Should Genetically Engineered Food Be Labeled? Florida Legislators Take Up the Cause

Categories: Fire Ant
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The turkey you ate yesterday was one of millions whose size is more than twice that of the bird your grandparents ate. Poultry farmers made that happen by careful breeding over the course of decades. The birds got so big they couldn't screw, and farmers had to resort to artificial insemination to help the process along.

But agriculture is totally corporate today, and Wall Street wants fast returns on its money. Not content with kinky barnyard sex, Big Food now uses bioscience to transfer genes among species, producing food whose effect on human health is controversial. Since genetic engineering (GE) is not disclosed on product labels, consumers have no idea what kind of scientific tinkering has been done to those apples, oranges, or turkeys they're about to ingest.

The folks behind Food & Water Watch want to change that. Working in five districts throughout the state -- Tampa, Tallahassee, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach -- their "Let Me Decide" campaign calls for legislation that would require labeling of GE foods in Florida.

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The Flavr Savr tomato was the first (1994) and most notorious of the so-called Frankenfoods, shot up with flounder genes to extend shelf life. It was withdrawn after three years, though not out of concern for safety. Sweet corn, zucchini, and papaya are among the genetically engineered produce currently marketed in the U.S.

Genetic engineering is particularly pervasive among corn, soybeans, and sugar beets -- roughly 90 percent of U.S. production of these foods comes from GE crops. They make their way into our diets as cooking oils and ingredients in baked and other prepared foods.

GE animals are not yet approved for human consumption, but their dairy and eggs are in circulation. And the feed they're raised on is largely made up of corn and soymeal -- that's been genetically engineered -- so there's concern over secondary effects on humans. Which brings us back to yesterday's turkey.

Big Food's case for the safety of GE has broad scientific support, and the federal government has overseen its introduction into agriculture. But groups like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund question the independence and credibility of the research and the authorities. The European Union has been much more cautious than the U.S., largely banning the importation of GE foods.

Food & Water Watch took a hit earlier this month in California when Proposition 37, a ballot measure that would require GE foods to be labeled, was defeated at the polls after a massive infusion of money and advertising by Monsanto and other agribusiness giants. Now the activists are trying the legislative route here in Florida, where they've been petitioning and lobbying since September.

The campaign claimed its first major Florida victory in October, when Florida House Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) joined a rally at the Capitol. She's since agreed to sponsor a bill in the coming legislative session.

In Palm Beach, House Rep. Mark Pafford is also on board. "To me it's just common sense," he told New Times. "If there's foreign DNA in your corn, most people would want to know that."

"I expect to hear 'cost saving' and other arguments from opponents," Pafford said. "Big corporations have huge influence here, and our new GOP speaker is already talking about government regulation and business red tape. In this legislature, [GE labeling] may not even get a hearing.

"Truth in advertising is always good, though. Unless I hear it's going to put farms out of business, this is the direction we have to go."

The campaign to support labeling of GE foods in Florida is lead by Jennifer Rubiello, Florida Field Organizer for Food & Water Watch: jrubiello@fwwlocal.org | 818.203.7625.

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact fire.ant@browardpalmbeach.com.



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9 comments
geneticallyengineere
geneticallyengineere

Pesticides and herbicides can originate from GMO products that is why Senators are pushing GMO labelling.

emroux1
emroux1

I dont want to ingest pesticides and herbicides with my lunch or dinner

It would be nice to know where they are 

To know where they are should be a basic right and i welcome the legislature taking on this issue to give us the choice. Corporate interests want to give us choices when it suits their interests and whithold them when it suits their interests.

They cannot have it both ways

tristessa88
tristessa88

Way to go!  Food and Water Watch, GMO Free Florida and all the excellent volunteers that have dedicated themselves for our right to know what's in our food!  I want to know if I am eating a bacteria or virus or DNA from an animal or human in my food! Don't you? I think with the latest PEER reviewed study from researcher Seralini in France showing cancer and tumors in rats, and all the effort from Prop. 37 in Cali, more and more media outlets taking this subject matter on, we will be seeing more and more bills introduced to have this right to know!  HUGE THANKS to our legislators for taking up this GREAT and HISTORIC cause!!  YAY!

Johan
Johan

Healthy food should be a basic human right... and so should be our right to know what is in our food, what we are feeding our children....There has not been any independent "transparent" long term research done on GMOs proving that it is truly safe... but evidences proving it is unsafe for human consumption and a serious threat to the environment are piling up, even though they have been ignored by the government and vilified by those profiting from GMO including by scientists and universities who are getting money from Monsanto, various chemical companies and the big pharmaceutic industry who also has MUCH to gain with the GMOs marquet, between financial investment and the insane profits they make by having a population who has more and more health problems....It is time for changes.... time to protect the children.... time to protect the public in general... time to protect the environment from cross contamination of those GMOs as well as the excess chemicals used to grow them... it is time to stop this inanity...!!!

rusbus00
rusbus00

Since when have food ingredients been hidden? Dont we have the right to know what is in our foods, ouor drinks, and our personal care products? I say we need to have everything Labelled in our foods, drinks and personal care products, otherwise how do we protect ourselves , our children or our grandchildren.Labeling GMOs is a positive step for a positive State, City or Country. What I dont understand , is this: Whay hide what is in our foods, unless it is dangerous to use. Shouldnt the companys that created these things be proud enough to Label their product freely? Please fight to label GMOs, the entire country is watching!!!!!

eyeammit
eyeammit

In a free society, information is mandatory to drive the free market. GMO's were snuck into our food supply through a collusion between industry (Monsanto) and government (FDA), whose members trade places. Clearly a conflict of interest. What the majority of people don't know about GE corn, the most pervasive of all crops used in making food, is that the entire corn plant has been genetically engineered to produce its own insecticide through the entire plant. So besides not wanting to eat something with the genes of another species, who wants to eat toxins designed to kill insects? Not me!! Good luck Florida, we are all together in this fight.

indigogirl1976
indigogirl1976

This was an interesting article. I think GM foods should be labelled. The consumer should have a right to choose!

Kate
Kate

Thanks for this clear well-written article.  As a consumer I would really like to know if I am eating GMO's, and many other people would too.  This is an issue of transparency and capitalism -- let customers vote with their pocketbook for the best products.  What we are eating is a hugely important issue.

Guest
Guest

Regulatory studies for GE foods are voluntary 28-90 day rodent trials conducted or contracted by the company selling the GE food and no long-term or human studies are conducted for approval.  Therefore consumers are the experiment and any company that does not label the GE ingredients in their products are contributing to a medical experiment on humans without allowing for the informed consent of the human subject.   The individuals at these companies responsible for their refusal to label the GE ingredients in their products should be charged with crimes against humanity as per the Nuremberg Code, Declaration of Helsinki, etc.!  Thankfully we have politicians like Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and Mark Pafford that care about our human rights.

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