February is all about hearts - of the romantic sort and, as it is national heart month, the physiologic intricacies as well. I will refrain from discussing the usual suspects proffered up in the natural/organic media this month which usually include: sumptuous chocolates, natural aphrodisiacs and heart-healthy nutritional supplements (all of which are available at the Living Earth). Here in the heart of the Bay State, let’s get the the heart of another matter altogether– the ongoing push for mandatory labeling of GMOs. Why in February, you may ask? Because now is a critical time for our progressive state to finally get a labeling law in place as our neighbors to the north and south (Vermont, Maine and Connecticut) have already accomplished. We have until July to pass Bill H. 3242, the Genetic Engineering Transparency Food and Seed Labeling Act. It is currently being reviewed in the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. We need this bill to be prioritized and released from the committee so it can be voted on. With 155 out of 200 (77.5%) state legislators now supporting the bill, it would easily pass when and if it finally does come up for a vote. Of the 17 members on the committee, three are from our area: Chairwoman State Senator Anne Gobi (Spencer) and State Representatives Mary Keefe (Worcester) and Donald Berthiaume (Spencer). All three support the bill and deserve our thanks. Chairman Paul Schmid (Westport) and three other committee member are not on board. State Senator Harriette Chandler (Worcester) is not on the committee but is a strong supporter of the bill. Please call or write your local legislators to thank them for their support and encourage them to convince those dragging their feet that this is what over 90% of their constituency wants– the right to know what is in their food. The issue is not only the specter of GMOs, but also the rampant use of herbicides, especially glyphosate, in our food system. Since 99% of all GMO are designed to withstand ever increasing amounts of herbicides or produce their own pesticides, this is a double insult to our wellbeing. Back in 1992, 20 million pounds of glyphosate were sprayed in the U.S. By 2013 (the last year for data), 300 million pounds were being sprayed annually– a fifteen fold increase!
On a positive note at the national level, soup giant Campbell’s has made the courageous decision to buck other corporate food and beverage companies and advocate for a federal mandatory labeling law of GMOs. Campbell’s has severed ties with various coalitions opposing the labeling of GMOs including the Grocery Manufacturing Association, an organization that has ponied up millions of dollars over the past three years to defeat GMO labeling legislation and support the DARK act. This piece of hideous legislation, euphemistically called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, would prevent mandatory labeling of GMOs. It passed in the House of Representatives in July 2015 but has yet to reach the Senate. In his groundbreaking book, Genetic Roulette (2007), Jeff Smith quotes numerous scientific experts on the dangers of GMOs. Here are two salient points of view excerpted from the book:
“Context is crucial. Yet genetic manipulation of food ignores millions of years of evolutionary context that could have serious implications in the future. We are not dealing with an insignificant change to our diet here; we’re dealing with a revolutionary technology being used for our food supply affecting us, future generations, and an ecosystem on which we depend”.
(Dr. David Suzuki, geneticist)
“Up until now all technologies were controllable. Electricity, even nuclear power, can be turned off. GM is the first irreversible technology in human history. When a GMO is released it is out of our control; we have no means to call it back. We can insert a transgene, but we cannot take the released transgene out. Since GMOs are self-replicating, releasing them might have dire consequences for human and animal health and for the environment and can change evolution”.
(Dr. Susan Bardocz, biochemist)
Free Movie: Genetic Roulette, based on the book by Jeff Smith, will be shown at the Worcester Library on Salem Street on Feb. 16 at 6:30pm in the Banx room. Be there and be aware!