Healthy Eating: Is "Big Food" Winning? The Right To Know & GMOs
May 18, 2016 11:10AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Would you feed formula to your baby if you knew it had GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in it? While you may consider yourself a consumer conscious mom, the truth is, if you are buying certain brands, you could be doing just that without even knowing it.
With the Government still working off of old legislation in lieu of mandating that products containing GMOs are labeled as such, consumers have had to further educate themselves about where the GMOs are and what effects the GMOs may have on them.
Over the last several years the lobbying effort to get these products labeled (and there are many) has stalled and sputtered, with individual states picking up the torch to obtain full disclosure in labeling. The opposition to the position is big, however, as in “Big Food” companies like Kellogg’s, General Mills, and PepsiCo, and groups like The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Foods that back them.
Other countries like China, Japan, and much of Europe have had mandates requiring labeling in place for many years now. Why? Because the potentially ill effects of any new allergens, toxins, and anti-nutrients produced from the process have yet to be assessed. Research as to the effects of forcing genes into other organisms is in its infancy, but groups like Just Label It have robust platforms including social media to help better inform consumers so they understand the Goliath they are up against.
Where Are The GMOs?Perhaps, the more prudent question to ask is, “Where aren’t the GMOs?” In 2014, the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center conducted a study of more than 80 different processed foods containing corn and soy ingredients. They found that nearly all the samples of conventional products tested, including many popular brands, contained genetically engineered corn or soy.
The BackstorySo why do we even have GMOs anyway? You can bet your bottom dollar there’s money involved—a lot of money! And that’s where Monsanto comes in. It turns out that the genetically modified seeds they began developing about 20 years ago respond extremely well to the category-winning herbicide called glyphosate commonly found in their signature product RoundUp. (The patent on this product was set to expire and then did expire in the year 2000, signaling a significant loss in revenue for Monsanto as competitors entered the market.)
According to Jeffrey Smith, Founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, the process of forcing a gene into another organism creates massive collateral damage in the DNA, resulting in hundreds, possibly even thousands of mutations in the DNA. This is where the lack of research hits hardest. So while there is no current evidence that human health is compromised by the consumption of GMOs, there is also no evidence that GMOs are safe for long-term consumption, either.
Educating OurselvesAs things stand right now, full-disclosure labeling of products that contain GMOs is still sought by many groups and consumers. In late 2015, The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Foods (one of “Big Food’s” primary proponents) struck back by trying to instill fear into the minds of consumers by reporting that if comprehensive labeling on the state or federal level were to be mandated, the cost inevitably will be passed along to the consumer. They cited that the increase in cost per family in a state such as New York could be as much as $500 annually. This statement was later fact-checked by The Washington Post and stated as being “mostly false.”
Another problem has surfaced as some manufacturers have volunteered to place GMO-free and Non-GMO labels on their products. While this can be helpful, it has also proven to be misleading in some regards to consumers who may mistake all items in a product line to then be GMO-free. It also represents the company as being in support of GMO-labeling and transparency, when in fact they are not, and are funding efforts to block the label mandate on the state level as in the case of PepsiCo in the state of Florida.
(PepsiCo has been voluntarily adding a Non-GMO seal to their Tropicana Pure Premium packaging.)
What Can We Do?Besides getting involved on the state level politically, in our everyday lives we can do the following to choose non-GMOs foods:
Look for the following label designations: The green and white USDA Organic seal and the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal. The former relates to produce and products grown under the strict conditions required for obtaining organic verification, meaning NO use of genetically engineered crops. The Project Verified seal has a little check mark in its logo and signifies that an independent third party has certified the product Non-GMO.
For more information about GMOs and how to avoid consuming them, please visit Justlabelit.org, Wholefoodsmarket.com, and consumerreports.org.
Keep in mind that GMOs can be found in the food chain, as well, if the beef, poultry or pork you buy was fed with genetically modified corn or soy. So it may lurk in milk, cheese, and eggs, too.
Know the terminology: seeing the word “natural” on a product does not denote that it is GMO-free, in fact the FDA has no formal definition for this often-applied term to processed foods. Consumer Reports deems this term “not meaningful,” when it comes to the quality and origination of a product.
Read provided labeling carefully: Consumers should be weary of general Non-GMO claims made by the manufacturer and not verified by an independent third-party. Consumer Reports found that a majority of the products they tested from manufacturers who posted this claim still contained minimal amounts of genetically modified corn or soy.