I-522: Let the Food Fight Begin!
Juice fans: today we get all political on you! Before we dive in, let me first acknowledge that no one at Strawberry Moon has any political experience nor do we pretend to know all the intricacies of the issues we may address. We’ve said it numerous times our goal is to get involved and try to make things better.
Initiative I-522 “The People’s Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” is a statewide campaign to establish mandatory labelling of foods produced through genetic engineering in Washington. If you are just joining this food fight, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the result of taking the genes from one species and inserting them into another. Thanks to Dow corn is now engineered with human genes. Tomatoes have been engineered with shrimp genes and we now have spider goats. Seemingly normal goats that excrete silk in lactation so, yes, that might be silk in your milk.
According to the website of political organization Label It Wa campaign efforts have collected over 350,000 signatures, which is enough to place the initiative before the Washington legislature this year.
Are GMOs healthy for people and the planet? Opinion is mixed. Currently, genetically modified foods are considered by our government to be as safe as their traditional counterparts but an increasing amount of evidence is showing in vitro allergic reactions, increased toxicity, decreased nutritional value and the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. We here at the Moon choose to use the purest ingredients. That is why we are taking steps to work with local farmers to ensure we are not using any genetically modified ingredients.
We've seen battles over food labeling shot down by big business. In California, an attempt to pass a similar initiative, Prop 37, was defeated after a $45 million campaign waged by biotech, pesticide and junk food companies convinced voters that biotech foods are safe. This massive campaign once again proves that “might is right” and that those with the most money will defeat any attempt we make at real policy change.
As the initiative builds in Washington we can expect companies like Monsanto and Kraft, creators and profiteers of GMOs, to wage a similar campaign trying to defeat this measure. Washington state wheat farmers have endorsed I-522. Wheat is our state’s third largest export commodity. There are currently 50 countries that mandate disclosure or even ban GMO’s. Farmers feel if we are to meet labeling and import requirements of other countries me must do something to protect the integrity of our export trade.
Opponents of the initiative say that labeling will hurt farmers and drive up food prices. Activists say GMOs are a menace to our soil and food supply. Opponents say GMOs require less pesticides so it’s better for our soil and that there is no scientific evidence of it being harmful to our health. Farmers say that Roundup Ready crops are now producing super weeds that are resistant to pesticides so now there is a push to engineer plants that are resistant to even stronger pesticides which may only create stronger mutant weeds and pests. So we’ve got super weeds, super bugs, antibiotic resistant bacteria an increasing number of food allergies and goats making spider silk -- WHAT ARE WE TO DO?!
Some will say I-522 is too little to late. The initiative may not be the most comprehensive and progressive initiative in food labeling but it is a start. Until we reform the political system policy change may not fix many of the problems we face but we have to try. Here are some things we can do:
1. Demand transparency. Ask local farmers at the markets for transparency in food production by labeling food that hasn't been grown or produced with GMO seeds. If we can’t pass an initiative forcing food companies to tell us if GMOs were used in the process perhaps we should only purchase from those that tell us no GMOs were used.
2. Go guerilla. Start labeling the food ourselves. Label It Yourself provides ready-made warning labels for GMO foods. It may be a controversial action but if we put labels on GMO foods ourselves maybe the FDA will see people want and have the right to know what they are doing to our food supply.
3. Shop local. Can we make a change if we tell the major supermarkets we want GMO labeling? If they will not push to provide them can we create an alternative food infrastructure? Buying from local organic companies that proudly produce GMO free? Big Food can spend money to stop the labeling but if we don’t buy GMO foods their efforts will repeat no rewards.
What are we waiting for? Get involved. Let us know what you think.