On November 6, Californians will have an opportunity to vote on an initiative that can potentially have an impact on our health, our children’s health, and our environment. The initiative is called the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act of 2012, and it requires that food sold in California retail outlets (not restaurants) must be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.
Even if you don’t live in California, please read on, as we hope that this is just the beginning of a groundswell of voters in this country working to take control of their health and assert their right to know what’s in their food.
I, along with other bloggers and news sources, was asked to join the CA Right to Know Label GMOs Evangelist Team. Our goal is to get the word out about the need for the CA Right to Know Initiative, and to let Californians know that we have a chance to have a say in our health by demanding (voting) that we are told what is in our food.
First a little information. The subject of genetically engineered food is very complex, and to completely understand the implications and risks, I would require much more space than I have here. I hope only to pique your interest, to send you on your own quest for information, and to take the first steps toward protecting your family’s health by becoming an informed consumer.
What is Genetically Engineered Food?
A genetically engineered food, also called a genetically modified organism (or GMO), is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds in that food. This type of genetic alteration is not found in nature. Today, as much as 85% of corn and a majority of soy in the U.S. is genetically engineered to either produce its own pesticide or withstand increased amounts of weed killer pesticide. The FDA is currently considering approving a GE salmon that has been altered with an eel gene to promote faster growth. Source
How do I Know if I’m Eating Genetically Engineered Food?
You don’t. Most of the processed foods we eat and feed our children contain genetically engineered ingredients, but we have no way of knowing which because these foods aren’t labeled. Source
Is Genetically Engineered Food Safe?
The risk of genetically engineered foods is unclear. Unlike the strict safety evaluation required for the approval of new drugs, the safety of genetically engineered foods for human consumption is not adequately tested. Studies show that genetically engineering food can create new, unintended toxicants and increase allergies, and other health problems. In 2011, Canadian researchers reported that 93% of pregnant women’s blood and 80% of their fetal cord blood samples contained a toxin found in a genetically engineered corn that produces its own pesticide (Bt corn). Source
The U.S. is the only developed country that does not require safety testing of genetically engineered foods. Our government leaves it up to Monsanto and other chemical corporations to decide whether or how they genetically engineer food, without conducting any health studies and without notifying consumers. Source
Are My Kids Eating Genetically Engineered Food?
The sad truth is many of the foods that are most popular with children contain GMOs. Cereals, snack bars, snack boxes, cookies, processed lunch meats, and crackers all contain large amounts of high risk food ingredients. In North America, over 80% of our food contains GMOs. Source
What Are the Most Common GMOs?
The most common GMOs are soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow). Many of these items appear as added ingredients in a large amount of the foods we eat. For instance, your family may not eat tofu or drink soy milk, but soy is most likely present in a large percentage of the foods in your pantry.
GMOs may be hidden in common processed food ingredients such as: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products. Source
Are You Scared Yet?
If not, watch the following video. It is long, but it is so important to hear Robyn O’Brien’s story of how she went from a Wall Street career, to stay-at-home Mom, to a Real Food Evangelist.
If you’re like I was when I first started researching, you are probably shocked that there is no requirement that consumers be informed about genetically engineered food. After all, 50 countries, with more that 40% of the world’s population already label genetically engineered food. Even China labels genetically engineered foods. Source
So why are we not being told? Unfortunately, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public. Source
Consumers have a right to know what’s in the food we buy, eat and feed our children, just as we have the right to know how many calories are in our food, or whether food comes from other countries like Mexico or China. The same goes for whether our meat, dairy, fruits, or vegetables are genetically engineered in a laboratory. We should all be able to make informed choices, and have the freedom to choose whether to buy genetically engineered food or not. Source
Have I convinced you? Are you now asking, “What can I do?”
First of all, read, research, click the links in the post, learn what you can about the health effects of genetically engineered food. There is no such thing as too much information.
Buy organic when you can, but realize that although GMOs are excluded under the National Organic Program, organic certification does not require GMO testing.
If you’re in California, you can vote for the California Right to Know Initiative on November 6. Update! As I am writing this post, I just received an email to let me know that the Initiative has a number. Please, for the health and safety of yourself and your family, Vote Yes on Prop. 37!
You can follow @carighttoknow on Twitter. You can tweet: Yes on Prop 37! Consumers have the right to know about #GMOs. #CARightToKnow #LabelGMOs #YesOn37 http://bit.ly/yeson37
You can like Carighttoknow on Facebook. You can share this post with your Facebook friends: Big News! @California Right To Know is Proposition 37 on the November ballot! On November 6th, vote YES on 37. We have a fundamental right to know what’s in the food we eat & feed our families, so we can make informed choice. The measure requires genetically engineered foods and ingredients to be labeled in California. Read more here: http://bit.ly/yeson37
You can click on the link below for more information about the Initiative:
If you are also a blogger, you can join in the fight by clicking here.
If you’re not in California, you can still involved. The Non-GMO Project is a nationwide, non-profit organization that provides North America’s only third-party labeling and verification for non-GMO products and food. Again, education is the key. Spread the word. Be an activist. When people understand the potential risks associated with genetically engineered food, 90% support mandatory labeling. Together we can be stronger than the lobbies.
I know this was a long post, but I hope that you’ve read every word, clicked through to each link, watched the whole video, because this is important to all of us and to our children.