On November 5, citizens in Washington State will vote on whether to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Win or lose, The Washington Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act is driving the national push on GMO labeling in states around the country as well as at the federal level—just as the narrowly defeated Prop 37 in California did last year.
Contrary to the misleading rhetoric and propaganda espoused by chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow that portrays GMO labeling on food packaging as costly and unnecessary, the truth is we have the right to know important information about our food, and such disclosures on packaging cost virtually nothing. We have the right to know whether juice is from concentrate or not; whether ingredients are artificial or not; whether fish is farmed or wild-caught. We also have the right to know if food is genetically engineered, in order to make informed decisions about what we eat and feed our families.
Chemical companies genetically engineer DNA from bacteria into food crops, causing the crops to either produce or tolerate the pesticides they sell. Overuse of pesticide is creating resistant superweeds and superbugs, which leads to more pesticides being sprayed. Now, chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow are engineering resistance in food crops to increasingly toxic weed killers like Dicamba and 2,4-D, the main ingredient in Agent Orange (which, coincidentally, both Monsanto and Dow also manufactured).
The bottom line is that genetic engineering of food crops is a pesticide industry boondoggle. Just six chemical companies have bought and now control the seed industry in this country, and their interest is to increase—not reduce—agchemical inputs. Rather than help farmers move toward more sustainable and less chemical intensive agriculture, genetic engineering has resulted in huge increases in pesticide use and residues of these chemicals in our food. Pesticide Action Network is a great resource on the link between GMOs and pesticides, and the next generation weed killer tolerant crops in the regulatory pipeline. Even the Wall Street Journal has reported on the recent spike in insecticide use.
Just this past week came news about Argentina's pesticide use and reported cancer clusters. In question: the huge increase in pesticide use—and consequential health impacts—since the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops in Argentina. It's important to understand that no currently commercialized GMO traits, or any in the regulatory pipeline, have the effect of boosting yield to "feed the world." Rather, by far the most important in terms of acreage and revenue are traits designed to increase weed killer tolerance and the short-term profits of the chemical industry. Additionally, of the five major crops that have been genetically engineered so far (corn, soy, cotton, canola and sugar beets), corn and soy are by far the most prevalent, as the number one and two crops farmed in the U.S. However, these crops are mostly not grown for human consumption.