Each and every day the average American is consuming a considerable number of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Estimates show that 70 to 75% of all processed foods in your local supermarket contain genetically modified ingredients. From soda and chips, to infant formula and baby food, these GMOs are entering our bodies with little understanding of the impact they are having on our health and wellness, in the short- or long-term. "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)," according to the Institute for Responsible Technology. These genetically modified foods have been linked to toxic and allergic reactions, organ and tissue damage in animals, cancer, and infertility. More than 40 countries around the world ban or at least label products that contain genetically modified organisms.
However, GMO products are widely available in the United States. The presence of GMO ingredients is largely hidden from the American public. Are we simply denying the possible threat or is there a larger force behind this lack of transparency? Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and creator of the new documentary Genetic Roulette, states that "the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists were that genetically modified foods were inherently dangerous and could create allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems and of course they should be labeled because they are a food additive." But corporate influence is at play here. Biotech companies stand to lose millions of dollars if GMO ingredients are required to be labeled or if the public refuses to purchase GMO food products.
Proposition 37 in California is the Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, a November ballot initiative that would require the labeling of GMO products. If Prop 37 passes, California would be the first state in the country to require GMO labeling and industry giants fear that the rest of the country will follow. Who is this corporate opposition? As Katherine Spiers reports, those opposing Proposition 37 are "Conglomerations of the nation's biggest GMO producers, namely Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is also a leading opponent of the cause, in terms of money given and stated purpose: the president of GMA called defeating Prop 37 "the single highest priority for GMA this year." In addition, Spiers points out that "some of America's favorite snacks are throwing money into the anti-37 pot. The companies include both Pepsi and Coca-Cola (professional rivals coming together for one cause, like The Avengers of Frankenfood), Nestle, Kellogg, Hormel, Bimbo, General Mills, and ConAgra, the company behind Gulden's, Jiffy Pop, Swiss Miss, and dozens more." Many of these food giants also own natural product subsidiaries, such as Cascadian Farms, Horizon, and Larabar, and yet their parent companies are spending thousands to prevent Prop 37 from passing.
Why it matters to you.
You may not live in the State of California, but Prop 37 is a symbolic David vs. Goliath piece of legislation. If parents and consumers can wield the power to educate themselves about GMOs, protest their inclusion in our food supply, and force food industry giants to label items containing GMOs, a foundation will be laid for many other states to follow. That is not to say it won't be a fight elsewhere. Nor is it a guarantee that the food industry will decide to change their ways. And labeling may take years, including more than a few additional legal battles. What's at the core of Prop 37 is that it's a "right to know" law. It demands corporate transparency and empowers people to become informed about their food supply. It is essential to our wellness and our future. Not just for the great State of California, but for all of us.