GMOs are in the news again, and all of us interested in raw food and organics need to protect our right to know. On Thursday, June 12, the European Union environmental council voted to allow decisions about GMO crops to be made by individual EU members. The Ecologist calls this a “messy compromise” that will allow GMO friendly corporations to exert influence on individual governments in the EU. In fact, the UK, which supported the proposal, seems likely to go ahead with approval of two varieties of GM “Roundup-ready” corn to be cultivated there.
The biological pollution from genetically engineered crops like soy, cotton, corn, and other plants can dangerously undermine the balance of nature, and no method of “biocontainment” of genetically modified crops is possible. Since they have not evolved naturally in the ecosystem, GM crops contain DNA with totally unknowable consequences to the environment. Biotech companies like Monsanto can disperse these genetically engineered pollutants over millions of acres, where they mutate with no effective known method for clean up. Genetically engineered crops attract far fewer bees and butterflies to their fields than non-GMO crops, and help create “superweeds” that lead to increased use of chemicals on crops.
The European Parliament still has power to block the June 12 decision. Environmental groups in the region fear that GM crops will encourage increased herbicide use in the EU leading to major toxic effects already experienced in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
The people’s right to “say no” to GM crops is sadly in jeopardy because of decisions like these, and opting out or establishing a ban on GM crops will doubtless be made more difficult by challenges and lawsuits from powerful companies who support GMOs.
Here in the U.S., Vermont’s mandatory labeling law for GMOs is already being challenged by trade groups, but Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell vows to “zealously defend the law." Oregon has become a hub of the national GMO debate, and the grassroots group Oregon Right to Know has launched a statewide initiative to require labeling of all GMO food products. Jackson and Josephine counties in Oregon have already approved measures to ban GE crops, and Benton and Lane County may follow their lead this fall. Japan and Korea temporarily suspended purchase of Oregon wheat when it was discovered contaminated by Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seed.
Huge corporations have deep pockets. In Washington State, the anti-GMO initiative was defeated when Monsanto and other corporations with vested interests spent $33 million to oppose the measure, and prop 37 was defeated here in California when Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, PepsiCo, Coke, Kraft, and Nestle spent $46 million to oppose the bill. Despite all the money spent to counter both measures, 45 percent of voters in Washington State and 48 percent of voters in California favored GMO labeling, so the grass roots movement is gaining momentum.
What can we do as consumers? Support all measures to require GMO labeling, join grassroots organizations, buy organic produce, and don’t support companies that try to block GMO labeling. We all must protect our right to know, and our right to save viable seeds for future generations.