He’s been an ag educator, a husband and parent, even a small dairy farmer. Now the Chairman of the world’s most popular organic yogurt brand, Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg, encourages business innovation and consumer awareness through the Just Label It campaign and other forums. Hirshberg graciously took the time to answer questions from FlourSackMama.com about genetically modified organisms in our food. Here’s our conversation:
Flour Sack Mama Q: While Just Label It and other organizations do much to educate the public, many people are still unaware or confused about genetically modified foods. What is the most critical message that consumers need to know today about GMOs?
Our government’s approval that these crops are “substantially equivalent” to their conventional counterparts has been based on almost exclusively on studies conducted or funded by the chemical companies who own these patented crops. Our federal government does no independent testing, and the approvals of these crops are made completely based on the patent holders’ data. In short, we don’t now know, nor will we know for some time in the future, what are their long term health or safety impacts.
(b) However, Questions of Safety are Irrelevant to the Labeling Argument:
While safety is an important concern that requires independent analysis, it’s actually not the reason that GE crops should be labeled, because –
* The U.S. Geological Survey has reported that glyphosate is now a common component of the air and rain in the Midwest during spring and summer, with levels rising in many aquatic ecosystems.
Flour Sack Mama Q: The audience at Flour Sack Mama includes some folks who still don’t buy the entire organic and sustainable argument. They include good people who’ve known conventional farming in America’s heartland and they’ve only heard promises of better yields through GMO technology. What can you say to convince them that the non-GMO movement isn’t just about protecting big organic profits, but is really about something more authentic that touches all our lives?
* 17 years after the commercial introduction of GMO’s, there is no independently confirmed evidence that they provide higher yields or any benefit to consumers or farmers. But there is ample evidence that they result in the higher use of chemical inputs, notably herbicides.