Give Consumers a Choice—Label GMO Foods, Yes on Prop 37
by Tom Fendley
Proposition 37 is not a referendum on whether or not genetically engineered foods are safe. It's about our right to know what it’s in our food.
“The question of whether to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, as Proposition 37 would require, is not about science. Prop 37 is about people having the right to know what's in their food and how it was produced. It's about making competition in a free market—the hallmark of capitalism—more transparent," wrote Dr. Belinda Martineau, a molecular geneticist who was principal scientist at Calgene, Inc. when they introduced the first genetically engineered food, the “Flavr Savr” tomato, in 1994. The tomato was labeled and was initially so popular that one store had to limit customers to two tomatoes per day—proving that transparency can be a good thing all around.
Yet no genetically engineered product has been labeled in the U.S. since then. And today, Monsanto and the other major pesticide and junk food companies are spending $45 million to defeat a citizen's initiative for our right to labels. Why? It’s pretty simple: They believe their optimal business model depends upon secrecy and a lack of transparency. They don’t want to provide consumers a choice.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has a better idea for them. She wrote, “Instead of opposing this common-sense measure, I would urge these companies to embrace better food labeling and make their case for their products directly to consumers are worthy of purchase and consumption.”
Of course, lurking in the background of the Prop 37 discussion is a valid question: are genetically engineered foods safe? Incredibly, despite these foods being on the market for nearly twenty 20 years, we don’t yet know.
“Studies on short- or long-term health effects are hard to find since the FDA does not require them for market approval,” wrote Dr. Richard J Jackson, a pediatrician and former Director of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.
Dr. Jackson has endorsed Proposition 37, as has Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, whose board Jackson directs.
“Any statement suggesting extensive safety testing of all genetically modified crops is absolutely false,” said David Schubert, professor and Laboratory Head Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute, in an excellent piece by Michele Simon.
“A majority of the new GM crops coming through the agriculture biotech pipeline have had zero testing done on them,” Schubert said.
There's an explanation for the shortage of independent research on genetically engineered foods, of course. As the editors of Scientific American wrote, "(A)gritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers...only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of peer-reviewed journal."
Until we know that our food is safe, shouldn’t we at least have these foods labeled so that we can steer away from them if we so choose?
“Given the longstanding and repeated patterns of false reassurances in environmental health, it is only fair and prudent for people to be skeptical of safety claims, and have the right to know what they are being exposed to,” Dr. Jackson said.
Indeed, two of Prop 37’s leading opponents, Monsanto ($8.1 million) and Dow ($2 million), once told us Agent Orange and DDT were safe.
Meanwhile, our pesticide and junk food opponents, in the official voter guide, claimed—falsely—that the World Health Organization has concluded GMO foods are safe.
“In fact, the World Health Organization says that ongoing risk assessments are needed and that ‘GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods,’” wrote Simon. “Meanwhile, the American Medical Association favors pre-market safety testing, which the FDA does not require.”
So, let’s allow independent scientists to do more testing. In the meantime, how about we finally give consumers a choice?
“This citizen-scientist, for one, is voting 'yes' on Prop 37,” wrote Dr. Martineau. “I wholeheartedly support providing Californians with information about whether the foods in their grocery stores have been genetically engineered.”
Watch this Yes on Prop 37 Mythbusters Video:
Visit EcoWatch’s GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM page for more related news on this topic.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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