GMO Food: The Ugly Face of America By RIO BAUCE

Friday December 24, 2004

Can you imagine dying because a company didn’t properly label their food product? Would you want to eat food that raises your risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer by 400 percent? Could you support a type of biotechnology that has the potential to introduce a new allergen to the human race? You may be asking yourself, “What could this biotechnology be and what’s the likelihood that I am purchasing these sorts of things?” In fact, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are present in our food supply, predominately in our major staples, like corn, wheat, soybean, and cotton, and pose serious hazards to both our health and our food supply, as well as the environment. 

The government clearly demonstrates a blatant disregard for our health and our well being. Between 1997 and 1999, GMO ingredients began to appear in two-thirds of all processed foods on the US market. They are in foods from popcorn to soy sauce, from crackers to candy bars. While you may be able to see a food labeled with fat, carbohydrate, and sugar content on the back of a certain products, you are not able to see if the bulk of these foods have been genetically modified (GM)! Not only do GM foods have lower vital nutrients in them, they also spike rates of cancer in people, have created super viruses and new allergens, may be responsible for a revival of fatal diseases, and even can cause birth defects. The list of side effects is endless. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not even require health testing of GM foods. The FDA only reviews product tests if they are voluntarily provided by the manufacturer. In other words, GM foods are not even tested to see if they are safe or not for human consumption. To add to the insult, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not require companies to even label their foods that contain these genetically modified organisms. Their goal is to protect the producer rather than the consumer.  

The GMO industry is destroying the environment. In three years, from 1997-1999, 25 percent of all US agricultural land (around 70-80 million acres) was being used to grow genetically modified crops. GM crops are specifically developed for toxin resistance, which require much higher use of herbicides and pesticides. According to an article by R.J. Goldburg scientists, herbicide use among farmers tripled with the raising of GM crops. Monsanto, a corporate giant in the GMO movement, has been the biggest offender in the GM controversy. Monsanto and other big companies have been buying out all the small seed companies and replacing the saved seeds with their GMO patented seeds, which are formulated to prevent plants from producing seeds that you are able to replant. This over time will make anyone who wants to plant seeds have to buy from Monsanto. 

Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer in Canada, has been farming for 40 years. In 2000 Percy found that 320 hectares of his land had been contaminated by Monsanto’s Roundup Ready canola, a genetically altered form of canola created to be pesticide-resistant. Percy says that the pollen “could easily have blown on to his soil from passing canola-laden trucks,” and that he saw Monsanto investigators trespassing on his farmland. You would think that Percy would go to court and sue Monsanto for ruining his crop and trespassing on his land. Actually, the opposite happened. Monsanto took this small farmer to court claiming that he broke the law and planted Monsanto’s GMO canola without paying them for the crop. Schmeiser has been battling this case in court since 2000, which has effectively been ruining his life and occupation. He is under constant stress, because of court proceedings and has virtually lost all of his years of hard work trying to save seeds. As part of litigation Monsanto has made farmers, like Percy, sign contracts not to save their seeds. 

As you can see, the future of food is being threatened by the rise of big corporations and there is no stopping them unless we take action. We can’t leave future generations with the burden of a toxic food supply. It’s unfair! If you care about your health, the environment, the food supply, or about the people around you, you should participate in the fight against GMO foods. Thirty countries have already banned all GMO foods, including Japan and various European countries. However in America, these kinds of things take time and progress little by little.  

Our first step is to get the USDA to adequately label all GMO foods. Surveys show that 92 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMO foods, but very few of them are taking action. You can do your part by visiting “The Campaign To Label Genetically Modified Foods” at www.thecampaign.org. On the site you can simply choose your state of residence and the site will provide you with form letters, which are easily printed out for you to send to your state senators and representatives. If you are unable to go online or wish to voice your support by phone, you can call up the senators directly. Senator Barbara Boxer’s number is (202) 224-3553, and Senator Diane Feinstein’s phone number is (202) 224-3841. If you wish to call out-of-state senators as well, you may call the Congress switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can tell your congressmen and congresswomen that you urge them to cosponsor legislation to require the mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.  

Hopefully with everyone’s help, we can move towards an America where GMOs are not present in our food supply, so we can continue to live as a proud, healthy country once again. 


Rio Bauce is a student at Berkeley High SchoolF