Reposted from ‘Nature’, written by Declan Butler
Rat study sparks GM furore
Cancer claims put herbicide-resistant transgenic maize in the spotlight.
Tumours developed more readily in rats fed genetically modified maize than in controls, recent research reports.
Europe has never been particularly fond of genetically modified (GM) foods, but a startling research paper published last week looks set to harden public and political opposition even further, despite a torrent of scepticism from scientists about the work.
The study1, published in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, looked for adverse health effects in rats fed NK603 maize (corn), developed by biotech company Monsanto to resist the herbicide glyphosate and approved for animal and human consumption in the European Union, United States and other countries. It reported that the rats developed higher levels of cancers, had larger cancerous tumours and died earlier than controls. The researchers have not conclusively identified a mechanism for the effect.
The rats were monitored for two years (almost their whole lifespan), making this the first long-term study of maize containing these specific genes. About a dozen long-term studies of different GM crops have failed to find such stark health effects2. An earlier test of NK603 maize in rats in a 90-day feeding trial — the current regulatory norm — sponsored by Monsanto showed no adverse effects3.
The explosion of media coverage about the findings has energized opponents of GM food, especially in Europe. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that, if the results are confirmed, the government will press for a Europe-wide ban on the maize. The European Commission has instructed the independent European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, to assess the study.
Many scientists, however, have already questioned the study’s methodology and findings. They assert that the data presented in the paper do not readily allow the claims to be independently assessed, and they question the study’s experimental design and its statistical analysis of any differences between the treated groups and controls. Other scientists point out that the Sprague-Dawley strain of rats used in the experiments has been shown to be susceptible to developing tumours spontaneously, particularly as they grow older, making it difficult to interpret the results. Monsanto itself said that the study “does not meet minimum acceptable standards for this type of scientific research”.
The €3.2-million (US$4.1-million) study was led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, in collaboration with the Paris-based Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), whose scientific board he heads. CRIIGEN bills itself as an “independent non-profit organization of scientific counter-expertise to study GMOs, pesticides and impacts of pollutants on health and environment, and to develop non polluting alternatives”. The article’s publication coincides with the launch this week of a book by Séralini, Tous Cobayes? (All of Us Guinea-Pigs Now?), which tells the story of the research project and is accompanied by a film and a television documentary.
In a written response to Nature’s questions, Séralini and Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, president of CRIIGEN and a co-author of the paper, say that they have been surprised by the “violence” and immediacy of scientists’ criticisms. They argue that most of the critics are not toxicologists, and suggest that some may have competing interests, including working to develop transgenic crops. They also point out some errors by critics, such as claims that graphs in the paper showing rat survival over time do not include data for the controls.
The authors concede that Sprague-Dawley rats may not be the best model for such long-term studies, but argue that the difference between the NK603-fed rats and controls is marked, and that many fewer control rats developed tumours in middle age. The 90-day trial of Monsanto’s NK603 maize used in its authorization also used Sprague-Dawley rats, they add.
José Domingo, a toxicologist at Rovira i Virgili University in Reus, Spain, and a managing editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology, says that the study raised no red flags during peer review. Domingo, who last year authored a critical review of safety assessments of GM plants4, has previously complained about the lack of independent feeding studies of GM foods.
The controversy over the findings is likely to be settled only after detailed analysis of the paper and its data, and replication of the experiments. But Séralini says he won’t release his data until the raw data underpinning the authorization of NK603 in Europe are also made public. And he wants all the data to be assessed by an independent international committee, arguing that experts involved in the authorization of the maize should not be involved. EFSA chief Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle disagreed, and said that her agency is well placed to assemble a multidisciplinary group to give an impartial assessment.
Some scientists, however, have long questioned whether such feeding studies are appropriate for testing the safety of whole foods, says Peter Kearns, head of food safety, nanosafety and chemical accidents for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. They were designed for testing chemicals where precise doses of purified and well-characterized compounds can be administered, whereas compounds in foods are heterogeneous, and doses are difficult to control. Regulators rely mainly on more robust tests that compare the toxicological and nutritional profiles of GM foods with their non-GM counterparts to screen for potential concerns.
Resolution of the debate over the safety of GM foods can come only from rigorous science clarifying the issues, Kearns adds.
The original article was posted here: http://www.nature.com/news/rat-study-sparks-gm-furore-1.11471#/ref-link-4
GMO Labeling Begins at the Coop
You may have noticed lately on a few of the Coop’s thousands of shelf labels an additional element: a green dot with “NON GMO” squeezed within its confines. Many of these 3⁄8-inch diameter stickers are accompanied by a 1-inch by 1¼-inch “Non-GMO Project” sticker nearby. As of late March, 396 product labels sport such markings at the Coop.
What Do the Dots Signify?
On one level, they mean that after a decade of effort, the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Shelf Labeling Committee has succeeded in establishing an initial GMO (or non-GMO) labeling process with the full cooperation of the staff.
On another level, they mean that Coop has partnered with the Non-GMO Project (www.nongmoproject.org/), “North America’s only independent verifier for products made according to best practices for GMO avoidance,” to enable labeling of all Coop products that meet the project’s best practices standards. The project’s verification practices include ongoing testing of all ingredients at risk of contamination, an action thresh- old of 0.9% (any product containing over 0.9% GMO must be labeled as such), traceability and segregation practices and annual audits. See http://www.nongmoproject.org/ learn-more/understanding- our-seal/ for a complete description of the project.
To maintain a rigorous labeling process that meets standards set by the General Coordinators, our commit- tee recently expanded to 12 members.
What Exactly Are GMOs?
According to GMO-seller Monsanto’s website, GMOs are defined as follows: “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. In general, genes are taken (copied) from one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code of another organism.” Another definition, from the Institute of Responsible Technology: genetic engineering means that “Scientists…breach species barriers set up by nature.”
How Common Are GMOs?
Ingredients ubiquitous in processed “foods” such as cereal, chips, sauces and other packaged items found on shelves of retailers including the Coop are soy and corn. As of 2011, 90% of the corn and soy grown in the U.S. is GMO, according to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture. Between 70% and 80% of all processed “foods” sold in the states today are genetically modified, according to the Organic Consumers Association. Additional GMO crops grown in the U.S. include cottonseed, canola, sugar (sugar beets), papayas (Hawaii), zucchini, squash and alfalfa.
What Are Other Nations’ Disclosure Rules?
Labeling for GMOs is required by the European Union, Japan, Thailand, Korea, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, among others. GM-crop-exporting nations such as the U.S., Canada and Argentina are home to corporations that derive major profits from international trade in such products; these governments oppose disclosure of the presence of GMOs to their own citizens (and everyone else, for that matter).
In addition to opposing disclosure, the U.S. federal government neither requires nor performs any testing whatsoever to track or trace the impact of GMOs on our land or people. In fact, a Monsanto- lawyer-cum-F.D.A. Deputy Commissioner for Foods (sic), Michael Taylor (an Obama appointee), paved the way for unaccountable mass experimentation on the U.S. citizenry back in 1992. In that year, Taylor, as head of an F.D.A. task force forming federal GMO policy, proffered the following recommendation:
“F.D.A. believes that [GMOs] are extensions at the molecular level of traditional methods and will be used to achieve the same goals as pursued with traditional plant breeding. The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods (sic) derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. For this reason, the agency does not believe that the method of development of a new plant variety (including the use of new techniques including recombinant DNA techniques) is normally material information within the meaning of 21 U.S.C. 321(n) and would not usually be required to be disclosed in labeling for the food.” Hmm. How could the F.D.A. (or anyone else) be aware of long-term impacts of “new methods”? For new drugs, the F.D.A. requires rigorous trials. With new “food,” the F.D.A. adheres to a lower—in fact, no—standard?
Are GMOs Dangerous?
GMOs are a quintessential can of worms; the outstanding issue here seems to be not whether any damage is inflict- ed but rather how much. As an American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s position paper on GMOs states, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM foods (sic),” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system;” as a result, AAEM directs all doctors to prescribe a non- GMO diet to every patient. A Russian state study on rats made to subsist on GMO soy and non-GMO soy saw a five- fold increase among GMO eaters in infant mortality in the first generation. A Russian study on hamsters indicated complete sterility by the third generation. Yet the U.S. federal government requires no studies—in fact, U.S. studies may not be performed legally by private or public scientists, since GMOs are patented.
What’s Being Done About GMOs?
The push for accountability, nevertheless, continues. As of mid-March 2012, 55 of 535 members of U.S. Congress signed a letter to F.D.A. Com- missioner Margaret Hamburg urging GMO labeling. At least 17 states have introduced legislation to require GMO labeling, as well.
The newest threat to our health is mass-market GMO sweet corn, which is to be released by Monsanto into U.S. markets later this year. Allen Zimmerman, General Coordinator and produce buyer for the Coop, says he will not buy GMO corn.
Labeling of GMOs at the Coop is no small task, and it is a positive sign that we are taking a key first step toward safe food and informed choice. For more information, please visit our website: gmodanger.wordpress.com.
A big victory for the Non-GMO movement is occurring at the Coop! Starting on November 16, the GMO Shelf Labeling Committee will install on-shelf labeling of Non-GMO Project certified products.
Beginning November 16th, you will be seeing a 3/8 inch green dot saying “Non GMO” on the shelf label for all products that have been certified as GMO-free by the Non-GMO Project. In addition, the GMO shelf-labeling committee will be putting the Non-GMO Project logo next to the shelf label for these same products where space permits, which should be the case for about 80% of the products. Based on our initial survey, we expect to be labeling about 300 products at the Coop, including grocery products, refrigerated products and frozen products. Labeling will NOT be provided for dairy and fresh produce items.
Labels will be updated on a bi-weekly basis by the committee to ensure that the labeling is up-to-date and accurate. To perform this work, the committee is looking to add four additional members. If you or someone you know would like to be a part of this effort and join our squad, please contact Greg Todd at email@example.com.
This is a major breakthrough for the committee and the Coop. Our committee was mandated by the General Meeting to label GMO products on the shelves in June of 2000 and has tried a variety of labeling strategies over the years. None of these strategies proved acceptable for a variety of reasons. We’re hopeful that this approach, thanks to the efforts of the Non-GMO Project and the staff at the Coop, will be a lasting part of shelf labeling at the Coop. Please attend the Coop General Meeting on October 25th for more details and for answers to any questions you may have.
Most Americans agree we have a right to know what’s in our food, and a right to choose safe, healthy food for our families and ourselves. And yet 80% of the packaged foods in America contain Genetically Engineered ingredients that have not been proven safe, and are not labeled!
Between October 1st and October 16th of this year, marchers from all across the country will be walking from New York City to the White House, in Washington DC, demanding labeling of all Genetically Engineered Foods, in what has come to be called the GMO Right2Know march. Come walk with us – step-by-step we will take back our Right to Know!
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) endanger our health, the environment, and our farmer’s livelihoods. For too long, biotechnology companies like Monsanto have lobbied against labeling products containing their patented plants – plants which are specially designed to be sprayed with cancer-causing weed-killers, and plants which produce pesticides in every one of their cells.
The GMO Right2Know March is the first of it’s kind in America, and will have daily events between its kickoff in New York City and its finale at the White House, in Washington, DC. Come for the knowledgeable speakers, fun presentations, camping, and much, much more! Now is your chance to make your voice heard. We will win back our Right to Know what’s in our food – one step at a time!
Sign up, bring a group, and join the Right2Know community! We are looking for walkers, bikers, drivers, volunteers, cheerleaders, hosts, and any other supporters out there!
LEARN MORE HERE.
(NaturalNews) For far too long, breakfast cereal makers have carried out highly deceptive product labeling and positioning campaigns through the use of the term “natural.” Consumers are easily misled by this term, believing it to mean the product is free from pesticide chemicals and genetically engineered ingredients. But an explosive new investigation by the Cornucopia Institute (www.Cornucopia.org) — the same group that exposed the widespread use of hexane solvents in soy protein — is set to send shockwaves through the “natural” products industry by revealing which so-called “natural” brands actually contain high levels GMOs and toxic chemical pesticides.
NaturalNews is helping the Cornucopia Institute break this story with exclusive articles and email alerts going out to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. This story is being shared on Facebook and Twitter, and on the NaturalNews Radio Network (www.NaturalNewsRadio.com). This story will also be covered this Thursday on the Alex Jones Show (www.InfoWars.com), when a representative from the Cornucopia Institute will be interviewed on live national radio. You can help spread the word about this important story bysharing this article.
Three facts you need to know about GMOs before you read the explosive test results below
Before you view the Cornucopia’s test results below, there are three important things you need to know about GMOs:
#1) There is GE contamination in almost everything. Even “non-GMO” food products almost always contain trace levels of GMOs (often between .01% and 0.5%). A test for the mere presence of GMOs is not considered conclusive. What’s important is thelevelof GMOs in a particular food item. Some of the “natural” items tested by the Cornucopia Institute showed GMO contamination levels between 28 and 100 %, which means the key ingredients in those cereals are most definitely genetically engineered from the source (and it’s not just a chance contamination from some other nearby field).
#2) All GMO tests are merely a “snapshot” that can change over time. Foods that test free of GMOs today may contain higher levels tomorrow due to supply line errors, contamination, supply source changes, and so on. At the same time, foods that test at high levels of GMOs today may test at lower levels in the future or even for different batches from the same manufacturer. Sometimes manufacturers are lied to by their suppliers. Some manufacturers test for GMOs in every batch, but others take a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach where they don’t test because they’d rather not know.
#3) Products may be “enrolled” in the Non-GMO Project and still contain GMOs before they are “verified.”The Non-GMO Project has two designations for products. There are products which are “enrolled” which means they are “on the path” to becoming free of GMOs but may not have achieved it yet. Thus, it is true that products “enrolled” in the Non-GMO Project may still contain substantial levels of GMOs. Products that meet far more stringent supply line audits and GE testing requirements are granted the label “Verified” by the Non-GMO Project.
You got all that? It’s a lot to keep in mind. GMOs are a complicated issue. But one thing is certain: Most “natural” breakfast cereals contain surprisingly high levels of genetically engineered ingredients. This is why it’s crucial to shop forcertified organicbreakfast cereals from companies like Nature’s Path, whose products are 100% certified organic and free from GMOs.
All these concerns about GMOs don’t even cover residues of toxic and carcinogenic pesticides in the grains used to produce “natural” breakfast cereals. The Cornucopia report cites extensive USDA testing and research revealing which “natural” grains and ingredients may be routinely contaminated with chemical pesticides. Synthetic pesticides are banned in organic production with oversight by independent certifiers and USDA accreditation, so organic is once again the way to go if you wish to avoid pesticide residues.
Keep reading to see some of the shocking test results uncovered by the Cornucopia Institute…
Here’s what the test results reveal
The Cornucopia Institute’s “Cereal Scorecard” (http://www.cornucopia.org/2011/10/natural-vs-organic-cereal/) reveals some truly astonishing facts about what’s in our breakfast cereal:
• Kashi brand cereals (Kellogg’s) contains “high levels” of GMOs. Not just a trace of GMOs, in other words, but a high level meaning the key ingredients are genetically engineered from the get-go. In fact, NaturalNews has learned that test results reveal 100% of the soy used in tested boxes of Kashi cereal was genetically engineered soy.
• Mother’s brand cereals (PepsiCo) contains “high levels” of GMOs. Test results revealed28% of the cornto be genetically engineered.
• Whole Foods’ 365 brand Corn Flakes contains “high levels” of GMOs (more than 50% GE corn).
• Barbara’s Bakery Puffins cereal was also shown to contain more than 50% genetically engineered corn.
• Both Barbara’s Bakery Puffins and Whole Foods 365 Corn Flakes are “enrolled” in the Non-GMO Project, says Cornucopia (see below). Note that this does not mean “verified” by the Non-GMO Project, which is a different designation. Still, the term “enrolled” in the Non-GMO Project may imply to many shoppers that the products are free from GMOs. This is something NaturalNews will address later, as it is a concern for both us and many readers who have long believed that any affiliation with the Non-GMO Project meant the same thing as “GMO free,” which it does not.
• One of the shining exampleshonest organic cerealisNature’s Path, whose products are all certified organic, contained no significant GMO contamination and are clearly made with entirely non-GMO ingredients.
• As the report states:Numerous “natural” products were indeed contaminated with high levels of GE ingredients, sometimes as high as 100%: Kashi GoLean, Mother’s Bumpers, Nutritious Living Hi-Lo, and General Mills Kix.
• Kashi Heart to Heart Blueberry cereal costsmorethan Nature’s Path Organic Blueberry Cinnamon Optimum Cereal, and yet the grains used in Kashi cereal were found by the USDA, to typically contain residues of all the following pesticide chemicals:phosmet, carbaryl, azinphos methyl, malathion, chlorpyrifos methyl, chlorpyrifos. (Note: This does not mean these Kashi cereals were tested for each of these chemicals, only that these chemicals are admitted by the USDA to be found in the non-organic grains used to manufacture Kashi cereals.)
• Quaker Oats states that it is an “all-natural” product. But Quaker Oats (a unit of PepsiCo) manages a processing plant that emits roughly 19,000 pounds ofsulfuryl fluorideyearly. Sulfuryl fluoride is a toxic greenhouse gas used to treat crops like oats in storage.
• “Natural” Peace Cereal Wild Berry Crisp is produced from conventional commodity ingredients commonly containing the neurotoxinphosmetand the carcinogencaptanin 11% and 55% of samples, respectively.
• Mom’s Best Naturals Raisin Bran cereal contains “natural” (non-GMO) ingredients that are commonly contaminated withmalathionandphosmetchemicals, both of which are neurotoxins.
• Several Bear Naked and Kashi products contain conventional soy protein. Soy protein in this country is nearly universally hexane-extracted. The “hexane bath” that the soybeans are immersed in consists of more than 50% n-hexane, which is a known neurotoxin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Where you can learn more
What you’ve read here are only the highlights of this groundbreaking research report. You can learn more in the following ways:
Quick 4-minute video overview on YouTube:
Or view it on NaturalNews.TV at:
View the Scorecard page or download the PDF report:
Safe Food Labeling Committee Nears Completion of Identifying Foods with GMOs and rBGH
By Julia Herd, for the Safe Food Labeling Committee
Do you worry about the safety of the food that you buy? Concerned that your food may contain genetically modified ingredients? Wonder if the milk you buy comes from cows fed artificial growth hormones (rBGH) that force them to produce more milk than is natural? Do you think consumers have a right to know what’s in their food and how it’s produced? So does the Coop’s Safe Food Labeling Committee.
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a living organism created in a laboratory from genes of one species that are forcibly inserted into the DNA of an unrelated species (5—please refer to end of article for references for this and all other footnotes). Genetic engineering is used by agribusiness in certain food crops. (3; 6). It creates plants that (a) can survive applications of certain herbicides that would otherwise kill them, or (b) contain a poison that kills particular pests (3; 6). For example, the gene of a soil bacterium could be inserted into potato DNA so that the potato cells will develop their own pesticide. The idea may be to increase the food supply (5), but consumers and the environment have not benefited (5; 6).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved introduction of GM crops in 1996 (1), and the use of rBGH in 1993. (1; 5). However, there has been minimal safety testing of the resulting food supply. (2; 5; 6). There are now documented health risks linking GMOs to immune system dysfunction, certain allergies, potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, and stunted organs. (6). As for rBGH, in addition to the health impact on cows (5), there are concerns that ingestion by humans plays a role in certain cancers, including breast and colon cancers. (2; 5; 6). In effect, U.S. consumers are the guinea pigs and potentially the biggest losers if there are long-term negative results from ingesting GM foods. But who will know why they became ill, since GM technology, although patented (6), is not identified in our foods?
It simply does not follow that a GM potato is as safe as a non-GM potato just because the original soil bacterium inserted into the GM potato was safe in its natural state (6). GM plants contain proteins that have never before been in the food supply (6). Agribusiness also ignores what happens to pollinating insects and birds that feed on the flowers of GM plants, and make no real effort to keep non-GM crops free from cross-pollination. (1; 3; 4; 5). There is also the threat to the diversity of our mainstay food crops if only one seed type is manufactured and used, because a virus or disease could wipe out the entire crop, as happened in Ireland with potato blight from 1845 to 1852 (5).
GM ingredients now appear in a majority of processed foods sold in the United States. Between 15 and 30 percent of the milk supply contains rBGH (5). Nearly 91 percent of the U.S. soy crop is genetically modified, as is 85 percent of the corn and canola crop (1; 3; 6). More than half of Hawaiian papayas are GM, as are small amounts of zucchini and yellow squash (6). Sugar beets are the newest crop to undergo genetic engineering (3). It is projected that about 90 percent of the nation’s sugar will be genetically engineered in 2009 (3; 6). Next on Monsanto’s list is GM wheat (3).
Up to now, if you’ve wanted to avoid eating GM foods and dairy products, or wanted to support sustainable agriculture, the only thing to do was buy foods labeled 100 percent organic (2). There are no federal or state laws requiring food labels to state when a product includes GM ingredients or rBGH (5). Why? Because biotech companies and their lobbyists, focused solely on profits, have enormous influence on Congress (3; 6).
Thus the task of the Safe Food Labeling Committee is to provide shoppers with sufficient information to enable them to avoid GM foods or rBGH dairy products if they want. “Food is supposed to be nourishing, not illness producing,” explains Greg Todd, chair of the Committee.
The Labeling Committee’s two-year project, not quite completed, took as a foundation that foods labeled “100 percent organic” are GMO-free. Individual ingredients labeled “organic” are also GMO-free. Foods grown in and imported from the European Union are GMO-free because of the stricter laws in those countries. After researching the current uses of GM engineering, the committee developed a list of common ingredients which may well be genetically modified. The suspect ingredients are butter, canola, caseinate, cheese, corn, cream, dextrins, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, malto-dexrin, milk, modified food starch, papaya, soy, squash, textured soy protein (TSP) and whey.
Throughout much of 2007 and 2008, shoppers saw committee members pull samples of every food product from the Coop’s shelves or cases, read labels and note suspect ingredients on cards. Over 8,000 labels have been read, and 559 products identified on the Coop’s shelves as containing non-organic, potentially genetically modified ingredients.
The food producers of those 559 products were then contacted by the Labeling Committee, mostly by letter. The letters described the Coop’s project and requested verification of whether genetically modified source material was, was not, or possibly was, part of their products. Phone calls were also made. Responses were tallied from national brands such as Barbara’s Bakery, Hain Celestial Group, Kraft Foods and Unilever, and small local bakeries and family-owned companies.
The Safe Food Labeling Committee of the Coop thinks consumers have a right to know what’s in their food and how it’s produced. The committee undertook a two-year study of the foods sold in the Coop, the results of which are now being released to Coop membership. As described in Part I, committee members read more than 8,000 labels of products on the Coop’s shelves and identified 559 products as containing non-organic, potentially genetically modified ingredients. The food producers were then asked if their products were GMO-free.
The results of the work of the Safe Food Labeling Committee so far have found only 93 products that are verified as being GMO-free. Producers of nine products admit the presence of GMOs among the ingredients, while the producers of 64 products identified them as “possibly” containing GMOs, because they could not state with certainty that their products had not been contaminated with genetically modified source material. The remaining 393 products are currently categorized as “possibly containing GMOs” by default, because their producers declined to respond to three separate requests for information.
The production of GM foods is not confined to large food corporations. It exists among some of the “health conscious” producers as well. Unfortunately there are also hundreds of products that claim on their packaging not to contain GM ingredients but provide little assurance that the products have actually been tested.1 There is growing agreement that testing and labeling are needed to protect the food industry, especially the organic food industry, from the growing spread of biotech ingredients.1 “It’s indicative of how pervasive these dangerous substances are becoming,” said food industry chemist Gregg Bromberg, a committee member
The Safe Food Labeling Committee is now brainstorming ways to inform shoppers about the GMO status of foods on the shelves. Labeling of each product on the shelves would be ideal. However, there are significant technological and personnel hurdles here in the Coop that make shelf labeling a project unlikely to be realized soon, according to the general coordinators. One issue is that programming our computers to add GMO information to the shelf labels is complex and must await completion of several other time-consuming projects. To label shelves by hand would require many hours of labor on a weekly basis, which is not considered feasible. One idea suggested involves producing a brochure that shows shoppers how to read product labels to identify possible GMOs.
In addition, the Coop recently joined the Non-GMO Project, a new industry group aiming to help consumers make informed food choices. The Non-GMO Project does not guarantee that foods are entirely free of genetically modified ingredients but rather that manufacturers have followed procedures, including testing, to ensure that crucial ingredients contain no more than 0.9% of biotech material — the same threshold used in the stricter European Union.1 Food products meeting the standards of the Project will carry the Non- GMO Project seal—a butterfly perched on two blades of grass in the form of a check mark. The Non- GMO Project works with companies to test ingredients and improve manufacturing processes and will also s p o t – t e s t products in stores.1 The new labeling campaign hopes to clear up the existing confusion.1
In addition, some welcome news on the legal front emerged recently. A federal judge in California ruled in September that the U.S. government failed to adequately assess the environmental impact of planting genetically engineered sugar beets before it approved the crop for cultivation. 2 The court ruled that the government should have studied the consequences from the likely spread of the genetically engineered trait to other sugar beets or to other crops. It noted that pollen from the genetically engineered crops might spread to non-GM beets, and that “potential elimination of a farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food” constituted a significant effect on the environment that necessitated an environmental impact statement. This court ruling could lead to a ban on the planting of the GM beets, which have already been widely adopted by farmers.
Ultimately, we support strong legislation to make labeling of foods mandatory. In the meantime we support grassroots organizations working to bring safety awareness to consumers.■
The Process to Identify Products with GMOs at the Coop
- Labels read: over 8,000
- Suspect products identified: 559
- Mailings made to the producer of each product: 3
- Products claimed by producer to be GMO-free: 93
- Products identified by producer as having GMOs: 9
- Products identified by producer as probably having GMOs: 64
- Products where producer was non-responsive: 393
1. William Neuman, “‘Non-GMO’ Seal Identifies Foods Mostly Biotech-Free,” New York Times, August 29, 2009 (www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/business/29gmo.html).
2. Andrew Pollack, “Judge Rejects Approval of Biotech Sugar Beets,” New York Times, September 23, 2009 (www.nytimes.com/2009/09/ 23/business/23beet.html).