I remember as a kid, growing up in Wisconsin, hearing radio ads for “Round Up Ready Soybeans.” It was usually during the Packers Games and there was a distinct way that Wayne Larrivee would say it. He would kind of roll out the R: “Rrrrrround-Up Ready Soybeans!” For the longest time, I thought that was the name of some brand of soybean. We would drive past fields and fields of plants and there would be little signs along the side of the road: Liberty Link, Genuity, names I knew nothing about. When I go back home, those same names are there, and now I know more.
Round-Up Ready Soybeans
Back in the early 90s, Monsanto created and patented a strain of soybean that was rendered to be glyphosate-resistant. Glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide that works by interfering with the synthesis of three essential amino acids (AA.) Without those AAs, the plant dies. A broad spectrum herbicide (much like a broad spectrum antibiotic) can’t tell the difference between plants you want and plants you don’t want, and after all, a weed is just a plant you don’t want. So, Monsanto genetically altered a strain of soybean by adding the genes from a bacteria that synthesizes those essential amino acids. (They are called “essential” because animals, including humans, can’t make those AA but we need them too. They are only made by plants and bacteria.) This allows the soybean, whose natural means of synthesizing AA has been destroyed, to “artificially” synthesize the AA using the bacterial genes. Therefore only the soybean plants grow and all other plants die. Organisms that are genetically altered by man in a laboratory environment are called GMOs.
Over the years, however, those weeds have genetically altered themselves by the process of mutation (not GMO and much like antibiotic resistant bacteria.) Those mutations have made them resistant to standard herbicides requiring farmers to use more and more herbicides to keep those weeds under control. Many of these herbicides are carcinogenic (cancer causing) and have leached into the groundwater and into the rains by way of the Water Cycle. I have family and friends that live in Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois and the thought that when it rains, it’s raining glyphosate down on them is concerning to me as a daughter, aunt, sister and friend.
Just Label It
Just Label It has launched it’s Conceal or Reveal Campaign to urge GMO labeling. They are not talking huge, splashy labels across the front of the product, but rather the addition of the words “Genetically Modified-” or “Genetically Altered-” to the ingredients list:
The core of this is the belief that Americans have the right to know what exactly has gone into their foods and the impact of their food buying choices on the rest of the world. Over 64 countries across Europe and Asia, including Russia and China, have GMO labeling. Isn’t it time we did too?
Critics of GMO labeling
Critics of GMO labeling see this as a way to further divide the rich from the poor or to force everyone to buy “organic.” They contend that Genetic Modification is just a way of plant breeding, in the same way that in-vitro fertilization is another way to conceive a child. The feeling is that genetic modification is not harmful because the results of that modification doesn’t get into humans. After all, human DNA is not altered by consuming GMO products. However, the growing GMO crops does result in the need to use higher doses of herbicides which are carcinogenic. And that’s the issue. In the same way I choose not to consume products that contain aspartame (another carcinogen) or take hormonal birth control (another carcinogen,) I should be able to know if I am part of the GMO problem forcing farmer to soak their fields in greater quantities of herbicides or farmers getting sued by chemical companies because natural pollination has resulted in their (non-GMO) fields becoming GMO.
How can I know if I am part of the problem if I don’t know what’s GMO?
I just wonder if labeling is not such a big deal, why do companies spend so much to keep those labels off our products? PepsiCo, the parent company of that breakfast favorite Quaker Oats, has spent over $8 million to stop GMO labeling. I am not here to take one side or another on whether GMO is good or bad. I’m one of the over 90% of Americans who just want to KNOW if my food has been genetically engineered.
Since 2001, companies have had the ability to voluntarily label their foods as GMO. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have EVER seen a GMO label on any foods. As a consumer, one of the things I can control is what I buy. I need to have information in order to make an informed decision and mandatory GMO labeling is one more piece of information that would allow me to make a decision.
For more information or ways you can get involved head to Just Label It and learn a bit more about GMOs and the DARK act that’s before Congress.
You can also show your support by tweeting, using the hashtag #ConcelOrReveal letting our government know how you feel about the DARK act and GMO labeling! Here are some sample tweet to get you started:
- I’m joining @JustLabelIt’s effort asking companies to tell @WhiteHouse we need mandatory labeling for GMOs! http://www.justlabelit.org/action-center/take-action/
- DARK Act will keep us in the dark about our food. We need mandatory labeling of GMOs, @WhiteHouse! #JustLabelIt http://www.justlabelit.org/action-center/take-action-congress/
- I have a right to know what I feed my kids. @Quaker will you #ConcealOrReveal? Support mandatory GMO labeling! www.justlabelit.org/quaker
- Join me in telling @Quaker to #ConcealOrReveal & support mandatory GMO labeling! #JustLabelIt www.justlabelit.org/quaker
Until Next Time!