There is a lot of talk going back and forth about the role government should play in our lives. We want to maintain our freedoms but we also count on government to ensure that we are provided with information to keep us safe.
Government has been intervening on behalf of consumers for over a century, which was around the time people stopped producing their own food and began relying on the newly emerging industrial food industry.
Both the original Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were passed in 1906, ensuring that commercial food, drink and drug products were not deliberately misbranded and that meat was slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions.
These were followed in 1924 by a Supreme Court ruling that condemned misleading and deceitful food labeling practices, but it wasn’t until 1965 that the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act required all consumer products in interstate commerce to be honestly and informatively labeled.
Twenty-five years later the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was passed and brought us the nutrition label we know today. In the 20 years since, food labels have been required to list more than 3,000 ingredients from transfats to high-fructose corn syrup.
Unfortunately, there is one group of food ingredients currently exempt from our nutritional labeling: GMOs. Genetically engineered ingredients began making appearances in our processed food in 1996 and have become so prevalent that today they are present in over 70 percent of food products on supermarket shelves.
Consumer concern over GMOs has grown rapidly over the past 10 years and industrial food giants have been taking notice. In the past year alone, 19 states have introduced 36 GMO labeling bills and each one has been rejected. One almost passed in Vermont, but a threat to sue by Monsanto resulted in defeat.
In fact, companies such as Monsanto, Pepsico, General Mills and numerous others are lobbying tirelessly and spending tens of millions to see that we as consumers remain uninformed as to whether the ingredients in our food are genetically engineered.
They understand that knowledge is power; they have been negatively affected by labeling laws passed in Europe in 2004 and can’t afford a loss in their American market. Apparently, they have every reason to be worried.
Next month California residents will vote on Proposition 37, a ballot measure to require the labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. Polls indicate that 90 percent of California voters are in favor of GMO labeling.
Representing the other 10 percent is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, whose members also represent the nation’s largest food makers, and who recently declared that defeating Proposition 37 “is the single-highest priority for GMA this year.”
To prove their point, GMA, members Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Bayer, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Conagra, Kellogg, General Mills, Smucker and others collectively contributed over $32 million, to help defeat Prop.
37 — $32 million to deny consumers in one state the right to know which products contain genetically engineered ingredients. But $32 million is nothing compared to how much these companies stand to lose if consumers begin rejecting GMO ingredients.
Washington voters soon may have the opportunity to send a message to the GMA. If I-522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food,” gathers 320,000 signatures by the end of 2012, it will be on the ballot in November 2013. Find out where to sign I-522 at www.labelitwa.org.
Spreading the word locally about GMOs is Sequim’s GMO Awareness Group. For more information on the group, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eat well, be well and stand up to corporate greed by demanding your right to choose non-GMO foods.