GMO Initiative 522: 'We have the right to know basic information about our food' - expert
According to the new report by the Washington State Academy of Sciences there may be consumer costs associated with the passage of the Initiative 522 to label genetically modified food. Could you elaborate on this?
I think that study is fundamentally flawed. Just a common sense shows that the food companies relabel the products all the time. And what 522 does is just says that companies that are using genetically engineered ingredients have to disclose that on their label. We disclose all kinds of information on our food products, you know, from artificial ingredients to nutrition information, to whether this is farm-raised or wild-caught and the cost of that disclosure is nothing.
So, the report is kind of a flim-flam study and it just shows the power of big agricultural and chemical companies that control policy in the US, where you can get a study like this that reportedly would be an objective academic investigation about the costs of labeling and have such ridiculous conclusions.
If it is passed, could you tell us how will this initiative 522 affect ordinary customers?
Ordinary people will be able to make an informed choice whether or not they want to eat genetically engineered food and feed them to their families. People who think genetically engineered food is good are welcome to know exactly which food they want to eat and people who don’t can decide not to eat it. Our position is, we aren’t in principle opposing genetic engineers. And we think there is a potentially good stuff they could be doing, like gene fixing of crops, insulin production with E. coli for diabetics – these are good examples of technology.
But unfortunately, what is actually happening in agriculture is that Monsanto, DAL and a few other chemical companies have bought the seed industry in this country and are engineering resistance to their herbicide and weed killers which are being sprayed on our food crops and the weed killer residues are going up. Next generation weed killer torn corps are going to be gradually resistant to much more toxic weed killers, like 2,4-D – the main ingredient in Agent Orange.
So, we have the right to know basic information about our food. We even didn’t get the right to know whether or not orange juices are from concentrate or not. So, we have the right to know whether or not our food is genetically engineered. And that’s what 522 will give the consumer – the information to make informed choices about genetically engineered food.
What is your attitude to genetically modified food?
In principle, I’m okay with genetic engineering if it does something worthwhile. But if all it is doing is breeding resistance to weed killers, then I have a problem with that because of, number one, you are spraying a lot more weed killer on food crops and the residues that we eat, and, number two, it is not helping farmers to move to a more sustainable, less chemical intensive model of agriculture which is what we need to be doing. We are creating resistance in the weeds, which means you have to dump ever more weed killer and it is a vicious chemical trade norm.
So, this is the problem. With genetic engineering, it is not so much in principle as just the way it’s been applied and the way it’s been serving the short-term profit interests of the chemical industry and not the long-term sustainability of us as a society.