Unhealthy Fixation

The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.


Is genetically engineered food dangerous? Many people seem to think it is. In the past five years, companies have submitted more than 27,000 products to the Non-GMO Project, which certifies goods that are free of genetically modified organisms. Last year, sales of such products nearly tripled. Whole Foods will soon require labels on all GMOs in its stores. Abbott, the company that makes Similac baby formula, has created a non-GMO version to give parents “peace of mind.” Trader Joe’s has sworn off GMOs. So has Chipotle.

Some environmentalists and public interest groups want to go further. Hundreds of organizations, including Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Center for Food Safety, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, are demanding “mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.” Since 2013, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut have passed laws to require GMO labels. Massachusetts could be next.

The central premise of these laws—and the main source of consumer anxiety, which has sparked corporate interest in GMO-free food—is concern about health. Last year, in a survey by the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Americans said it’s generally “unsafe to eat genetically modified foods.” Vermont says the primary purpose of its labeling law is to help people “avoid potential health risks of food produced from genetic engineering.” Chipotle notes that 300 scientists have “signed a statement rejecting the claim that there is a scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs for human consumption.” Until more studies are conducted, Chipotle says, “We believe it is prudent to take a cautious approach toward GMOs.”

The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all declared that there’s no good evidence GMOs are unsafeHundreds of studies back up that conclusion. But many of us don’t trust these assurances. We’re drawn to skeptics who say that there’s more to the story, that some studies have found risks associated with GMOs, and that Monsanto is covering it up.

I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.

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Are GMOs Safe? – The People Speak – Vice News qPublished on May 29, 2015

VICE News traveled around the world speaking to people about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and differences in opinion about engineered food.

Find out what people from Mexico City to London had to say about about it, and tell us what you think: share a post with the hashtag #vicenews on Twitter, or send us a Skype video message.

In GMO labeling fight, all eyes on Vermont – by Peter Moskowitz December 1, 2014 5:00AM ET

Food activists and the industry are looking to a court case between Vermont and a major food distribution association as a bellwether for the future of genetically modified foods.

In May, the state legislature voted to require food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled as such. If the law goes into effect in 2016, Vermont will become the first state to require such labeling. But first it will have to stand up in federal court: the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is funded by a coalition of companies including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Starbucks and Monsanto, along with three other industry groups, sued the state shortly after the law passed.

Now, several other states with pending ballot initiatives and legislation that would similarly require GMO labeling are awaiting the district court’s decision. Arguments are tentatively scheduled for mid-December, according to Vermont’s attorney general.

“I know other attorneys generals are watching this case closely,” said Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell. “Clearly other states are considering it. This is not a political issue — most consumers think it’s important.”

If Vermont’s law is shot down in court, it would be a big win for the food industry, which has for years been trying to quash the growing push for GMO labeling. The industry argues that labeling equates to fear mongering, as the Food and Drug Administration considers GMOs essentially the same as non-GMO food.

In Vermont, the industry is arguing that the state is trying to unfairly burden the business with state-by-state labeling requirements, and superseding federal regulations, which would be in violation of the Constitution’s commerce clause if it interferes with the free flow of food from state to state. The industry is also arguing that such labeling falls under political — as opposed to commercial — speech. Requiring a company to parrot the state’s political speech would be a violation of the First Amendment.

If the court upholds Vermont’s law, the case could have a domino effect across states considering GMO labeling laws. Twenty states have pushed for GMO labeling through legislatures, according to the Center for Food Safety, a pro-labeling group.

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Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at May 9, 2014 2.53

Vermont on Thursday became the first state in the U.S. to require the labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as Governor Peter Shumlin signed a law that is widely expected to be challenged in court by some food and agriculture companies.

The law, set to take effect July 1, 2016, would for the first time align at least a small part of the U.S. with more than 60 other countries that require labeling of genetically engineered foods. It also sets the stage for more than two-dozen other U.S. states that are currently considering the mandatory labeling of GMOs to move forward.

“Vermonters will have the right to know what’s in their food,” Shumlin told cheering supporters in a speech on the state House steps. “We are pro-information. Vermont gets it right with this bill.”

Shumlin said the state had set up a “food fight fund” to take online donations to help defend the law from litigation expected to be filed by food industry interests to block the law.

Consumer groups and lawmakers supporting such mandatory labeling say there is no scientific consensus on whether or not genetically engineered crops are safe, and consumers should be able to easily distinguish products containing GMOs so they can avoid them if they wish.

The consumer sentiment has pushed a growing number of U.S. food companies to start using non-genetically modified ingredients for their products because of the consumer backlash against GMOs.

But the food and agriculture industries — including the makers of genetically modified corn, soybeans, canola and other crops widely used in packaged foods — are fighting mandatory labeling of GMOs. They say their products are proven safe, and that such labels will imply they are unsafe, confusing consumers and increasing costs for all parties involved.

“Scientific bodies and regulatory officials around the world recognize that foods made from genetically modified (GM) crops are as safe as their non-GM counterparts,” said Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “GM crops have enabled farmers to produce more on less land with fewer pesticide applications, less water and reduced on-farm fuel use.”

BIO, a trade group whose members include Monsanto Co., Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co, and other biotech seed companies said food costs for an average household would rise as much as $400 per year due to mandatory labeling.

BIO and the Grocery Manufacturers Association are backing a proposed federal law that would nullify Vermont’s labeling law and any other mandatory labeling of GMOs in the United States.

Both sides of the debate claim science supports their view. Last October, a group of 93 international scientists said there was a lack of empirical and scientific evidence to support what they said were false claims by the biotech industry about a “consensus” on safety. It said more independent research is needed and studies showing safety tend to be funded and backed by the biotech industry.



Chobani vs. Whole Foods over GMOs – By TARINI PARTI | 12/20/13 10:50 AM EST Updated: 12/20/13 1:38 PM EST

A Whole Foods store and Chobani yogurt are pictured in a composite image. | AP Photo

‘Half of Whole Foods isn’t GMO-free,’ said Chobani’s chief marketing officer. | AP Photo

Whole Foods’ decision to drop Chobani yogurt from its shelves early next year might have started out as a fight over labeling of products with genetically modified organisms, but now the move seems to be about everything but.

The supermarket and top-selling Greek yogurt brand are now caught in a public battle in which Whole Foods has repeatedly defended its decision to phase out the leading industry product while Chobani has cast doubt on the retailer’s commitment to GMO labeling and organic products, calling it an excuse to kick out the main competitor to the store’s own 365 Everyday Value Greek Yogurt.

Not all Whole Foods Greek yogurt is GMO-free; “half of Whole Foods isn’t GMO-free,” said Peter McGuinness, Chobani’s chief marketing officer, in an interview with POLITICO. “This is not a GMO issue. I’m emphatic about this.”

“Why would you phase out the No. 1 Greek yogurt brand in America?” he continued. “I don’t know the answer to that question, but the Greek yogurt category is now booming and it’s very competitive.”

(POLITICO’s full agriculture coverage)

In a surprising move, Whole Foods announced on Wednesday that it would start phasing out the Chobani product in 2014 as part of its effort to stop selling genetically engineered foods that aren’t labeled so over the next several years, The Wall Street Journal reported. Chobani claims to use all natural ingredients, but it sources dairy from cows that are fed genetically modified grain.

Still, the retailer’s decision to single out Chobani without giving a timeline for dropping similar brands with unlabeled GMO ingredients prompted some news outlets, such as The Washington Post, to question its motives.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/chobani-vs-whole-foods-over-gmos-101380.html#ixzz2o7n1wAWz

How Dr. Bronner’s Got All Lathered Up About GMOs Best known for tingly soaps with wacky labels, the company has become one of the biggest players in the battle over labeling genetically modified ingredients. —By Josh Harkinson | Mon Nov. 4, 2013 3:00 AM PSTq

Yes on 522 logos on Dr. Bronner’s soap bottles: “Totally unprecedented in the world of product labeling.” Dave Gilson

It’s midmorning at the hive of cheap buildings that serves as the global HQ of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, and, as usual, David Bronner isn’t working on anything to do with soap. Sure, his phone is ringing off the hook with business calls and a rep from Trader Joe’s is visiting tomorrow, but the 40-year-old CEO—who looks like a 6-foot-5 raver version of Captain Jack Sparrow—could care less. A Burning Man amulet dangles on a hemp necklace over his tie-dye shirt as he leans in toward his computer screen, staring at what really matters to him: the latest internal poll results for Washington Initiative 522, a ballot measure that would require the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms.

The initiative, which Washingtonians will vote on tomorrow, is one of the costliest in state history: Its proponents have spent a little more than $7 million, while their opponents in biotech and agribusiness have poured in $22 million.* Dr. Bronner’s has donated a whopping$1.8 million to the Yes on 522 campaign. (That’s on top of $620,000 it gave in support of asimilar California ballot measure last year.) At stake, Bronner says, is consumers’ right to decide what they put in their bodies. “If we don’t win the right to label and enable people to choose non-GMO, then everything is going to be GMO.”

Article continues: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/11/dr-bronners-soap-gmo-labeling-washington