I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our food systems are under attack. And no, they’re not under attack from some foreign terrorist organization, but they’re under attack by the biotech agriculture industry, industrial ag trade groups and their power to influence the US Department of Agriculture (from the inside out, as well), and worst of all, by the behemoth of industrial ag, the corporate food giant Monsanto.
One of the biggest concerns on the table is the lack of truth in labeling and consumer protection from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and from industrial-scale factory farms, or Contained Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). As of right now, consumers have no protections to choose NOT to eat foods grown with genetically modified ingredients, or if the animal products that we’re eating have been raised in confined feed lots – because there is no requirement by the government to label foods produced this way.
Think it doesn’t affect you? Consider that up to 90% of all major US grown crops are grown with genetically engineered seed and can be used in human and animal foods without any safety testing or labeling to let us know what’s been used. This includes US GMO-grown corn, soybeans, canola, and sugarbeets and cotton, which have made their way in to approximately 80% of current grocery store items. (Don't know if you're eating GMOs? If you’re not buying organically produced foods or growing your own vegetables and raising your own animals for food, you’re probably eating genetically modified foods in most of the foods you’re consuming today – breakfast, lunch and dinner.)
If you’re a meat eater, the US Department of Agriculture statistics show that the majority of animal products produced in the US today are raised on confined feed lots, or CAFOs, are fed with genetically modified feed, and are injected with genetically engineered hormones and vaccines.
Genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST), also manufactured by Monsanto, is a genetically engineered variant of the natural growth hormone produced by cows. Sold under the trade name Posilac, cows injected with this hormone forces them to increase milk production by about 10% – with the unfortunate side effect that they need massive doses of antibiotics and vaccines to counter increased incidence of mastitis, lameness and reproductive complications from having to withstand the stress of being milked 3 times a day and producing larger quantities of milk. It also shortens their lifespan down to about 2 years. (No worries! They’re turned into McDonald’s patties after that, so no food gets wasted.) Milk produced with rBGH or rBST has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer. Is that really surprising, that an animal injected with a growth hormone would affect hormone levels and hormone-related cancers in humans? Yuck. We’re way behind as consumers in the US in demanding the reversal of the use of GM growth hormones: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, the European Union, among other countries, have already banned rbGH because of its impacts on human and animal health.
Genetically modified foods are grown not to make healthier food for you and for me, but so that crops can withstand repeated, heavy application of weed killers – and still survive and be turned into food. Yum! GE crops were first introduced in the 1990s, and pesticide use has only increased – it hasn’t eliminated weeds or the need to reduce weeds. Instead, weeds have become stronger (they’re weeds - quickly becoming super weeds) and our food has become more toxic.
Just how toxic are these GMO foods? Even though there is no government regulated safety testing done on GMOs, independent scientists are warning that GMOs increase cancer risks, trigger allergies, have damaging impact on soil fertility, harm food quality, create ever upward spiraling antibiotic-resistant pathogens, create super pests and super weeds, harm beneficial insects, bees and butterflies, and create increasing dependence on heavier pesticide producing toxic by-products including contaminated water. And, of course, they contaminate organic and non-GMO crops because of airborne pollen drifting from GMO fields to non-GMO fields.
How safe do you feel knowing that all of this is happening without having a right to choose which foods you will buy based on how they were grown? I don’t feel safe at all. At the very least, we have the right to know what is in our food - and food labeling is the most basic of requirements for the consumer to be able to make a real choice.
If you're concerned, I would urge you to ask your federal, state, and local politicians to commit to truth-in-labeling and your right to know as a consumer by supporting mandatory GMO labels on all foods. Protect your health by buying certified organic foods, and supporting small farmers who are committed to growing with sustainable, organic methods by buying a CSA (community supported agriculture) share or by shopping at a local farmer’s market.
If you’re really mad, consider marching at the Minnesota State Capitol tomorrow, Saturday, March 26 in the Millions Against Monsanto campign from noon to 2pm. (Don't live in Minnesota? Find out where to march in your state here.)
Our consumer protection, food freedom, our health and the health of our children depends on us demanding a right to know.