Nel's New Day

June 4, 2012

Corporations Oppose Genetically-Modified Food Labeling

A major problem with all the budget crisis and election news is that other important pieces of our lives are slipping through the cracks, leaving the conservatives to destroy our quality of life. A prime example of this is the current issue of herbicides. The USDA is close to approving a type of sweet corn genetically engineered to withstand 2,4-D herbicide, a major component of the highly toxic Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War, which means that farmers can just spray the stuff on corn without killing it.

It’s great for farmers because the corn just blissfully grows while all the weeds and other plants will be killed. It’s a problem for humans because the herbicide is linked to reproductive abnormalities, birth defects, and several forms of cancer. Specifically, exposure to 2, 4-D is linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lowered sperm counts, liver disease, and Parkinson’s disease as well as neurotoxicity and immunosuppression.

The accumulation of dioxins from this herbicide also stays in the food chain building up to dangerous levels of exposure in birds, animals, and people. The EPA reports that 2, 4-D is the seventh largest source of dioxins in the nation.

Herbicide drift is another issue from spraying liquid 2, 4-D that blows onto nearby crops and native plants, killing all these. Remember that corn is the resistant plant; everything else is killed. Animals dependent on these native plants may not survive. The run-off from spraying presents another serious problem when rain washing the herbicide from the sprayed plants then enters the water supply.

The USDA sees a need for Agent Orange herbicide because the glyphosagte in Round-up has been the reason for “super weeds,” resistant plants, in over 10 million acres of U.S. croplands. The country is not far away from weeds resistant to Agent Orange resistant weeds similar to other places in the world.

Dow and Monsanto sell both genetically engineered seed and herbicides to work with this seed; the companies will profit from the increased chemical pollution in the environment. Before the USDA stopped receiving comments from the public, it received objections from 365,000 individuals and 140 organizations.

So far, three large food companies have decided to not buy GE sweet corn for their food products sold in the US. These companies include Traders Joe’s, Whole Foods, and General Mills (Cascadian Farms and Green Giant products). Other major food retail companies have not yet decided whether to include the use of this new GE corn in their many food products. But consumers will never know whether the sweet corn they buy was treated with this herbicide because food doesn’t have to be labeled about whether the herbicide has been used.

Almost all food products in this country contain corn, starting out with all soft drinks that use high fructose corn syrup and continuing with beef and bacon.

The FDA is currently considering approval of genetically engineered salmon, which is engineered to produce growth hormones year-round to make the fish grow at twice its natural rate, and would be the first genetically engineered animal on supermarket shelves in the United States. Again consumers will be ignorant regarding the existence of these foods because of no mandate to label them as “genetically engineered.”

Another attack on our food is H.R. 872, The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, that exempts pesticide users who spray over water from the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program. Classified by the far-right Congressional leadership as a “job creator,” the bill has passed the House of Representatives. Many pesticides are linked to higher cancer rates and other serious health risks in people. Fish and amphibian populations have been devastated by these toxins, which can be the last straw for endangered species already in crisis.

California may vote this year on GMO labeling; Oregon tried a decade ago but failed. In Great Barrington (MA), Cynthia LaPier makes her own stickers—“Warning! May Contain GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) and furtively labels foods that she knows contain GMO’s.

On the other hand, Connecticut and Vermont have withdrawn bills to label GMO’s because of potential lawsuits from the powerful corporations. Eighteen states are considering these laws, however, and 50 countries worldwide have labeling laws for for GMO’s. Across the nation, 91 percent of the people want  labeling of genetically-engineered food.

Genetic modification is now moving from food into drugs: the FDA has approved the country’s first genetically modified plant intended for the treatment of a human disease, using GM carrot cells for Gaucher’s disease.

For more information, you can check determine which products have GMO crops as a base.


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