What are Genetically Modified Organisms?
GMO’s are plants or animals created through the process of genetic engineering. This experimental technology forces DNA from one species into a different species. The resulting GMOs are unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional breeding. The majority of GMO crops are engineered to produce Bt in their DNA. Bt is a protein that is toxic to chewing insects and is produced by the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and has long been used as a biological pesticide. Here is a Research Paper on the effects of Bt products in Humans. None of the genetically engineered traits in commercial production offer increased yields, drought tolerance or nutritional superiority.
How prevalent are GMO products?
In the US the statistics are staggering. The U.S. grows about as many GMO acres as the entire rest of the world COMBINED. Currently, commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres). The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that GMOs are now present in more than 75% of conventional processed food. Food and Water Watch has a great chronology of the introduction of GMO approvals. The European resource website GMO Compass provides more information on what food products play a role.
Over 64 Countries have some kind of labeling or restrictions on GMO products. As you can view on the World GMO Map from The Center for Food Safety, it is painfully evident that North America is bereft of any laws or regulations. Polls from MSNBC, The Organic Trade Association and CBS/New York Times indicate 87% to 96% of Americans support mandatory GMO labeling. This goes across party lines, as 93% of Democrats, 90% of Independents and 89% Republicans support labeling. Target is one of sixty retail chains to pledge not to sell GMO Salmon as the FDA nears its decision on the issue. According to SPINS data, sales of Non GMO verified products are growing the fastest in Gourmet and specialty channels.
California Prop 37 raised a tremendous amount of awareness, not only in California but also nationwide. Even with opponents outspending supporters more than 5 to 1, the initiative lost by only about 2 points. More than 6 million Californians voted in favor. There are currently over 37 states organizing mandatory labeling legislative efforts, with Connecticut and Maine being the first two to actually pass laws. The Non GMO project has a current list of initiatives here.
What are the resources?
If you want to get more involved, there are many resources available to you. You can start with the list of excellent educational videos on the Label GMO’s website. Recommended books are Seeds Of Deception and Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith, Your Right To Know by Andrew Kimball. Also read Seeds of Destruction by F. William Enghdahl; it is the history of the politics around GMOs and offers up some scary information. The Non GMO project has a great toolkit for managing the message.
Stay informed and be involved.
There are several organizations that need your support and involvement. The Center for Food Safety works on the front lines with legislation. The Non GMO Project verifies and labels products that do not contain GMOs. To date, 37 states have assembled a coalition with the common goal of winning mandatory labeling. Friends of the Earth have a Campaign for GE-Free Seafood. The Just Label It campaign has submitted over 1.2 million signatures urging the FDA to label GMO products. GMO Inside offers up a great BLOG. Lastly GM Watch releases GMO news from around the world.
Now more than ever the momentum is building. How will you be involved?