To say that genetically modified foods are controversial would be a massive understatement. Millions of citizens are concerned about potential health and environmental hazards and the fact that not enough is known about food being produced this way.
There are those who feel confident that these foods are safe, some of them are even scientists. Then, there are those who may not even care that much about the food itself, but are totally outraged by the way the companies that produce and sell these foods continue to behave in what appears to be a full-scale attack on the rights of consumers to know what they are eating.
The most recent battleground is New Hampshire. Several billboards, featuring pictures of Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), as well as Whole Foods co-CEO Water Robb, Stonyfield Farms CEO Gary Hirschberg, and Melissa Hughes, CEO of Organic Valley and chairman of the Organic Trade Association’s board, proclaim: “These three organic food traitors have sold out the GMO-labeling movement for thirty pieces of silver.” The billboards were placed across the street from Ayotte’s campaign headquarters in Concord and Stonyfield’s headquarters in Londonderry.
The action is taking place just days before a new GMO-labeling bill hits the Senate floor. Food advocacy organizations say the bill was produced in a backroom deal between Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), along with representatives from Monsanto, Whole Foods, Stonyfield, Smucker’s and a handful Organic Trade Association (OTA) lobbyists. The bill is opposed by all leading grassroots organizations in the food movement, including the Center for Food Safety, the Organic Consumers Association, Consumers Union and Food Democracy Now, which referred to it as a “corrupt bargain.”
Carefully-worded loopholes in the bill make all provisions voluntary and exempt 85 percent of all GMO foods already on the market. Even the FDA acknowledges that the language is deeply flawed. The agency objects to the fact that the bill would transfer oversight of genetically-modified foods from the FDA to the USDA. They also oppose the fact that any information contained on the label would be embedded electronically, requiring a smartphone or similar device to be viewed. This would put the information, incomplete as it is, beyond the reach of many of the nation’s poor.
The Des Moines Register weighed in as well: “The bill’s use of the words ‘that contains genetic material’ … would mean that oil made from genetically engineered soybeans, and starches and purified proteins, would not require a GMO label.”
“It’s hard to imagine,” said Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!, “that two of the leading senators on the agricultural committee, responsible for crafting legislation that governs our nation’s food policy, and leading food companies could get these basic details so wrong.”
The New Hampshire billboards specifically go after Sen. Ayotte for accepting campaign contributions from Monsanto.
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety said: “A bill of this importance merits hearings, expert testimony and thorough legal analysis, not the ‘backroom dealing’ that created this deeply flawed draft. As it stands, this bill is a sham and a legislative embarrassment.”
As to why these organic companies are supporting it, the bill would apparently allow them to include cheaper GMO ingredients in their “organic” food without labeling them, saving them millions of dollars.
It would seem that if these people are so confident that these foods are safe, why not come forward in a transparent way and share all their test data, rather than suppress our right to identify them? Instead, they choose to behave very much like someone with something to hide.
To contact your senator about the upcoming vote click here.
Image courtesy of Food Democracy Now!