You’re already watching the budget, counting calories and sugar, and maybe you have someone in the family with special needs like a gluten-free diet. You may think you can’t afford exclusively organics, but you wonder about all those processed foods that likely contain genetically modified organisms. How can you know?
Unless you shop strictly for the USDA Organic seal, you have no assurance that a product is NOT made with GMO ingredients (which are likely bathed in pesticides since that’s a main reason why crops are being engineered in the lab, so they can withstand the pesticides that kill the weeds around them). Of course, doctors and scientists have been raising health concerns, and our children have been experiencing supposedly unrelated allergies and sensitivities and autism in increasing numbers.
No matter which state you shop in, your grocery choices could be getting a bit clearer IF food labeling gets up-to-speed with modern biotechnology. Two states, Oregon and Colorado, are voting in the midterm elections on GMO labeling laws. This follows Vermont’s approval of GMO labeling.
What would this mean for shoppers? GMO labeling supporter Alan Lewis of the Colorado-based Natural Grocers chain explained it like this,
“Imagine shopping in a regular grocery store and being told the truth for once: which products have GMO ingredients, which do not. Proposition 105 would make this a reality. While meat and dairy would not yet be labeled, just about every packaged food on the shelves will be. The result is cutting through three decades of misleading obfuscation by the food industry marketers. We can stop misleading labeling on almost everything by voting for Proposition 105.”
A similar law is being voted on November 4 in Oregon, where the Yes on 92 campaign is relying on grassroots volunteers to explain GMO labeling benefits to voters, including the farming community. Yes on 92 spokesman Sandeep Kaushik explained that much is at stake in these state labeling measures. Oregon wheat farmers and most other family farms are using organic or simply traditional farming methods, not yet using genetically engineered seeds, and they’re concerned about contamination. The non-GMO movement has been popular among Oregon farmers wanting to preserve a way of life. Despite so much grassroots support for labeling, the opposition has been saturating the state with advertising, trying to confuse the issue. Kaushik said,
“Passing measure 92 is a critically important step toward a national law. We are seeing growing awareness about the negative impacts of genetically engineered foods across the country.”
Aside from the obvious consumer rights and health concerns about GMOs, some want the right to choose not to eat these foods based on religious or cultural beliefs. Unlike traditional plant breeding methods, genetic engineering crosses species in an unprecedented way that not everyone agrees is morally acceptable.
At this time, large industry groups led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association are trying to overturn Vermont’s recently passed GMO labeling law. The consumer struggle for the right to know what’s in grocery store food is moving from state to state. Millions upon millions of dollars are being reported as big chemical and grocery industry contributions to the “no” campaigns against the Colorado and Oregon measures.
In Colorado especially, grassroots organizer Kia Ru says a pro-labeling win won’t be because of money.
“We have been an enigma for the opposition who is outspending us 40:1 at times. This should serve as a beacon of encouragement for others looking for food system transparency. You can be effective even with very little resources, which is where all grassroots causes originate.”
Here’s what you can do right now to better the chances of getting GMO labels on food at your local stores: no matter where you live, you can help get out the vote for GMO labeling in Colorado and Oregon. They can use volunteers to help in shifts with online phone banks, reaching out to Colorado and Oregon voters. The pro-labeling movement has much less financial power, mostly funded by individuals and the smaller natural and organic food companies, and relies on my grassroots efforts to educate voters. Even if you can sign up to help for an hour or two, you could be making a difference. Remember, helping residents in these states could also help American consumers overall by making GMO labeling the norm.
For more information on this issue, check out Just Label It!