Americans Don’t Know Whether They’ll Be Serving Genetically Engineered Foods, Says National “Just Label It” Coalition
Washington, D.C. – June 29, 2012 – As millions of Americans prepare for July 4th picnics and barbecues with family and friends, Just Label It, the national coalition for genetically engineered (GE) food labeling, urged Washington to stop keeping our citizens in the dark, and require labeling for GE foods.
“This July 4th and all summer long, American families will gather our children and grandchildren around picnic and dinner tables without knowing about the food they’re serving,” JLI Chairman Gary Hirshberg said. “As we celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s freedom, the stark reality is that American families don’t have the information or the freedom to know about the food they eat, which places the United States far behind 50 other nations.” Countries such as Japan, all of Europe, and China already have GE foods labeling.
As families stock up on hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob, and get set to make traditional potato salad and apple pie, millions of us will unknowingly buy foods made with GE ingredients. Having no GE foods labeling denies us the information we need to make informed purchasing decisions, and it may put people with food allergies at significant risk.
“After my child had an allergic reaction to breakfast, I was shocked to learn that GE foods had been introducing proteins and allergens into the U.S. food supply since 1996, and no human trials had been done. This means all of us, including our children, are guinea pigs for the chemical companies who have engineered these crops to withstand increasing doses of their chemicals. We have the right to know about our food. We need GE foods to be labeled,” said Robyn O’Brien, who founded the AllergyKids Foundation to help protect the 1 in 3 American children with allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism.
O’Brien noted that nearly all of the foods served this Independence Day and at every summer barbecue could be genetically engineered. Corn on the cob could be genetically engineered to withstand pesticides. The butter we put on it, along with our hamburgers and hot dogs, could be made from livestock that have been raised on GE feed. Any products that contain conventional soy and corn (soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup) are likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients. This means all of our condiments, salad dressings, and hamburger and hot dog buns could be genetically modified.
“The right to know is a core American value, and part of the building blocks of our democracy. While the science on the health implications of GE foods is inconclusive, it’s time for government to respond to the will of the people and mandate GE food labeling, so we all have the freedom to decide and choose what our families eat,” concluded Hirshberg.
For further information about GE foods, and to sign the petition urging the FDA to approve GE labeling, visit the Just Label It website (www.justlabelit.org).
About Just Label It
JUST LABEL IT (JLI) is a national coalition of more than 540 diverse organizations dedicated to the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, also referred to as genetically modified, or GMOs. The Just Label It message is simple: consumers have a right to know about our food so we can make informed choices about what we eat and feed our families. For updated information, visit the Just Label It website, (www.justlabelit.org)
What is a GMO?
“Genetically engineered foods,” “genetically modified organisms,” or “GMOs,” are organisms that have been created through application of transgenic, gene-splicing techniques that are part of biotechnology. This relatively new science allows DNA (genetic material) from one species to be transferred into another species, creating transgenic organisms with combinations of genes from plants, animals, bacteria, and even viral gene pools. The mixing of genes from different species that have never shared genes in the past is what makes GMOs and GE crops so unique. It is impossible to create such transgenic organisms through traditional crossbreeding methods.
The San Diego-based cereal maker Kashi is a topic of discussion among consumers this week after a blogger on the Green It All website pointed out that some of its products contain genetically-modified ingredients.
That information isn’t news to people in the natural-foods industry, but it’s just now making the rounds of social media, inspiring 171 comments on Kashi’s Facebook page this week. Earlier this year, most of the company’s products were pulled off at least one grocery store’s shelves. And for the past two years, San Diego-based natural grocer Jimbo’s hasn’t accepted new Kashi products because of concerns about GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.
A spokeswoman for Kashi, which has headquarters in La Jolla, declined to respond Tuesday to emailed and telephoned requests for comment. Kashi recently joined the Non-GMO project and hadseven products verified as Non-GMO: 7 Whole Grain Flakes, 7 Whole Grain Pilaf, 7 Whole Grain Puffs, Autumn Wheat, Cinnamon Harvest, Island Vanilla and Strawberry Fields.
Kashi, known for its high-protein cereal and other packaged food products, got its start in 1984 with a “breakfast pilaf” and went on to become a recognized name in whole grain nutrition. It was acquired by the country’s largest breakfast-cereal maker, Kellogg, in 2000, but emphasizes its independent roots. From its website: “We are a small (after 25 years, still fewer than 70 of us) band of passionate people who believe right down to our bones that everyone has the power to make positive changes in their lives.”
Based on testing, some of Kashi’s products contain GMOs and chemically processed soy, according to an October 2011 report on cereal brands by the Cornucopia Institute, a tax-exempt public interest group that supports sustainable and organic agriculture. The report contends that “natural” claims are basically meaningless. Those claims confuse consumers and undermine the regulated “organic” label, the report said. From the report:
Numerous “natural” products were indeed contaminated with high levels of GE ingredients, sometimes as high as 100%: Kashi® GoLean®, Mother’s® Bumpers®, Nutritious Living® Hi-Lo®, and General Mills Kix… Several Bear Naked® and Kashi® products contain hexane-extracted soy protein. The “hexane bath” that the soybeans are immersed in consists of more than 50% n-hexane, which is a known neurotoxin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The spokeswoman for Kashi declined to respond to those statements from the report, but the company posted this statement Monday on its Facebook page: “We’re committed to providing food you’re proud to share with your family. We believe the credible way to provide information about GMOs is through USDA Organic certification and Non-GMO Project Verification.”
Based on that report, the Green Grocer in Portsmouth, R.I. pulled Kashi and three other brands from its shelves early this year, said co-owner John Wood. He said that before making that decision, he reached out to Kashi and asked about its plans regarding genetically-modified ingredients. “The woman I spoke with told me that there was not enough organic grain in supply to meet the company’s needs,” Wood said. “So based on the report and Kashi’s response, it was clear that it didn’t meet our store’s standards and we removed the product.”
San Diego’s major natural food chains – Sprouts and Jimbo’s – still carry Kashi products, although some don’t conform to Jimbo’s 2-year-old GMO policy. Jimbo’s didn’t remove any products from its shelves, opting to “grandfather” many products it already carried – including Kashi cereals such as Good Friends – but it won’t add new products that don’t meet its rules, said buyer Andy Huth.
“We think it’s important to give manufacturers a chance to adjust their manufacturing to use different ingredients, and they can’t do that overnight,” Huth said. “Over time, more and more of the products that meet our standards displace those that don’t.”
This isn’t the first time that Kashi has faced criticism for marketing itself as a “natural” company. On August 31, 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed against Kellogg/Kashi for allegedly misleading consumers with its “natural” claims. The plaintiff said that GoLean Shakes, for example, is composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients.
The spokeswoman for Kashi declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The U.S. Is Behind the Curve in Rejecting GM Foods
People around the world have joined forces to refuse GM foods and crops because of the dangers they present to your health and the future of your food supply. Europe, for example, eliminated GMOs from their food supply 10 years ago.
In the United States, however, many of you are still not even aware you’re eating GM foods every day.
That’s because an estimated 75 percent of foods in U.S. grocery stores contain GM ingredients. About seven out of every 10 items in the average grocery cart have been genetically modified. And don’t bother reading labels to see if you’re buying a GM product, because no labeling is required. Why Genetically Modified Food in the First Place?
The stated purpose for the development of GMOs is to increase crop yields, reduce costs for farmers, and to use less herbicide.
No increase in yields: GM soy decreased yields by up to 20 percent compared with non-GM soy, and up to 100 percent failures of GM cotton have been recorded in India.
Increase in costs to farmers: “Terminator technology” is being used to create seeds that self-destruct. The seeds (and subsequent crops) are sterile, which means farmers must buy them again each year instead of using the seeds from their harvest to replant the following year, which is the traditional way.
This means bigger profits for the food companies that are patenting GM seeds, and more money shelled out from farmers. Worse still, this practice could actually threaten the entire food supply because the sterile seeds may spread to nearby fields.
No reduction in pesticide use: USDA data showed that GM crops increased pesticide use by 50 million pounds from 1996 to 2003 in the United States. Roundup herbicide: This product is lethal to frogs and toxic to human placental and embryonic cells. It is used on more than 80 percent of all GM crops planted in the world
GM crops harm wildlife: Wastes from GM corn impairs the growth of aquatic insects.
GM food and feed have been linked to deaths and sicknesses: Both in the fields of India, and in lab tests around the world.
Biotech firms claim they offer a genetically modified pest-resistant crop. Pest-resistant in this context actually means the crops contain their own built-in pesticide. So eating a GM plant, whether you’re a bug or a human, means you’re ingesting toxic pesticides.
The fact is, genetic engineering is crude, imprecise and insidious. The process itself alters DNA and mutates genes. It’s a game of genetic roulette that can’t be won, and is ultimately dangerous.
It has been proven GM crops do not fulfill their stated purpose. They have not influenced the escalating rates of hunger, poverty, food prices and environmental disasters.
The solution is a fundamental change in farming practices that does away with GM crops and promotes small-scale organic farming.
The Clear and Present Dangers of GM Foods to Your Health
According to Jeffrey Smith’s research, between 1994 and 2001 – a period during which GM foods flooded the market – food related illnesses doubled. GMO foods can be:
Despite claims by giant GMO manufacturers like Monsanto that genetically modified foods are no less healthy than non-GM foods, the research says otherwise.
Smith addresses recent GMO-related health problems in both animals and people in his video. GM foods can also:
Contribute to food allergies
Possibly cause damage to your immune system
Potentially cause outbreaks of Morgellons Disease
In case you’re unfamiliar, people with the bizarre Morgellons Disease, which has been cropping up worldwide, describe a sensation of bugs moving around beneath their skin. This unsettling sensation is accompanied by open lesions that ooze blue, black or white fibers that can be several millimeters long. These fibers are strong enough to distend the skin when pulled and are painful to remove.
The traits of GM crops can get passed on to other non-GM crops. This means that a crop engineered to contain a vaccine, or to be sterile, could easily taint an entire region, and eventually the entire world. As Smith points out in the video, the environmental impact of GMOs is potentially much greater even than the health impact.
How to Recognize GM Foods
The offspring of these products include products such as maltodextrin, soy lecithin, and high fructose corn syrup. Other GMO products include:
Some varieties of zucchini, crookneck squash, and papayas from Hawaii
Milk containing rbGH
Rennet (containing genetically modified enzymes) used to make hard cheeses
Examine produce stickers on the fruits and vegetables you buy. The PLU code for conventionally grown fruit consists of four numbers; organically grown fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number nine; and GM fruit has five numbers prefaced by the number eight.
Buy organic produce as often as you can. By definition, food that is certified organic must be free from all GM organisms.
Stay away from processed foods. Most of these contain corn and soy products.
The True Food Shopping Guide is also great tool to help you determine which brands and products contain GMO ingredients. Print it out and take it with you every time you go to the grocery store.
What Else Can You Do to Fight for a Safe Food Supply?
As a consumer you have power. Large portions of Europe have already succeeded in kicking GMOs out of their food supply, forcing food manufacturers to use real ingredients in their European product lines.
You can be the change you want to see in America by educating yourself and spreading the word.
Refuse to purchase genetically modified products
Ask your local supermarket to stock the shelves with more natural organic foods
Avoid all processed food products and buy only fresh, locally grown, organic foods
Let your elected officials know how you feel about GM foods. Demand the implementation of a precautionary principle: GMOs should not be allowed into the food system until extensive long-term, third-party studies — not studies funded by seed technology companies — have been performed. And as long as it is present in food, all products must be clearly labeled as to whether they contain GMO crop ingredients.
Visit www.responsibletechnology.org/donate to be a part of this worthwhile and important cause
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