Fighting for food freedom, part 1
I have been thinking a lot about our freedoms lately. One thing that continues to puzzle me is why we are kept in the dark about what really is in the food we eat. Why aren't we told what artificial flavors and artificial colors are made from?
Without question, we see this all the time on packaging. Furthermore, why aren't we being told that certain foods we eat every day have been genetically engineered? Why?
The freedom to choose between real food and genetically modified food has been taken off the dinner table. Food manufacturers, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration are failing us by neglecting to be 100 percent transparent about what really is making up the foods most of us eat.
The decision is being made for us. Is that really freedom? We have the right to know what we are putting into our one precious body.
Part of that right to know has been placed into the hands of California voters in this coming election with Proposition 37, which, if passed, would require foods made with genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such.
What is the big deal about GMOs, anyway? An article published Oct. 1 by Reuters, "Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study," says:
"Herbicide-tolerant crops were the first genetically modified crops introduced to the world, rolled out by Monsanto Co. in 1996, first in 'Roundup Ready' soybeans and then in corn, cotton and other crops. Roundup Ready crops are engineered through transgenic modification to tolerate dousings of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide."
I just wonder how much of that herbicide ends up in the food supply or in the air we breathe?
Do our bodies recognize the new chemistry in the genetically engineered food? Given that this product was introduced only 16 years ago, has enough time gone by for us to know that it is safe?
There are studies that tie the dramatic rise in autism to when GMO foods were introduced to our food supply. According to the Centers for Disease Control in statistics published by CNN, there has been a 78 percent increase of autism in children in just the past decade. If nothing else, isn't that statistic alone enough to warrant labeling GMOs?
The article continues, "... in recent years, more than two dozen weed species have become resistant to Roundup's chief ingredient glyphosate, causing farmers to use increasing amounts both of glyphosate and other weed-killing chemicals to try to control the so-called 'superweeds.'"
"Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on (genetically engineered) crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent," Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, told Reuters.
"In order to deal with rapidly spreading resistant weeds, farmers are being forced to expand use of older, higher-risk herbicides," Benbrook said.
Have we not also seen this happen with resistant antibiotic strains in humans and cattle?
How many times have we seen science and the government declare that a food is OK to eat with "trace" amounts of chemicals or "not enough to cause us harm"? Who gets to make that call? I think it should be consumers.
We have the opportunity here in California to take some of that freedom back.
The more information we have, the better — let the consumer decide. As it stands now, the decision is made for us. That's just not good enough for me.
Kevin Cotter is managing general partner at locally owned New Earth Market in Yuba City.