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Informed Consumption

Recently an initiative was introduced to
the California State’s Attorney General’s office: the
California Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. This
initiative, which will most likely be sent to voters in 2012, would
require all genetically modified food to be clearly labeled so
consumers can make informed choices.

Numerous other laws requiring better food labels have been
introduced to legislatures around the country and in D.C.;
unfortunately, big agriculture and chemical companies have great
lobbies and have gotten each bill shot down. The California
measure’s the first one that will be taken directly to
voters, and polls right now show that 93% of Americans believe
genetically-modified foods, or GMOs, should be labeled.

What’s the big deal, though? So they’ve cross-bred two
tomatoes to get a superior, juicier, redder tomato? Where’s
the cause for alarm, huh? That’s not what GMOs are, though. A
genetically-modified vegetable or animal – and yes, cloned
animals have been permitted in our food supply (unlabeled, of
course) by the FDA since early 2008 – is something that has
been altered at its molecular level: we’re talking
introducing foreign DNA from another substance, not another strain
of the same plant. So instead of cross-breeding a tomato with
another tomato, we’re talking about a tomato cross-bred with
a scorpion (true story, by the way). THAT kind of modification.

GMOs have been permitted in the USA since
the mid-1990’s, which is when, coincidentally, food allergies
– specifically, peanut allergies – skyrocketed. Many
GMOs have their DNA filled in with soy DNA, for example (think
Jurassic Park-type manipulation), which happens to be a legume like
the peanut. So people are unwittingly consuming soy DNA, which over
time could cross-trigger a latent peanut allergy.

Still with me?

How much of our food is really genetically modified, though? Most
estimates – just estimates, since they’re not labeled
– put the number at right around 70% of all food sold in
grocery stores. ALL food. Of crops grown in the US, 85% of corn is
GMO, 91% of soybeans, and 95% of sugar beets. Tell me a processed
product that doesn’t contain glucose (corn), lecithin (soy),
high-fructose corn syrup (corn), or maltodextrin (corn). Not many
out there.

Right now, over fifty countries in the world – including the
European Union, Japan, and Australia – require GMOs to be
labeled. The US does not, and the only way you can be guaranteed
that you’re not eating GMOs in your food is to buy something
labeled Certified Organic: there can be no GMOs in something the
government certifies organic. But even if you buy all your grains
organic, you’ll need to buy grass-finished beef and milk from
pasture-fed cows, since all other cows most likely eat genetically
modified corn.

Yes, our food supply really is this bad. Allergies and immune
disorders are on the rise, and for some reason we seem to be
literally the last country on earth concerned about what
we’re eating – and feeding to our kids.

I know, this is one of my soapboxes. And I’m ranting today
because I read a href="http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/do_you_have_a_right_to_know_whats_in_your_food/">
good little article
recently that reminded me all about
it. But also because I’m tired of having to give my kids
– who eat a pretty healthy diet, I think – supplements
and probiotics because their body can’t digest its food. And
I’m tired from being from one of the wealthiest countries in
the world who has one of the worst food supplies in the world.

Want to know more? Go to href="http://www.healthychild.org">Healthy Child, Healthy
and sign up for their weekly updates. Go to target="_blank"
Environmental Working Group and read through a few of
their pages. But do something – and start by asking your
congressmen and women to give you the right to make more informed
choices when you hit the grocery store.


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