With the midterm elections just days away, corporate money continues to pour into the GMO misinformation mill in Colorado. Wednesday, the Washington Post reported, “One 2013 survey conducted by researchers at Rutgers University found that 54 percent of Americans say they know “very little or nothing at all” about genetically modified foods, and 25 percent have never even heard of them. Only 26 percent of Americans, meanwhile, were actually aware that GMO labeling is not currently required.” This widespread ignorance is just what corporations like Monsanto are hoping to take advantage of with the misinformation campaign funded to defeat Colorado proposition 105, which would require labeling of products containing GMOs.
The Proponents of 105 say, “Our movement is built on the foundation that we have the basic right to know what is in our food and what we are feeding our families. This campaign gives Coloradans the opportunity to make informed decisions about their diet, health, and general lifestyle. Food labels list and describe nearly every detailed component of the food product, from the caloric values and processing information, to the fat and protein content and the known allergens. Adding a simple label for GMO ingredients would fulfill Colorado consumers’ right to know, enabling them to make educated food purchases and dietary choices for themselves and their families.”
While the opponents of the initiative claim, “Proposition 105’s misguided labeling requirements would mislead consumers, increase costs for farmers, and impose higher food costs on Colorado families, especially hurting those who can least afford it.” And big money is being spent to convince Colorado voters this is true. According to the Huffington Post, “farmers and agriculture groups are just bit players in the $11 million campaign to defeat Proposition 105. The real money is coming from biotechnology giant Monsanto Co., which has given more than $4.7 million, and food giants like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, which sent a combined $1.9 million to fighting the proposal.”
Let’s try to wade through the information, or misinformation as the case may be, and really see why so much money is being spent to keep Coloradans from knowing what is in some of the most common foods they consume daily. According to GMO Myths & Truths, GM crops are promoted by many claims from the industry, including that they “Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops, are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops, are strictly regulated for safety, increase yields, reduce pesticide use, benefit farmers and make their lives easier, bring economic benefits, benefit the environment, reduce energy use and the ever popular, [they] will help feed the world.”
Author Robyn O’Brien explains why this is a more than just a misleading claim, “We need this technology to feed to world,” is the marketing cry of the big chemical companies. In truth, they do need this technology to feed the expectations of shareholders, but it turns out that more than one-third of the food produced in the world goes to waste. That amounts to 1.3 billion tons every year, costing us economically. In this country alone, we throw away 96 billion pounds of food every year, or 27 percent of the total amount of available food. That’s 3,000 pounds of food a second. With the United Nations on record saying that we need more than just genetically engineered food tools in the toolbox, it appears what we also need is a smarter distribution model to address this waste.” GE crops cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its true causes – “poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.”
In reality, the biotech industry claims may need to be readdressed as well since a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims simply are not true. Quite on the contrary, evidence actually indicates that GM crops are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and does pose different risks from non-GM crops.
GM crops can be toxic, allergenic or even less nutritious than their natural counterparts. In a 1992 policy statement, the FDA reaffirmed that in most cases it would treat foods derived from GM crops like those derived from conventionally bred plants, and that most foods derived from GM plants would be presumptively GRAS, which basically means these crops are not adequately regulated to ensure safety and are often approved for human consumption by industry funded research supporting their safety. It is hard to argue with the industry research, and unfortunately, it is often impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised because biotech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.
GM crops do not increase yield potential and can create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “super weeds”, which are developing resistance to herbicides, because the genetically modified seeds can tolerate greater use of certain herbicides and pesticides. And it’s reportedly costing farmers $1 billion in lost crops.
GM crops cause compromised soil quality and have mixed economic effects. Take Bollgard as an example, a GM cotton developed by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech, it is genetically engineered with the Bacilus thuringiensis (Bt) gene and a protein that is toxic to the bollworm, a pest that is particularly harmful to the cotton plant. These Bt seeds can cost up to four times more than traditional varieties and require irrigation as well as greater quantities of pesticides and fertilizers. Last month, the highly respected science journal Nature published a news article reporting that conventional breeding substantially out-performs genetic engineering for several very important traits—drought tolerance and the ability of crops to use nitrogen, from fertilizer, more efficiently.
GE crops also have the potential to disrupt international markets as was seen when US exports were rejected due to GMO contamination. After the discovery of unapproved GE wheat in Oregon, Japan, South Korea and other countries temporarily stopped buying U.S. wheat. And China, a major buyer of U.S. corn, has rejected imports since November after it said officials found evidence of a genetically modified corn seed developed by Syngenta that the nation has not approved. Trade groups estimate the rejected shipments have cost U.S. farmers more than $1 billion through lower corn prices. To date, China has rejected in excess of 908,800 T of US corn.
Environmentally, GE crops harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity, do not offer effective solutions to climate change, and are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops.
It appears that the companies funding the campaign against proposition 105 are the ones that will benefit from consumers being uneducated about GMOs and the foods that contain them. The final decision lies with the voter but the question must be posed- who has the right to know what’s in the food, the people producing it or the people consuming it?
There is still time to show support for Proposition 105, don’t miss, The Colorado Label GMO Festival on November 2nd at Quixote’s, a benefit presented by We Are Change Colorado for the Right To Know Colorado – GMO #YESON105 campaign. All profits will be donated to the campaign’s election day event 11/4. This $10 festival will feature two stages filled with some of Denver’s best local music, including, DJ CAVEM, Rebel Tongue, Wandering Monks, Alais Clay, Mike Wird of The Soul Pros, Serephine Music, Seizure Rights, BURNTmd, Proximity, DJ Mbanza, Gary Fielder, Spellbinder and the Mile High Music Maykas, Liat, The Alcapones and one more TBA. Expect inspiring speeches, conscious venders, live art, poetry, dancing and special guest appearances.