By Kevin Joseph Ryan
Last Friday, April 20th, the Vermont House Judiciary Committee voted 9-1 to pass a bill requiring labeling genetically modified foods, or GMO’s. As the Legislature is drawing to a close for the season, this is unlikely to pass into law, but, as sure as there’s a nickel in my pocket, the proposal is coming back next season.
Genetically modified foods were first introduced commercially in 1996 in the U.S., revolutionizing the age-old practice of animal and plant husbandry. It was found that via laboratory manipulation of the genetic structure of plants and animals, food production could increase, quality and flavor of food could be increased, and crops could be made resistant to disease and pests.
It is true that a UVM poll conducted in 2000 found that most Vermonters do want GMO foods labeled, and France found that labeling GMO foods will result in consumer avoidance of such food products. Currently, the French government is planning a roll-out of “GMO-free” labels because consumer concern is so great. That factor, the fear of GMO foods, is also a factor in why this bill hasn’t passed in Vermont. The State is afraid they’re going to get sued by food producers and retailers.
In 1993, the state passed a law requiring that all dairy products containing bovine growth hormone, or from cows treated with BGH, would be required to be labeled. Within a very short time, Vermont found itself in court with the International Dairy Foods Association, and lost in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The court said essentially, Vermont makes no claim with evidence that BGH foods are dangerous, so the law simply addresses “curiosity” and therefore forces dairy farmers to disclose information which people find scary. Keep that in mind for later, the word scary, not the word dangerous.
Flash forward to now, the present. In introducing the GMO labeling requirement, Representative Kate Webb (D- Shelburne) said, “…it is extremely difficult for Vermonters to make informed choices about these products because they are not labeled.” Information regarding GMO food is widely available, but what labeling would do is place most growers of food at a marketing disadvantage to organic farmers, primarily because one thing customers are being certainly being fed, is misinformation regarding the actual safety of GMO foods.
The proponents of GMO labeling have been, nationwide, making truly frightening claims regarding GMO food. They have spoken about “increased risk” from GMO food production, and specifically cited increased allergies, possible cancer connections, as well as kidney and liver malformations as the results of consuming GMO food. However, one such study on GMO’s put out by the International Journal of Biological Sciences and funded by Greenpeace, found that malformations were “statistically insignificant” and actually decreased as GMO consumption increased.
Further, another study produced by the European Commission and released by Science Daily this past January, brought together scientists from five nations, who discovered that over the course of the three year study, that no adverse effects came from feeding GMO grain to animals. A 2008 study of the Royal Society of Medicine found that after 15 years of GMO food consumption by the public, no ill effects had been proven. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences concluded the same thing in a 2004 report.
You may not be aware, but you have most likely eaten GMO foods. Over 90% of corn, cotton, soy and canola in the Untied States is now genetically modified. So, one may be correct in being concerned with what one put into one’s body and the health effects. However, as GMO products are demonstrably quite safe, why all the fear?
The fear factor among the public regarding GMO food is quite simple, it represents a new technology and the organic industry and the political left have teamed up to convince you GMO is food is dangerous. If GMO food is labeled, sales of organic food rise, sales of mass-market food go down. Notwithstanding that organic food can cost more than 400% percent more than standard consumer food to due production costs.
For organic farmers, scaring the public is big business. According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic foods were up 9.7 in 2009 and now represent a $28 billion dollar industry. It also creates an almost obvious issue for the Left to rally around as one of their chief bogeymen, Monsanto Corporation of Missouri, is one of the world’s largest producers of GMO foods and seeds. And, as we shall see in part two of this report, the two partners, the political left and organic farmers, may be more closely related than they are willing to let on. In some cases, it’s the same people. No wonder you’re being told to fear GMO products. These folks need to make money.
Kevin Ryan has never worked for Monsanto a day in his life, but he has been known to enjoy Hostess Cupcakes, a food that probably has GMO’s in it.