In my tiny area of the globe, I am a gardener, keeper of animals, feeder of birds - someone who is concerned about the protection of the earth, land, soil, waterways, air, and all living beings. Increasingly, I am aware of the myriad ways we have become detached from nature, and the natural ways of living on the planet. One of the main issues of concern is our lack of knowledge about where our food comes from.
I can detect high fructose corn syrup in any product. It cheapens the taste and has a sickly sweet flavor. “Corn sugar” will do the same. It isn’t like regular sugar and doesn’t taste like it even though the argument laid out by the Corn Refiners Association is that high fructose corn syrup has the same nutritional value as sugar. Well, for Pete’s sake, who eats sugar for its nutritional value, which is nil? Let’s not forget the real issue is that we, as a nation, consume too much sugar in any form.
Even if you are a fan of eating products that contain high fructose corn syrup, I think it’s still wise to know the source of what you are putting into your mouth. Anything derived from corn (and soy) carries the potential to be genetically modified (GMO) so it can withstand a few solid drenchings of pesticides and herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup. The corn can also be modified by changing its DNA so that it “naturally” wards off bugs and increase crop yields.
Currently in the United States, the FDA has not required genetically engineered products to be labeled as such, while many other countries have demanded the labeling, including the European Union. A number of people work in the government, including the FDA, who stand to gain through their association with corporations like Monsanto, thus the labeling law has gotten bogged down in red tape.
Labeling all products with GMO ingredients is a vitally important issue that we as consumers must insist upon. The FDA hasn’t required labeling, indicating it’s too complicated. They say the evidence against GMO food isn’t clear enough, they don’t want consumers like me and you to look down on GMO ingredients in our food, and, what they don’t say, is that there are powerful people with corporate interests whose personal wealth will be negatively affected when we stop spending our money on their products.
We do know that there are adverse health effects from this form of biotechnology, that it was not and hasn’t been studied properly before it was used in the food supply, and that the use of GMO seed in crops contaminates other fields, including those that are organic. We also know that in many cases, more pesticides and herbicides have to be used on these crops. If you would like to learn more about this, read Dr. Joseph Mercola’s article entitled “10 Reasons to Avoid Genetically Modified Foods” at http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/02/27/10-reasons-why-no-one-needs-gm-foods.aspx. At the end of this article are numerous references for those of you interested in further research.
Whenever I write about these concerns, and when colleagues have done the same, someone (often working in Washington, DC) responds with a scathing letter, an attempt not to state facts, but rather disqualify the author and further confuse the public. The responses are personal attacks instead of rational disputes. This is spin, and it’s done because big money is involved, they know the facts are building against them, and they’re afraid the American public won’t remain in the dark for long.
But the American consumer is king and all we need is knowledge. We are the ones with the money who buy the products, and there is power in that. We could change the system at any time, with the dollar. By buying whole organic food, preferably from local farmers, and shunning the processed food world or at least demanding proper labeling, each of us declares that we support foods (including corn) to be grown the way nature intended, not modified by scientists, however well-meaning they might be. Keep in mind, all non-organic foods you pay for that contain corn (and soy) derivatives are likely to in some way support the GMO practice, while allowing chemical companies like Monsanto to control our food supply. This includes conventionally grown beef and chicken, since they are subjected to the GMO food in their daily feed.
October 2010 will be the first official “Non-GMO month” involving more than 580 natural food stores nationwide. This will be to promote awareness and celebrate your right to choose food that is not genetically modified. You can learn more about the event by reading a press release from the executive director of the Non-GMO Project: http://www.nongmoproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Non-GMO-Month-Press-Release.pdf.
If you want to watch two good movies, see The Future of Food and Food, Inc. They help clarify these issues, and at the very least, make us more aware of the necessity to have a GMO labeling law. This law might be complicated to enforce, but no more so than the prospect of an entire food supply being contaminated.
If you’re interest is piqued, read Jeffrey Smith’s book Seeds of Deception. For more on the American food industry read Marion Nestle’s Food Politics and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.
A descendant of Midwest farmers who came to California to work in the fertile Central Valley, I’ll continue to be an advocate for organic farmers and local farmers’ markets. I hope you will do the same, or we run the very real risk of being fed solely by a chemical giant who doesn’t have our best interests at heart.