Why We Should Label Genetically Engineered Food

by guest blogger David Bronner

I’ve recently been activated on the genetically engineered food, or GMO, issue: If nothing is done, any crop or animal with significant market volume will be genetically engineered within the next 10 to 20 years, and consumers won’t know. The main arguments for labeling are:

1)    American consumers have a right to know and judge for themselves what they put in their own and children’s bodies. We don’t need Mama-Monsanto-knows-best force-feeding us untested, potentially unhealthy GMO food because we can’t be trusted to make our own informed decisions.

2)    GMO presents health risks, for example pesticide from GMO corn showing up in mothers’ and babies’ blood.

3)    GMO herbicide-tolerant crops require more chemical herbicides, which is breeding herbicide-resistant superweeds. GMO = chemical companies selling more chemicals.

4)    GMO is contaminating the non-GMO seed supply, interfering with farmers’ right to farm free of GMO.

5)    Yield improvements are negligible, and GMO equals chemical-intensive fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide farming, which is not economically or environmentally sustainable.

6)    If GMO supporters think GMO is so great, then they should proudly embrace GMO labels.  Great quote from a Consumers Union spokesperson in a Chicago Tribune piece: “‘If companies say genetic engineering is fine, then OK, let’s label it and let the consumers make their own decisions,’ said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, which produces Consumer Reports. ‘That’s what all the free market supporters say. So let’s let the market work properly.'”

GMO as applied to agriculture is a tragedy, especially in the developing world.  Biotech likes to market GMO as vitamins in drought-resistant rice to starving people, but GMO varieties that have been commercialized are generally pesticide/herbicide resistant so Monsanto can sell more chemicals, which is breeding resistant superweeds, and yield improvements are marginal.  There’s also been an epidemic of farmer suicides in India as farmers go into debt for GM cotton and then kill themselves. GMO is basically chemical companies selling more chemicals, which farmers in the developing world neither need nor can afford.  And synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are all petroleum based so will continue to climb in price, and that isn’t sustainable environmentally or economically.

The UN published a great (and relatively short) report last year about how “Agro-Ecological,” “less chemical-intensive, more knowledge-intensive” agriculture is what the world needs, and it’s worth reading through. Knowing what plants to intercrop to minimize pest pressure, promote water retention, and build soil fertility naturally is agriculture that is knowledge based, which can’t be monetized and thus is universally opposed by biotech.  Biotech concerns own the Obama U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as much as every other previous administration.  Obama’s USDA just commercialized Roundup-ready alfalfa—only 7 percent of alfalfa right now is even sprayed with herbicide, and contamination of non-GM alfalfa is inevitable.  Also, a GMO corn for ethanol was recently commercialized, which is a sad, perverse incentive of the subsidy schemes in place that promote huge overproduction of corn; corn kernels should not be making biofuel, as the energy return is almost nil versus the energy inputs (compared to sugar cane or cellulosic feedstocks like switchgrass and waste straw).

On a personal front, my dad developed the industry-standard, most-used firefighting foam concentrate for Monsanto in the ’80s, used in structure and forest fires in the U.S. and around the world.  (Phoschek WD 881).  I grew up selling firefighters on foam with my dad, and we have a rad fire truck in his honor you can check out at AllOneArk.com. In addition, our company had to drop our Dr. Bronner’s food products in the late ’90s because they were based on soy ingredients that we could no longer obtain in non-GM form (about 5 percent of our business at the time).

I’m fine with cool uses of genetic engineering, like E. coli making insulin, better algae for biofuels, and stuff that is not about Monsanto controlling and contaminating the agricultural seed supply and selling more chemicals.  This has to stop, or we all will be living on Planet Monsanto within a couple of decades.



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10 Responses to Why We Should Label Genetically Engineered Food

  1. Janet Glover August 30, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Well said, Maria! We need to raise public awareness so that everyone understands the extreme dangers of GMOs, and we need to push for labeling so that people can choose for themselves whether to eat genetically modified foods. It’s our right to know what’s in our food and to make our own choices for ourselves and our families! Thanks so much for speaking out so eloquently on this critically important issue! I’m sharing this on Facebook with the anti-GMO groups that I’m a part of.

  2. Janet Glover August 30, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    Oops! I was so eager to read the post that I missed the first line saying that this was written by guest blogger David Bronner. Sorry! Very well said, David!

  3. Louise Butler August 31, 2011 at 4:01 am #

    Well done, David. Btw, Bronner’s is the only soap product in my home. I’d always wondered what happened to my beloved Bronner’s Bullion. Now I know, thanks!

  4. stacy myers September 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Thank you Mr. Bonner. This message particularly poignant coming from you.

    Great additional info on this subject in link below.

    Also info on 10/16/11 “Millions Against Monsanto Day”

  5. Amy Pearson September 17, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    If you want to increase your knowledge on GMOs and genetically engineered foods your interests most likely also include how to avoid the purchasing and consuming of these products.

  6. dk October 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Dear Mr Bonner, your last statement mentioned . I am afraid that if GMO foods continue as they are, algae may be better served as a food than as biofuels.

  7. dk October 19, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    My last comment did not repeat part of your statement, so I will try again without the quote marks.
    Dear Mr Bonner, your last statement mentioned , better algae for biofuels. I am afraid that if GMO foods continue as they are, algae may be better served as a food than as biofuels.

  8. dk October 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    A better source as a biofuel would be non narcotic hemp. It grows well in most climates without the use of fertilizer and very little water. Non narcotic Hemp will out produce most crops, especially corn and soy as a biofuel. No herbicides are needed since weeds will distill well, along with crops to make biofuel, which makes me wonder why gmo weed resistent crops are needed at all. Non GMO corn and hemp could be used for both biofuel and food, since the distilling process creates 35% more protien due to the yeast and fermentation, and can then be used as a better feed for animals. Note, Cattle stomachs are not designed to eat corn or unfermented soy, but in a fermented state after distilling, it is more tolerable. Another note, for all you SILK drinkers, unfermented soy has too much estrogen in it and an eight ounce glass has the equivalent of five to six birth control pills, which is especially not good for babies and children, or anyone, for that matter. The last part from the doctor written book, MediSin.

  9. Guthrie Gragg February 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    All of you people are completely overreacting. GM Crops have never been proven to be detrimental to our health. The “extreme dangers” that Janet speaks of are nonexistent. You are the filth of humanity, you are a scourge in the existence of the entirety of the universe. You are all distorting the truth of Genetic advancements. You will always be nothing, doomed to posting on how right people are in regression. Good day sirs.

  10. Elmer Lesko March 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Whenever somebody or possibly a business decides that success has been attained, progress stops.
    Clients are a variety of war and sport.

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