By Jeff Kirkpatrick
(Author’s note: There are many people who want to ban GMOs, and there many reasons why they do. I believe there is more than sufficient evidence to argue for a ban on GMOs. Perhaps the best way to appreciate this article is to understand it in the context in which it was written. The issue of banning GMOs is an important one, but that is not the focus of this article. This is a response to Congress, about their support for the Dark Act, and to the proposal for something known as the QR code which requires a certain kind of smart phone. It is being promoted by the GMA (Grocery Manufacturer’s Association) and Senator Stabenow as a “solution” or “compromise” to NOT labeling GMOs directly on the food packages that contain them. Many of the arguments for labeling GMOs can also be used to argue for a ban, which will be addressed at a later date. (Should they be labeled or should they be banned – will a label on GMOs benefit the efforts towards achieving a ban, or is it a waste of energy and time?) Right now, the reality is that they are already in the marketplace and because they already are, it is imperative that they be labeled immediately; it is long overdue).
Let’s get right to the point: some members of the United States Congress are hell-bent on restricting the rights of the American people to know what kind of food they are eating and feeding their children. The latest proposal that has been sold by certain members of the Senate as a “compromise” for labeling GMO foods is the QR code and label system. It is not a “compromise.” It is another act of treason by members of the Senate who will do anything for the biotech industry – anything – including ignoring the will of over 90% of the American people.
The QR labels proposal is an insult to the intelligence of the American people. But then, since the beginning, the Dark Act has been built and promoted on a mountain of lies and disinformation, so at least there has been consistency in those politicians who support this entire violation of basic democratic principles by restricting the American citizens the right to know what they are eating. It is consistency in that those who support this bill not only undermine our basic sense of freedom to be informed consumers, and thus make the best choices for our families, but those supporters of this restriction are consistent in their endless insults that Americans would be “confused” by GMO labels. See, because we are all so stupid that we just can’t handle words on food products that say “genetically modified corn” instead of just “corn.” Just typing this out made my head explode from the confusion.
We refer to Representative Mike Pompeo’s recent bill as the DARK Act for Deny Americans the Right to Know because it is was a literal attempt to continue to do just that and make it even harder for mothers to know what they are feeding their children. It is a far more fitting name than the Orwellian title ‘Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.’ This bill has nothing to do with accuracy at all. And as far as safety is concerned, the only part of this that has to do with safety is that it is designed to be safe to the profit margins of the biotech industry.
By now you’ve heard all the arguments against QR codes. How they inherently discriminate against the poor, the disabled, the single parents and elderly (who are not so tech savvy); how it is a potential violation of our privacy since it ties to the food companies (assertion: they will perform data mining); how it will lead to more consumer costs in data fees; how it will add unnecessary time to shopping to scan the food products, wait for a connection, hope it works; how it is generally just a bad idea.
You may even have heard the religious aspect to this:
“Food is sacred. At the heart of Christian worship is a sacred meal, called the Eucharist of Holy Communion. Eating means life. No one has the right to keep us in the dark about what we eat or feed our children and families.” – Dan Hinkle, Episcopal pastor
Or have you considered the ethical aspects thoroughly enough?
“The right to democratic participation addresses the need for justice and equity, which are of major concern in the context of GMO-related decisions. Principles of justice may include gender equality, need, accountability, liability, and fair and democratic procedures. Many young people, particularly the poor and powerless, have little social entry point to influence decisions about GMOs. They should have the right to choose the product that best suits their needs. Of concern is the fact that future generations have no voice or vote in decisions taken on GMOs today, which means that ways must be found to ensure that their interests are taken into account.” (This quote is paraphrased).
Source: “Genetically Modified Organisms, Consumers, Food Safety and the Environment- FAO Ethics Series,” published by: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FOA); Rome, 2001.
But wait there’s more from the same source:
“The development of GMOs raises perhaps the broadest and most controversial array of ethical issues concerning food and agriculture today. As scientific progress presents us with evermore powerful tools and seemingly boundless opportunities, we must exercise caution and ensure thorough ethical consideration of how these should be used. Countries producing genetically modified products must have a clear and responsive regulatory policy and authoritative body to ensure that scientific risk analysis is carried out and that all possible safety measures are taken through testing before the release of biotechnology products, and afterwards through close monitoring. More important, the human rights to adequate food and democratic participation in debate and eventual decisions concerning the new technologies must be respected, as must the right to informed choice.”
Well anyone who knows anything about this understands that the regulatory authoritative bodies in the United States are completely lacking in all areas in this respect. And forget about the idea of “close monitoring” after these products have been released into the market place. Even WHO recommends that post marketing studies should be done. No such regulations exist regarding the potential health and environmental aspects of any GMO product after its release into the marketplace. (Makes a person wonder, how valid is that whole claim about GMOs being safe if no follow-up post-marketing studies are required? An absence of proof about something does not equate into positive proof about something you want to believe is true).
Sure. You’ve heard all that by now. Am I right?
You’ve heard how a voluntary system is not going to work for us – that we demand a required GMO label (not a voluntary label system). Think about it: since the time GMO foods have come into the market in 1994, only ONE company has voluntarily labeled ONE brand as genetically modified. ONE company, ONE brand.
The official FDA policy of voluntary GMO labels enacted over 14 years ago already has a proven track record – and it is a complete and utter failure.
But here’s the thing that burns me up. This is just another example of how some members of Congress are nothing more than puppets for the will of the biotech industry and who are making decisions against the overwhelming will of the American people. It is absolutely clear that a significant number of Congressional members will not be dissuaded in any way from their role as a servant for the industry; there is nothing that anyone can say that will change the minds of certain people. For these people, this entire dialogue is not about facts and/or the science of GMOs; nor is there any sense that the ethical aspects of this complex subject are even under any consideration whatsoever. It makes no difference to those certain people who are really nothing more than utter hypocrites. Consider Mike Pompeo, who sponsored the Dark Act; on his own webpage he addresses parents about education and says, “No one knows what’s best for your children better than you – as a parent – do.” Aside from the poor use of the English language, the obvious conclusion here is that no one knows better than a parent what is best for their child — except when it comes to being informed about the choices that parent makes about feeding those children – oh no. That decision is left up to Mike Pompeo and the supporters of the Dark Act. The clear message from him and the supporters is this: SHUT UP AND EAT IT.
Hypocrites – all.
And the free market principle is also subject to this hypocritical approach. Everyone knows the free market was the main fuel that fired the Reagan administration, and ever since his administration, the Republicans have justified almost every decision on every relevant legislative action on the theory that the free market should decide.
Well, guess what.
The free market only works when consumers are informed about the choices they make when they buy things. When consumers do NOT have information, when that is concealed from them, they cannot vote for or against products (GM foods) by their purchasing power. By NOT informing them, by restricting that access, consumers are forced to buy things that they are not informed about. This violates the free market principle.
“Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions.” Reagan said this in his address to students at Moscow State University May 31, 1988. Good enough for Russians, but not Americans?
“The free market can only work when consumers have the information they need to make informed choices among different products. It is absurd to claim that voluntary labeling addresses the issue. In the 14 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label genetically engineered foods, not one single company has done so. Without mandatory labeling, consumers are effectively being defrauded.” From “Stop Monsanto’s Dream Bill,” – Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance (excerpt from sample email).
“This is America. In this capitalist society we have a right to know what we’re buying in grocery stores to feed our families. And in this democracy we have a right to vote for or against a technology with our pocketbooks. These products are labeled in some 60 other countries; they should be labeled in the United States as well.” — Dr. Belinda Martineau PhD., former genetics engineer. (Dr. Martineau helped develop the first FDA approved GMO food and holds patents in that field).
“At the very least, in a Democratic society, in a civil society, we as consumers ought to be given a choice whether we do or do not want to become part of this massive experiment. So at the very least, surely you could put on the label whether or not there are genetically modified organisms in it,” David Suzuki, retired genetics engineer.
The Senate held a hearing on October 21, 2015. It was beyond a display of confirmation bias at its worst: everyone agreed that GMOs are absolutely safe, and nearly everyone agreed there was no need to label them. That was the first myth that was asserted: GMOs are safe, and so there is no need to label them.
This is not only an anti-science declaration but it also makes no sense. My car is green; therefore it’s time to take out the trash. See the logic? GMOs are ‘safe’ so we shouldn’t let consumers know anything about them in their food. Logic! Let me elucidate: without labels on GMOs, there is no traceability; without the ability to trace adverse health events from any specific product via GMO labels, the FDA does not see any adverse health events; because the FDA does not see any adverse health events because there are no labels to trace them, the FDA declares that an absence of proof of harm by their own failed policy means they are safe – and so they declare that labels are not necessary.
This brings up the two main myths that the DARK Act is built on and whose supporters not only continue to adhere to, but have such faith in them that the notion of science has been sucked into a void and replaced with a religious-type faith.
The first is the myth that “all GMOs are safe.” Such declarations are the embodiment of pseudoscience absurdity.
It is quite obvious that the Congressional members who support the Dark Act have surrounded themselves with those that are willing to say anything about GMO safety – except the truth. Belinda Martineau is a former genetics engineer who helped develop the first FDA approved GMO food (a tomato in 1994). She holds patents in the field, and yet, she has NEVER been called to Congress for advice about the labeling of GMOs or the safety of them either. Oh – that’s right – it’s because she tells the truth and is not just another biotech puppet.
Here is how she sees this absurd claim that all GMOs are “safe.”
“Suggesting that there is a scientific consensus ‘on the safety of genetic engineering’ generally, or on ‘the products of crop genetic engineering technology’ en masse is not only not scientific, it is illogical. Genetic engineering is a technology. Each product of any technology will (or at least can) be different; the various products of crop genetic engineering certainly are. And because each product is different — not only in the ways genetic engineers design and expect them to be, but also by potentially containing unique unintended and unexpected changes — the safety of each one must be assessed individually.
“The World Health Organization agrees: ‘Different G.M. organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual G.M. foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all G.M. foods.’
“Making general claims about the safety of genetic engineering, especially in light of previously commercialized yet worrisome products like StarLink corn, is therefore unscientific, illogical and absurd.” (This quote is paraphrased from two sources: Belinda Martineau, letter to the editor, “When Food Is Genetically Modified,” – The New York Times; and “The Products of GE Technology Must be assessed for Safety on a Case-By-Case Basis.” Biotech Salon – both dated October 31, 2015).
Let’s keep going here:
“Even if researchers did largely agree on GMO safety, that doesn’t make them correct. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, it only takes one study to prove a whole theory wrong – no matter how many scientists believed in it,” Dr. Margarida Silva, biologist and professor.
“Even if such a ‘consensus’ of GMO safety did exist, it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on. Science does not advance in the manner of a flock of sheep, by ‘consensus,’ but through the generation of new data. The new data in turn lead to new conclusions that build a new paradigm. It doesn’t matter if just one scientist or hundreds generate the new data. Galileo didn’t have ‘consensus’ support for his observation that the earth went round the sun. But because the data supported him, people eventually came round to admitting he was right,” Claire Robinson MPhil, GMWatch.
I could go on – but either you accept reality by now, or you don’t. Denial is a powerful aspect of the human mind.
“The intellectual’s struggle to deny the obvious is never more desperate than when reality is unpleasant and at variance with his preconceptions and when full acknowledgement of it would undermine the foundations of his intellectual worldview,” Anthony Daniels, Psychiatrist.
The next of the two main myths is that GMOs are necessary to feed the world. See, that’s completely unproven, and in fact, the evidence is clear that the assertion is utterly false.
I couldn’t believe it when Senator Casey mentioned a U.N. report published in 2009 that raised the subject of how to feed the world in 2050 (although he did not give the name, I believe it may have been: “How to Feed the World in 2050 – Proceedings of the Expert Meeting on How to Feed the World in 2050,” 24-26 June 2009, FAO Headquarters, Rome (514 pages) [FAO=Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations].
Sadly, he didn’t look further. Had Senator Casey done a little more research, he would have found that the UN published another report four years later, answering questions in the 2009 report – and guess what the findings of that report are? Agroecology and organic/small farms are the solution to feeding the world — not GMOs. That report is called: “Wake Up Before it is Too Late: Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now For Food Security In A Changing Climate.” It is published by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in March 2013 and is 338 pages long.
While he was digging around for reports from 2009, he could have, SHOULD have, cited a different report that came to a similar conclusion four years earlier. The report said the same thing: Agroecology and organic agriculture – not GMOs is the answer. “Agriculture at a Crossroads – Global Report,” edited by Beverly McIntyre, Hans Herren, Judi Wakhungu and Robert Watson; published by: IAASTD, 2009. (606 pages)
(IAASTD = International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development).
Why didn’t he reference this report since he was digging around in 2009? Did it have anything to do with the contributions that Monsanto has given to Senator Casey and/or the fact that Monsanto “resigned altogether from the IAASTD project.”* when the report was critical of GM agriculture? That’s just two sources of several.
For example, consider the following:
“The claim that GMOs are necessary to feed the world is no more than a self-serving advertising campaign, and it is unfortunate that some economists accept the claims of GMO proponents as a ‘technical fix’ to the world’s food problems without skepticism.”
“Not only is GMO research an ineffective way to address these problems, GM crops can threaten the cultivation of minor crops, such as neglected and underutilized plant species, which today constitute the basis of much subsistence farming.”
“GM crops will reduce the nutritional value and yield reliability of the food supply, and lead to a dangerous loss of biodiversity.”
“In short, the available evidence supports a focus on agrobiodiversity as a more appropriate technology to secure food production in a sufficiently high quantity and quality in the years to come than GM technology.” Source: Sven-Erik Jacobsen et al., “Feeding the World: Genetically Modified Crops Versus Agricultural Biodiversity,” Agronomy for Sustainable Development, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 651-662; October 2013.
Colin Todhunter coined the term “emotional blackmail” in reference to this myth.
If you don’t support GMOs, then people will die and you will be responsible.
Let’s clarify this: If Americans had GMO labels, that is, if they were informed consumers, then they would be condemning billions of people in the future to death through starvation. See how that works? There is no scientific evidence that GMOs are ever going to feed to world, and there is no logic to this to arbitrary conclusion.
It’s like saying, “Since today is Monday, it should rain at 3:00 in Japan on December 24 in the afternoon.” It does not fit the requirements of logic and reason. “GMOs will feed the world so people shouldn’t know they are eating them.” This is absurd.
I still don’t see how this illogical conclusion can be repeated over and over again and again – and not just by the biotech industry, but by certain members of Congress who fail to do research. (Most GM crops are used for fuel and feed for animals). It’s nothing more than the biotech industry’s selling point to push their products around the world in countries that do not want them. And members of the American government have bought the sales pitch – hook, line and sinker: it is a failure to do proper research and to stand up to the corporate entities and challenge their false declarations with the truth. It is cowardice.
“If there is no consensus [about the safety of GMOs], and there clearly is not, if double standards exist, and they certainly do, then why are we, the public, and for that matter the environment, being used as guinea pigs in a massive experiment? We know why. It is an agenda that is based on arm-twisting, deception, false promises, duplicity and flawed science to benefit the bottom line of a handful of commercial enterprises and the wider geo-political aim of controlling the planet’s food supply,” Colin Todhunter, “Monsanto Double Standards and the Crumbling ‘Scientific Myths’ of the GMO Biotech Sector,” Global Research; May 19, 2014
The citizens of the United States are NOT FREE to choose. Our government refuses to listen to us, and refuses to act on the democratic, moral, rational and ethical reasons that would enable its citizens to be free in a so-called free society all for the sake of the bottom line of some shareholders.
“If the GMO industry can’t survive consumer choice, then those foods shouldn’t be sitting on grocery shelves of American grocery stores, and no scientist, corporation, political entity or university should stand in the way of that democratic process,” Mike Zelina, et al., “The Health Effects of Genetically Engineered Crops on San Luis Obispo County,” August, 2006 (59 pages).
“I’m alarmed because so much of it has been slipped into our food without any public discussion or awareness. And it’s not just in the foods you and I eat – our children are getting it in the various children’s foods. It’s everywhere, it’s ubiquitous, we’ve never been given the choice. Now I say it’s time at least to give us that,” David Suzuki, retired genetic engineer.
We shouldn’t even have to fight for the right to know about our food. The very idea that our government can be so detached from that reality is astounding; and along the way of justifying the denial of this fundamental right, our government has called us stupid, has said we would be ‘confused’ by GMO labels; our government has members who lie and who are hypocrites and some who simply fail to do research and others who just do the bidding of the corporation-of-the-moment. It is a disgusting, abhorrent thing that Senator Stabenow and others are more concerned about GMO labels “stigmatizing” biotechnology rather than having a higher level of concern for the freedom to choose based on the right to be informed. Putting warning labels on cigarettes that tobacco smoking causes cancer may or may not be seen as stigmatizing the product of an entire industry (that also has a history of deception and fraudulent ‘science’). Even if putting warning labels on cigarette packs was stigmatizing to the tobacco industry, so what? People have a right to know. And if putting two words, “genetically modified” in front of the word “corn” is seen as stigmatizing an entire industry, and if THAT is the basis for restricting the rights of the American people to be informed consumers and thus enable the free market to function the way it was meant to, then my message to the industry and to Senator Stabenow is this: tough. That’s just too bad. You don’t like it? Get over it. You’ve been telling the American people to eat it and get over it for decades. Well, we’re telling YOU to get over it now. Give us labels, and stop jeopardizing the fundamental principles of a free democratic society because of your little fears over stigmatizing an industry that wants to continue to shove its food down the throats of the people in this country without them knowing it.
The last thing is the third myth, a tall tale of how GMO labels would dramatically increase food costs to all Americans (based on a biotech industry financed study – and I use the word “study” here very loosely). This has been debunked; it is nothing more than industry spin, once again, and many in Congress have chewed long and hard on this and spit it back into the faces of the American people. It is untrue. But let’s pretend it isn’t, just for the sake of an argument. Consider one aspect of this claim associated with increased foods costs, separating GMO from non-GMO products:
“The cost to producers to keep the foods separated would not be terribly difficult, as is currently demonstrated by organic farmers. Also, this separation of GM foods from non-GM foods would help facilitate systems of tracking GM foods, which some scientists have suggested be created for monitoring purposes, and which the European Union has already implemented for GM products in Europe. This type of system would help detect some of the potential long-term effects that no amounts of immediate testing would be able to provide. Therefore, the additional transactional cost of keeping these foods separated is offset by the omission of the transactional cost that biotech companies should be paying in long-term pre-market testing expenses, but currently are not because they have instead decided to test their products out on the public. The government should at least be able to track these foods so that it can obtain the results from the live testing. Furthermore, the reduction of other transactional costs relating to unimpeded information flow and consumer confidence in government regulation would outweigh any market damage resulting from requirements that companies keep GM foods separate from non-GM foods.” [Emphasis added] Jamie Jorg Spence, “Right to Know: A Diet of the Future Presently Upon Us,” Valparaiso University Law Review, Vo. 39, No. 4. 2005. (64 pages).
Yes, the United States government has not only allowed the biotech industry to use American citizens in a massive experiment with food products that are not required to undergo long-term chronic toxicity safety studies, this government has gone out of its way to support this endeavor in every way possible. In order to enable this behavior, Congress, the FDA, USDA and EPA have, by default, ignored all ethical and moral ramifications of keeping American citizens from being informed about the food they eat by not requiring labels on GMO foods. Consequently, the various branches of the U.S. government, along with the biotech industry, have been complicit in this outright violation of the most fundamental moral and ethical standards of a free democratic and civilized society.
We are the lab rats in this experiment, and our children have been and are as well – and it is because of this outrageous pattern of behavior.
“Now in this case of course, in this case the whole thing has been changed around because you are being used as the Guinea pig – they are doing the experiments on you. And what is even more, you don’t know whether they are doing it or not because, in the U.S. for example, it’s not labeled. So therefore you don’t know if you are eating GM food or not,” Arpad Pusztai, retired genetic engineer.
“At the very least, in a Democratic society, in a civil society, we as consumers ought to be given a choice whether we do or do not want to become part of this massive experiment. So at the very least, surely you could put on the label whether or not there are genetically modified organisms in it,” David Suzuki retired genetic engineer.
It is unconscionable that in this country, in the United States of America, that we have to engage in a prolonged fight with our elected officials (which has lasted for two decades), simply to know if the food we are eating has been altered by genetic engineering using modern biotechnology. This is the most unbelievable aspect of this entire thing: the extraordinary level of absurdity of this is that we have to engage in a conflict with people who are sworn to represent us, not the corporations, but us, the people, the human beings who live in this world and have children and grandchildren. When is Congress going to finally, once and for all, allow us to know what we, as a population, are eating?
Congress should have done this long ago. It’s long overdue.
*“How the Science Media Failed the IAASTD,” by Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson, Independent Science News; April 7, 2008
These conclusions in general, and the lack of support for GMOs in particular, are immensely unwelcome in some quarters. The publicity machines of Monsanto, Syngenta and others have not spent twenty years carefully positioning transgenics as the solution to every agricultural problem in order for them to be ignored by the largest and most diverse collection of agriculture and development policy experts ever assembled.
Last October, Monsanto and Syngenta “resigned altogether from the IAASTD project.” Though they gave no public reasons for their resignation, the industry body CropLife International told Nature magazine that an inability to make progress in arguing for GMOs was the fundamental reason.
सत्यमेव जयते – Satyameva Jayate (Truth Ultimately Triumphs)
Re-posting is encouraged, provided the URL of the original is posted with attribution to the original author and all links are preserved to the referenced articles, reports, etc. on their respective websites.
Copyright © Jeff Kirkpatrick 2016 Ban GMOs Now All rights reserved.