Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are taking over our food supply. Nearly 80 percent of processed foods, including those labeled “natural,” contain GMOs and experts agree that organic foods are not likely entirely organic anymore due to cross-pollination (aka “genetic pollution”) between conventional and organic fields. The facts are sobering.
Our food system has truly run amok. Our children are increasingly less healthy, generation to generation, than before. And, the problem seems to grow worse and worse every year.
Until now. A growing number of people, including myself, believe the tides are turning.
Ten years ago, very few moms discussed GMOs and, like me, were largely unaware of how commonplace GMO foods had become. But activists like Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, broke the silence by speaking out and authoring consumer-friendly books like his seminal work on the topic, “Seeds of Deception,” published in 2003.
Years of tireless, fringe advocacy and increasing evidence of harm have all paved a path for a wave of moms to push things to a tipping point. Why moms? Why now? I asked Jeffrey what his take was given his intimate involvement in the movement in the past decade. In true David vs. Goliath form, his insights were inspired.
Here’s what he had to say:
Nancy: How have you seen the conversation about GMOs change in the past decade?
Jeffrey: 10 years ago, very few people knew about GMOs, and very few companies labeled their products as non-GMO. Today, genetically engineered foods have entered popular culture, and we expect the results to be their complete elimination from the food supply in the near future.
About 26 states have introduced legislation proposing labeling of GMOs; with Connecticut and Maine passing the first laws. Washington state is staging a ballot initiative this November for labeling. And many other states are expected to pass their labeling laws next year.
The power of the movement is growing worldwide. From a single Facebook page suggesting a March on Monsanto, self-organized protests emerged in 52 countries with more than 2 million people.
In addition, the evidence demonstrating health problems from GMOs is far greater now than 10 years ago. I’d say it’s overwhelming
Nancy: I agree that more people are aware of the problem and food companies are responding to a degree, yet Monsanto’s power and the spread of GMOs is also more pervasive than ever — are we really making progress?
Jeffrey: We need to remember that we can win this battle without requiring policy change. Genetically engineered foods were banned in Europe, not by the European commission, but by Nestlé’s and Unilever and McDonald’s, etc. that’s where we have our greatest leverage.
We may continue to see the Obama administration and Congress bend to the will of Monsanto, as they have for two decades. But we should not judge our success on that basis. The increased efforts by the biotech industry to defend its turf and promote its products are in reality a frantic effort to stem the tide of the inevitable. As consumers, we are at the top of the food chain. And we are ushering in a non-GMO food supply through our healthier choices.
Nancy: What impact do you think that the labeling initiatives by companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle will have?
Jeffrey: Within the month of Whole Foods’ announcement that they would require products to be labeled GMO if they were not either organic or Non-GMO Project verified, about 300 companies enrolled products in the Non-GMO Project. The next month, another 300 inquiries were placed. The effect has been significant.
And, I love the fact that Chipotle was willing to label GMOs in their restaurants even before they were able to secure non-GMO cooking oil. It’s really a great heads-up for people wanting to eat non-GMO in restaurants, where soybean and canola oil are typically the greatest barrier to a non-GMO meal.
Nancy: GMO proponents continue to repeat the messages that GMOs create more food, use less pesticides, and have innumerable other benefits despite evidence to the contrary. Since you’ve been a part of this debate for so long, do you see any way to break beyond this he said/she said conversation?
Jeffrey: First of all, they lie. The experts at feeding the world, for example, agree that in their current state GMOs have nothing to offer. GMOs also don’t increase average yield. In fact they reduce it. They don’t increase average farmer income, nor do they reduce the use of agricultural chemicals. All this has been verified by independent research over and over again. That has never stopped the biotech industry from claiming just the opposite. And they have more money to spend than those who speak the truth.
Fortunately, a tipping point does not require the majority of consumers to choose non-GMO products. Even 5% of the US population avoiding GM ingredients would probably be more than enough to compel the food industry to eliminate GMOs in the US, as they have already done in Europe. And far more than 5% of the US population realizes that Monsanto, who told us that PCBs, Agent Orange, and DDT were safe, is also lying about GMOs.
Nancy: Why do you think moms will “lead the GMO revolution”?
Jeffrey: Moms are the shoppers, and the shoppers will turn this around. And moms protect children. They may not be motivated to change their diet to protect themselves, but when they realize the potential damage to their children, most moms become what I call Tiger moms. They’ll do what’s necessary to protect their children, and this force of nature will win out.
By Nancy Massotto, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network
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