by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
All across America citizens have rallied together to fight against the biotech industry for food freedom laws. People want the right to grow and choose their own food, and to protect themselves from the biotech industry seeking to control agriculture with their GMO and chemical-based approach to food production. Their products, such as genetically modified seeds, herbicides, and pesticides, contaminate even organically-grown foods.
From the Food Sovereignty movement started in Maine back in 2011, to the citizens of Jackson County Oregon voting to ban GMO crops in their county, it has been a long battle for local communities to grow and market their own locally produced products against the tyranny of the federal government trying to force states and local communities to follow their own laws that strip away state rights and personal rights, in favor of protecting the biotech industry, Big Ag, and mass food production and distribution.
Recently, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that Congress needed to pass mandatory nationwide GMO labeling legislation. Some U.S. companies have implemented their own GMO labeling procedures, along with some states and local communities, but Vilsack and the federal government believes they can do it better:
‘The problem with all of that is there is no consistency,’ Vilsack said. ‘There is no predictability. There is no stability and the consumer can be easily confused because everybody might do it slightly differently if there is no standard.’
Is the federal government suddenly concerned about consumer rights and GMO transparency in food labeling? Can we really trust the federal government with protecting the rights of consumers through GMO mandated labeling laws?
A nationwide federally-mandated GMO labeling law would actually benefit the bitotech industry, and not consumers.
State of Vermont Changes the GMO Labeling Landscape
Two years ago, the tiny state of Vermont, one of the largest producers of organic products in the U.S., passed their own GMO labeling law. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other supporters of GMO products fought hard to implement federal standards for GMO labeling which would have preempted Vermont’s state law.
But those efforts failed, largely through the pressure of GMO advocacy groups putting pressure on federal lawmakers.
So with Vermont’s new law set to go into effect on July 1, 2016, many companies have taken steps to begin voluntarily labeling their foods with a statement as to whether or not they contain GMO ingredients, so that they can comply with Vermont’s new law and continue selling their products in that state.
Vermont is an example of citizens in a specific location wanting to take control of their food choices. Should the federal government override their choices, with mandated federal laws for GMO labeling?
Given the history of Congress in protecting the biotech industry and Big Ag, do we really trust them to implement laws that actually protect consumers? Massive subsidies paid by tax payers benefit the biotech industry and Big Ag, and any laws that limit that flow of money would be counter-productive for the industry.
The Government’s War on Local Communities Wanting to Limit GMO Crops
The real issue in regards to genetically modified food is not whether or not they should be labeled, but whether or not U.S. citizens have a right to choose not to consume them, and whether or not non-GMO farmers have a right to protect their crops from cross contamination from neighboring GMO farms.
Several local communities in the U.S. have bypassed the GMO labeling debate altogether, and have instead called for a ban on growing GMO crops in their communities.
Whether or not you believe the science that states GMO foods are OK, or the science that says GMO foods are harmful to one’s health, there is strong evidence that GMO crops cannot be contained, and violate the property rights of those who desire to grow truly GMO-free crops. And while conventional farmers have a choice to grow either GMO or non-GMO crops, organic farmers have no choice once their crops are contaminated. They suffer harm from the loss of their organic market.
We have seen examples in the past of unapproved experimental GMO crops escape containment and spread into the environment, such as GMO rice, and GMO wheat. When a farmer in Oregon unexpectedly found GMO wheat in his field, after the last known experimental GMO wheat crop was planted more than 10 years ago, it harmed U.S. exports of wheat from the Northwest, as countries with a strong stance against GMO crops immediately stopped buying wheat from the U.S. Oregon responded by trying to map where all the GMO crops were being grown in their state, but the biotech companies and Big Ag refused to reveal where their GMO fields were located.
As a result, several communities have since enacted local ordinances to protect their livelihood and ban GMO crops. They don’t want them labeled, they want them banned!
In 2014, citizens of Jackson County Oregon passed a bill banning GMO crops in their county. Jackson County was immediately sued by GMO farmers, but so far the law has withstood legal challenges, and goes into effect this year (2016).
A Federal Mandatory GMO Labeling Program Would Eliminate Stricter GMO Standards Some Companies Have Already Implemented
Federal lawmakers favoring Big Ag and biotech companies have tried repeatedly to enact federal legislation that would over-ride these local ordinances banning GMO crops, or requiring labeling of GMO foods. We should be very skeptical of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s comments that Congress needs to pass mandatory nationwide GMO labeling legislation. This would most assuredly NOT benefit consumers, but the biotech industry.
In addition, many companies have already implemented GMO labeling on their products volunatarily. There are several GMO labeling organizations available to verify GMO claims.
Healthy Traditions, the national brand of Tropical Traditions, for example, has implemented a GMO-tested program as well as a glyphosate-tested program to test every batch of products sold for the presence of GMOs or glyphosate. They have a zero tolerance level for the presence of GMOs or glyphosate. Even USDA Organic standards, however, allow for residue amounts of non-organic material. A national GMO labeling bill would most assuredly make it illegal for companies to develop their own GMO labeling standards, and the national standards would be far less strict, favoring Big Ag and the biotech industry.
Case Study: Federally Mandated USDA Organic Labeling
To get an idea of what federal labeling requirements would look like, one has to simply look at what happened to organic certification labeling after the federal government implemented legislation mandating organic certification requirements. Prior to the implementation of the National Organic Program (NOP), each state had their own definition and requirements for the definition of “organic.” Some states and some certifying bodies were more strict than others.
But when the federal government took over, and made it illegal to use the word “organic” on a food label without USDA approval, the standards for “organic” were seriously depleted to allow Big Ag and Big Food to get a bigger share of the booming organic market.
Federal Mandates Versus Local Community Food Sovereignty Ordinances
Expecting the federal government to police the multi-national food companies that control most of the nation’s food supply, when that same government is acting to protect them, is foolish.
The most powerful force in the market place to enact change is the American consumer. Unfortunately, Americans are also among the world’s most uneducated consumers when it comes to food. Americans spend far last of their income on food than any other country in the world.
Citizens need to enact change with their food purchases, and if laws are needed, they are needed at the local level to protect the rights of citizens to grow and purchase the food of their choice.
I can sympathize with those who support federal GMO labeling laws. I think they’re motives are good, but that they are mistaken in their belief that the federal government will actually protect the rights of consumers over the biotech industry, Big Ag, and Big Food. That is a false hope.
Farmer Joel Salatin debated Dr. Joe Mercola on this issue back in 2013, and his argument against federal GMO labeling is well worth listening to: