Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Measure 27 - Labeling Law for Genetically Engineered Foods: A Call for Openness and Food Safety

Measure 27 - Labeling
Law for Genetically Engineered Foods: A Call for Openness and Food Safety

Measure 27
calls for labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) foods sold either wholesale
or retail, for instance in supermarkets, but not in cafeterias, restaurants,
prisons, bake sales, etc.
food substances are labeled for vitamin, mineral, caloric and fat content;
wines containing sulfites warn those who are allergic; and labels inform
vegetarians of the source of various proteins, so that they can avoid ingesting
animal products. Since 1998, the European Union has required labeling; Japan, China, Australia, and
other countries also mandate labels. Many countries ban the import of GE foods
from the US;
others have or are actively considering labeling laws and bans on GE foods
While only one-third of Americans
are aware that their foods contain GE ingredients, multiple polls conducted by
the news media, government and industry show that anywhere from 85% to 95% of
citizens are in favor of labeling.
            Risks of GE
foods include: allergies and toxicities from new proteins entering the food
supply (as occurred with the deadly eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome in
individuals who consumed GE L-tryptphan dietary supplements in the late 1980s,
and could occur in unsuspecting consumers with brazil nut allergies who eat GE
soybeans); altered nutritional value of foodstuffs; transfer of antibiotic
resistance genes into intestinal bacteria or other organisms, contributing to
the growing public health problem of antibiotic resistance; increased pesticide
use when pests develop resistance to genetically engineered food toxins; genes
initially designed to protect crops from herbicides being transferred to weeds,
resulting in the creation of herbicide-resistant “superweeds”; non-target
insects dying due to exposure to pesticide-resistant crops, with ripple effects
on other predator and prey organisms; GE plants and animals interbreeding with
wild relatives, spreading novel genes into wild populations; GE plants outcompeting,
or driving to extinction, wild varieties, or becoming bio-invaders in
neighboring farms or other ecosystems; GE plants adversely altering soil
bacteria and consequently soil quality; decreased agricultural biodiversity;
and corporate control of agriculture, with the transmogrification of farmers
into “bioserfs.” Of note, US regulatory agencies such as the US Department of Agriculture,
the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration rely
on safety tests done by companies that make GE products, a case of the fox
guarding the henhouse.
chemical/GE companies claims to the contrary, there is already enough food
available to feed everyone on the planet. World hunger will not be solved
through large-scale molecular manipulation of food crops whose cultivation has
been carefully perfected over 10,000 years, but through political and social
will. Ironically, the U.S.,
home to many GE firms, has rates of child poverty and hunger among the highest
in the industrialized world.
Opponents of Measure 27 are
planning to spend at least $6 million to defeat it. Current contributions to
the “No on 27 Campaign” total just under $5 million; only $5500 of this (1/10
of 1%) comes from Oregon;
large GE-manufacturing corporations based outside of Oregon have contributed the rest. The
pro-Measure 27 camp will spend only about $200,000. Cost estimates for
enactment of the measure are about 79 cents per person per year, a small price
to pay for important information about what we consume.
            Labeling of
GE foods will help to prevent the possibility of dangerous allergic attacks occurring
in unsuspecting consumers of soybeans modified with Brazil nut genes, allow
vegetarians to avoid, say, tomatoes modified with flounder genes; and allow
concerned individuals to avoid ingesting milk from cattle injected with
recombinant bovine growth hormone, which increases the level of
potentially-carcinogenic IGF-1 in the milk.
will increase public awareness of genetic engineering, allow us the freedom to
choose what we eat based on our individual willingness to confront risk, and
ensure a healthy public debate over the merits of genetic modification of
Therefore, Oregon Physicians for Social
Responsibility, in its commitment to scientific honesty and protection of our
food supply and environment, supports a yes vote on Measure 27.

Martin Donohoe, MD, FACP, on behalf of
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Chapter

Martin Donohoe, MD, FACP
Member, Board of Directors, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Staff Physician, Old

Senior Scholar, Center for Ethics in Health Care, Oregon Health and Science University

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