The phrases "Non-GMO" and "GMO-Free" have become common in our consumer mindset. Even if people aren't sure what they mean, they have heard that GMOs aren't good for us. We know that states are requiring food companies to label their products and that the federal government wants to override state's rights to require such labeling (read more below). Something about GMOs is a big deal.
However, in my mind the campaigns to improve our food system shouldn’t be built around the term Non-GMO. The labels we are asking food producers to put on their products shouldn’t be only "Contains GMOs" or "Non-GMO Ingredients". These terms allow the seed producing companies to frame the discussion and the debate and distract us from the true objections and concerns about our modern day food supply.
There are some people who try to make food aware movements look foolish by putting the focus on genetic modification and arguing about whether “Frankenfoods” should be in our food supply when the reality is no such frankenfoods are actually in the market.
In my opinion it’s time to start framing the discussion around the actual public and environmental health concern that GMOs present, which is the overexposure to agricultural chemicals through our food, water and farmland. The true objects and concerns are that we are pouring millions of pounds of chemicals into our environment and we are creating crops with genetic information that our bodies are not built to process.
Having said that, the time and effort being spent creating Non-GMO labeling initiatives like “Just Label It” are extremely important steps in the process of transforming our agricultural practices away from biocides and towards organic farming. This is especially true when you come to understand the intent and mission behind the introduction of The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (HR 1599) which has been dubbed “The Dark Act” by consumer advocacy groups. Speciously named, HR 1599 was introduced by Republicans and passed by the US House of Representatives in July, 2015.
At the time of this writing it awaits vote in the Senate. Ironically coming from the party which hails and advocates for “States Rights”, this bill would prevent individual states from requiring food companies to label whether their food products are made with GMOs. While the rest of the world moves towards more disclosure and banning the farming practices that create GMOs, the United States is attempting to further entrench the practice. It is no surprise that this bill is supported by Monsanto and AgChem as well as BigFood.
GMO Labeling isn’t the only thing on the public’s mind. Awareness campaigns about food dyes forced Kraft to change the formulation for its famous Mac-n-Cheese sold in the United States. Awareness campaigns about the ill-effects of fast food is causing McDonald’s restaurants to close in record numbers and create new and healthier menus. And awareness campaigns about the importance of organic foods is causing Monsanto’s quarterly earnings to plummet and the company to close plants and layoff employees. People can make a difference.
While GMO Labeling is the first step in the process, the truth in labeling we should really be demanding is the availability of more and more Organic Foods, regulated by the USDA, and we should work to ensure those regulations remain meaningful and protect public health. When you buy Organic food and personal care products it means the product is free from GMOs and it also means it is free from other synthetic agricultural chemicals and the farm and production operations demonstrate they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.
It’s time to start talking about what we do want, instead of what we don’t want. It’s time to be part of a food movement that inspires all of us to believe that the food we bring into our homes and eat at our favorite local restaurants is part of a big beautiful world that we are all helping to preserve. Demand USDA Organic Foods, keep those standards meaningful, and the world will benefit for it.