence for long enough for long term studies. Not only do corporations use their financial might in lobbying Congress for laws that serve their financial interests, they also use their bullying tactics in other ways to protect their interests. The rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone) debate caused quite a stir, as Monsanto fought long and hard for FDA approval. This hormone makes the cows produce more milk, but it also causes mastitis and increased WBCs in the cows. Since it could not be proven that the increased WBC was due to the hormone or due to the increased milk production, Monsanto’s lobbying efforts paid off and rBGH was approved.1(201) Concerned milk producers decided to label their products “BGH-free”, and again Monsanto went to bat to prevent this type of labeling to squash the competition. However, this time the small dairy companies won their right to label their products “BHG-free”, but due to Monsanto’s lobbying efforts, they also had to add “No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBGH-treated and non-rBG-treated cows.” so as not to imply that their milk was superior in some way to Monsanto’s rBGH-treated milk. In contrast to Monsanto’s strategy, Calgene Corp. sought FDA approval for their bio-engineered products, and took the gamble that with FDA approval and proper labeling that the public would think their product safe. They were right! Once their transgenic tomatoes were FDA approved, they literally “flew” off the grocery shelves paving the way for other companies to achieve FDA approved for their products! Nestle states that labeling continues to be more of a political stance that supports the big corporations than it is to support the health and welfare of the people it is supposed to protect. Nestle questions our democratic system since more than half of our processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients that are not labeled as such. Nestle suggests that the lack of labeling only justifies our outrage because after all, don’t we all deserve the right to know about our foods? I happen to agree with Nestle in that we deserve the right to know and the food companies should be forced into transparency. If their GMO foods are in fact superior, then tell us about it! If they are not superior, then give the consumer the right to choose. The people who don’t really take interest in the foods they eat will still buy the GMOs even if labeled, especially if priced right. Personally, I would like to see the policy of “plant first” changed to “prove first” in regards to the bio-engineering of our food supply. I would also like to see mandatory GMO labeling here as well, and less restrictions allowing the non-GMO foods to label their foods as such. Industry has a moral and legal obligation to provide safe, clean food above and beyond all else. But, like I said in last week’s discussion, change will not happen until the benefit of change is greater than the benefit of staying “status quo”. We will eventually get there, but not until we incur many “outrageous” incidents with significant morbidity and mortality from our current system.
    The food labeling laws that protect corporate interests have resulted in an inferior food supply for the American people. When I go to the grocery store, I feel like the only “safe” foods to buy are on the outer perimeter! Before I read Nestle’s Safe Food, I didn’t give much thought about the politics surrounding my foods, and was in a state of denial about GMOs being in only a small portion of the foods available to me. I thought most of the GMOs were in chips, breads, and products with high fructose corn syrup(HFCS), but I have come to realize that 75% of our foods contain GMOs. Now I have a dilemma as to what is really safe to eat? Luckily, due to a huge grass-roots campaign to keep GMOs out of organic foods, I can feel relatively safe when making organic food choices. However, we are far behind Europe in providing safe food choices for our people. Nestle states the reasons for this is because we are less politically active, we trust technology more than Europeans, we place more trust our regulatory agencies, and most of us live in the city and we have lost contact with the roots of where our food comes from. When GMO labeling sparked a public outcry in Europe, there were hundreds of negative articles on the subject. Since American politicians are generally despised by the Europeans, when Clinton put pressure on the British government to accept our GMO crops, the newspapers ripped him shreds. Currently there is a growing effort in the grass-roots arena here in America to push for GMO labeling. There are two pending bills in Congress: To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require that genetically engineered food and foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients be labeled accordingly. These two bills are sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) in the House of Representatives, and by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the Senate.
    GMOs are here to stay whether we like it or not. Even with tighter labeling requirements, we are likely to continue to have GMOs from now on. Nestle lists theoretical and current applications of food biotechnology in his book, Safe Food in Table 11. Some of the items on his list that could be beneficial to us that I agree with are:
    • improve flavor, texture, or freshness.
    • increase levels of vitamins, protein, and other nutrients.
    • reduce saturated fatty acids in plant seed oils.
    • increase grain content of scare amino acids.
    • strengthen disease resistance in food animals.)
    If I had any input as to which direction biotechnology should be used in benefiting humans, I would use it to:
    • grow plants that feed on toxic waste and pollution, especially in landfills.
    • grow plants that can clean our waterways of oil spills.
    • grow plants that are considered “super foods” for their nutrient dense content to use as vitamins.
    • grow plants that have a high mineral content.
    • increase omega 3 fatty acids in plant seed oils
    I think some of these technologies may already be underway, but only the future knows what direction biotechnology will take us. I hope it will be to a better understanding and a more responsible use of the technology.
    1. 1. Nestle, M. Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety. University of California Press. Berkley and Los Angeles, CA. 2010.
    2. . Environmental Working Group. Genetically Engineered Food: We have the right to know what is in our food. April 2014. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. Accessed November 3, 2014.
    3. Environmental Working Group. Learn More About GE Foods. April 2014. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. Accessed November 3, 2014.

    • Thanks for sharing your prior paper, Gail. While I agree with some of what you wrote, the difference we are suggesting in this blog is that we do NOT want to continue the use of “GMO” and/or “non-GMO” in labeling as they are too broad and do not allow the consumer full disclosure of what foods contain synthetic ingredients.

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