[What is written below is a response to a column in the Kokomo Tribune written by Isabella Chism, second vice president of the Indiana Farm Bureau. Her column was also published as a reader letter in the Kokomo Perspective.]
Isabella Chism’s column in the August 14th Kokomo Tribune about GMOs and advocating passage by the United States Senate (Act already passed the House of Representatives) of HR 1599 concerning GMOs was certainly interesting. The only problem is that it was chocked full of false or misleading information.
The Act she references is titled, “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”. It is anything but that. The only parties benefiting from this legislation are the giant food processing corporations and the giant chemical/seed corporations; the very ones I do not trust to have the public’s interest and health at heart. Bottom line profit dollars drive them.
Let me explain. This Act silences any legislation passed by states regarding the labeling of foods containing ingredients from genetically engineered crops, largely corn and soy beans at present. It puts all authority for labeling into the hands of the federal agency that has already failed the public, the FDA. It was not the scientists in the FDA who failed us; it was the political appointees who overrode the scientists concerns. Under this Act, no food currently on the market would be required to be labeled.
Some 64 countries worldwide require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled as containing such. This includes China and Russia and all of the European Union countries and more. The citizens in those countries wanted to know what was in the foods they purchase and feed their families so they can make personal choices. In the United States, the move is to secrecy. Sixty-four other countries cannot be wrong. The USA is one country that is…. at the behest of food, big agriculture, and chemical/seed companies. As a past newspaper publisher, I vehemently object. I hold the strong belief people have the right to know what is in food and how it is produced; no secrets.
Ms. Chism states “we can grow more crops on less land using fewer pesticides and less water and fuel”. This is blatantly false. For example, use of the primary pesticide, glyphosate (typically Roundup) has skyrocketed in recent years. The reason for genetically engineered corn and soy beans in the first place was to enable those crops to withstand massive doses of glyphosate and live while the weeds around them die. That is it. There is no benefit to the consumer who shops at the local grocery store.
The World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer has recently declared glyphosate to be a “probable human carcinogen”. In short, it causes cancer. Residues of this pesticide follow the crops from field to the dinner table. Glyphosate is sprayed everywhere. Wouldn’t you like to know what poison is on your plate?
Glyphosate is becoming less and less effective with the emergence of resistant weeds. What we have to look forward to next are genetically engineered crops able to withstand massive doses of 2,4,D (an Agent Orange component) and dicamba, two even more toxic poisons that will follow food to the dinner table.
Ms. Chism states the FDA, USDA, AMA, National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization, and dozens of other scientific organizations have confirmed that GMOs are as safe for human consumption as non-GMO products. They have done no such thing. There have been no long term human safety studies conducted by independent scientists. Animal studies, mostly in other countries, have shown cause for significant concern. I already stated the WHO Cancer Agency just recently determined the primary pesticide used on GMOs (genetically engineered crops) causes cancer. The AMA sits the fence. The FDA has been politically manipulated. I could go on.
Ms. Chism writes about grapes, tangelos, broccoli and many other “modified foods” and how she has fed her family with these. She also states farmers have changed the genetic makeup of all crops grown since domestic agriculture began including organic and heirloom seeds. She wants us to believe that today’s genetic engineering of plants and animals is the same as has been going on in agriculture for centuries. Again, blatantly wrong. The technology required to transfer a gene from one organism to another is nothing like that used to select plants with desirable traits, then grow them. It is nothing like what is required to develop plant hybrids. What genetic engineering of plants does is violate biological barriers that have existed for eons in ways that are unpredictable, risky, and reckless. Her grapes, tangelos, and broccoli are not genetically engineered as the term is defined in science or molecular biology today. As one with advanced university degrees from Purdue in both toxicology and genetics, I tell you straight out that this technology is far from precise or outcomes predictable. What is predictable is that there is risk of new allergens, toxins, and disease causing rogue proteins. I think you have a right to know that.
Another reason I find Ms. Chism’s article interesting is that she is the second vice president of the Indiana Farm Bureau. This already is cause for rising of eyebrows. Her article could have been written by the public relations department of any of the giant chemical/seed companies. It is the party line. The problem is that much of that line is false. I recommend to any interested a book written a few years ago called, “Uncertain Peril”, by Claire Hope Cummings. She details the coming of genetic engineering in agriculture, how it happened and what risks are presented in much more detail than I can write here.
Finally, contrary to Ms. Chism’s urgings, I urge Senators Coats and Donnelly vote “NO” on the Senate version of HR 1599. I urge them to support labeling of genetically engineered foods. I urge them to support the public right to know what is in food and how it is produced. No secrets. No lies. If this bill passes Congress, I urge President Obama to veto it.