On November 6th, 2012, California residents will have the opportunity to vote on groundbreaking legislation that would force all genetically modified foods (GM) to carrying labeling signifying them as such, if passed. This type of regulation would be the first of its kind in the United States and has the potential to set a major precedent that other states are likely to follow. As it stands now, it is difficult– if not impossible– to identify genetically modified foods with current labeling requirements. Those wishing to avoid GM products must buy organic foods or there is always a chance that the product could contain GM ingredients. By forcing companies or farms who grow or use GM foods to label them as such, it will bring a new level of transparency to the food industry and help consumers to make educated decisions about what they wish to put in their bodies.
What Exactly Are GM Foods and Why Should We Care?
Just like humans, the foods we eat have their own genetic code. Scientists have discovered that by altering specific sequences of DNA in plants, they can force them to exhibit properties that are considered desirable by some farmers and industries. For instance, plants can be made resistant to certain pesticides and herbicides so that when they are sprayed in large quantities to combat pests, the plants do not suffer ill effects. While this is beneficial for crop yields, it presents many health problems for people consuming GM crops. When the new DNA sequences are injected into the plants it is not by any means an accurate science and many other unintended changes also occur, which can cause the plant to exhibit undesirable effects such as increased toxicity even to the point of causing tumors and caner in mice! No one really knows exactly how and to what extent the plants are altered during genetic splicing and what effects this may have in the long term. Short term tests that have been conducted on animals are alarming to say the least, with findings implicating GM foods in a number of serious diseases.
Additionally, GM crops/foods having the following issues associated with them:
- GM crops are typically sprayed with significantly higher levels of toxic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in part because it does not affect the plants as severely as their non-GM counterparts and also due to the fact that pests become resistant to the sprays and therefore more is required to kill them with each subsequent application.
- GM seeds are patented and cannot be saved and replanted the following season. In fact, many GM crops don’t even produce seeds and every time a farmer wants to plant a new plot, they must buy more seeds from suppliers such as Monsanto. If farmers are caught saving seeds, they face serious lawsuits and harassment by companies enforcing their patents. However, there is an even bigger problem than farmers caught infringing on seed saving rules: cross-contamination of non-GM crops with pollen from GM crops. Whenever the wind blows, pollen from GM crops is spread indiscriminately into surrounding fields and farms. Those farmers who do not wish to grow GM crops but who have land adjacent to farmers who do are at major risk for GM crop contamination. Not only does this happen frequently, but companies like Monsanto then harass the farmers whose fields have been contaminated and destroyed by GM crops from adjacent farms for patent infringement and other ridiculous claims.
- GM crops typically can only be cultivated on large factory farms where growing conditions can be closely controlled by the excessive use of sprays and petrochemicals. The energy input needed to generate one unit of GM food is significantly higher than the equivalent organic or non-GM foodstuff.
After learning about these qualities, most people choose to avoid GM foods. It can, however, be very difficult to do so without obvious labeling, which highlights the importance of CA Prop. 37.
Be Green Packaging Supports CA Prop. 37
Be Green Packaging, along with a growing list of innovative companies, has taken the initiative to have its products verified by the Non-GMO Project, an organization who certifies products which are found to be free of all GM contaminants. In the absence of definitive legislation, the Non-GMO Project is the most respected organization that works with companies looking to certify that their products do not contain GM ingredients.
On November 6th, remember to vote YES on Prop. 37 in support of labeling GM foods in California!