Part 1 described what GMOs are and we spoke about some details of GMOs. If you missed the article, go to recent articles to read Part 1. Today’s issue includes Part 2, I continue to interview Michael Funk, Women For Natural Living’s expert, for more insight on GMOs. Enjoy!
MO: Is there a link between the “Just Label It movement” and the “Non-GMO Project”? What is the primary role of your project? I know that folks are working on a federal initiative and a California one, to work toward labelling our food. Does that go hand in hand with your cause?
MF: Well there isn’t a link directly in anyway at all. I think all of these initiatives that are going on today are all a product of consumer’s concern about GMOs in the food supply. The Just Label It folks many of them are supporters of the Non-GMO project as well; members of the Just Label It campaign are members of the Non-GMO Project and same with the California Initiative. Everyone is trying to attack this problem from a variety of ways and the Non-GMO Project is a voluntary label program and we don’t need federal laws and state laws. We’re doing this voluntarily and it’s our belief that we weren’t going to get any help from either the federal of the state government on this so we better do it ourselves so that was the impetus. Recently people have felt like we need to pressure Washington DC and we need to make sure the legislature knows about the concerns. You’ve heard the presentation with Just Label It and how many signatures they’ve got now and apparently they’re getting the attention of lawmakers in Washington so who knows what may come out of that. Then on the state California side the initiative with the folks putting the ballot initiative together for this fall are trying to attack it from a point of view that we may not get the legislators to vote on this, but maybe the voters themselves will enact this law because of California’s initiative process, and if a law was made in California then the rest of the country will probably follow suit. The goal from the whole thing is to make sure consumers have the right to know and if you don’t believe in buying GMOs that you’re able to avoid them from some type of label regimen, either the mandatory label side that’s going on with California and the federal petition or the voluntary label law that the Non-GMO project is giving people right now. Ideally down the road we would have a mandatory label law like Europe and other countries, but if that doesn’t happen the Non-GMO project gives people the right to know just on a voluntary basis.
MO: Who do you think is responsible for allowing genetically engineered practices: Is it food companies, the FDA, chemical companies? Is it true that there’s a monopoly by Monsanto in the ownership of genetically modified practices? What are your thoughts on that front?
MF: Well that’s a big question, I mean you could go back to the 80s when the FDA actually ruled that there was no difference between genetically modified corn and regular corn and that kind of set the stage for the whole patent law. I guess the initial thing was in the court cases that gave these companies the ability to patent life forms that set the stage for everything that came after. The FDA many considered to be very lax about testing and for many cases they took the biotech company’s own testing results and didn’t really do much more. Certainly the biotech industry is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington DC and they give more to campaigns than just about anybody except maybe the oil industry. They’re very powerful and for years the administration in Washington, both the Democrats and Republicans, viewed biotech as a very strategic industry. We were using it for a lot of exports and they encouraged them to a greater degree, and I think maybe they didn’t apply the same scrutiny to this industry than we would have liked to have seen. As far the companies themselves go, Monsanto is just one of many companies that produce these crops and all of these companies that are big in GMOs are also big in pesticide and herbicide production. One of the things I like to point out to people is when you go back to the end of World War 2 when the Green Revolution occurred, all the pesticides and herbicides that started to be sprayed on our farmland were all produced by the same companies. Monsanto was famous for producing DDT for example and Syngenta and Bayer and DuPont, all the companies producing the GMOs today were the original companies that gave us pesticides. I always look at it that there are a lot of similarities in that these new chemicals were coming to market and they said that they were safe and there was nothing to worry about, they said they would feed the world, and they said they were good for farmers. All these things they said later many of these things proved to be very false, and it’s the same companies now telling us that GMOs are safe, good for farmers, and they’re going to feed the world. It’s almost the exact same argument and it’s kind of like why are we trusting them this time because they lied to us the first time? I think that’s one thing that sticks with people: who exactly is telling us that these things are safe?
MO: Obviously avoiding GMOs makes perfect sense to me and to you, but what would you say is the best way to bring awareness to the public about it? My goal is to inform women around the world about this topic, however, a lot of consumers don’t know about GMOs so what would you say is the best way to raise awareness?
MF: Well I think you let people know that a lot of the food they’re buying in the grocery store could contain – certainly GMO corn, soy, canola oil, and now sugar, and that’s in many products, and that’s enough to start being concerned about, but the even bigger concern is what’s potentially ahead. A lot of people have heard about GMO salmon and I think when it’s an animal it’s more dramatic for people and they can react in a stronger way. For the last year we’ve been hearing about the government trying to potentially approve GMO salmon, and it’s still under review with the FDA, but there’s literally every animal that we eat, all the livestock animals, there’s a GMO animal ready to be applied or approved eventually for consumption. Almost every food that we eat there is a GMO alternative waiting. Today it may be a concern, but tomorrow the future looks like our choices for non-GMO things may disappear as these companies if they are successful with selling the public these items they can out-compete the smaller producers and limit our choices. I mean it’s not just health problems; I think health problems are one thing everybody can relate to, but the environmental issues, the impact on wildlife, impact on insect and bird population. There’s lots of evidence about how some of the GMO corn pollen is affecting butterflies, insects, and other birds, and there’s just a host of unanswered questions here. I would just say wouldn’t we rather be safe than sorry? We know that there are problems eating pesticides and we know there are problems eating growth hormones. The popularity of organic and more natural food has crossed over into mainstream now even though the big companies a lot of times still deny that there are any problems there. People just know instinctively that it’s not true and there are problems with eating those foods, especially to our kids.
For more information on the Non-GMO Project’s testing and verification of risk ingredients and processed foods, please see the Non-GMO Project Standard. Visit: www.nongmoproject.org
If you agree that you have a right to know if the food you are eating has been genetically engineered, send a message to the FDA today. With just one click, you can show your support for the FDA petition requiring the labeling of GE foods and win back your right to know. Also visit: www.justlabelit.org
Right now, we have the choice to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms). We can choose organic products, which, by law, are required to be grown and processed without the use of GMOs.
We also have the right to know what we are eating, and the right to make informed choices about what we eat.
To be continued… Stay tuned for part 3 of this interview coming next week.