Years ago, Howard Vlieger found that the cows on his Iowa farm turned up their noses at genetically-modified foods.
He hopes Washingtonians will do the same.
Vlieger, a third-generation family farmer who spoke Wednesday evening at Olympic College, urged the audience of about 60 people to support Initiative 522, a November ballot measure that would require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Vlieger said demand for the labeling of milk from cows treated with growth hormones led to a sharp decline in its use.
“This is the poster child for consumer power,” he said. The same, he said, could happen with GMO foods.
Vlieger’s interest in GMO foods was sparked in 1998 when he planted a portion of his farm with corn seed engineered with a biotoxin that keeps pests at bay.
“My cows smelled the (GMO) corn and walked away from it,” he said. “I’d never seen a cow walk away from corn.”
Pigs are not nearly as picky, chowing on GMO corn as readily as the natural variety. But Vlieger began noticing that the stomachs of Iowa pigs fed a consistent diet of GMO foods developed stomach problems.