Mr. Norris, I recently read how crop producers are using more and more genetically modified seeds to ward off insects and increase fruit and vegetable shelf life. Tampering with plant genes seems to be a dangerous game for humans. What do you think? – Shirley R., Ames, Iowa
Would you know if you were eating genetically engineered foods?
The Chicago Tribune recently reported that with no labeling on such foods, many people don’t realize that they are doing just that. Genetically modified crops constitute 93 percent of soy, 86 percent of corn and 93 percent of canola seeds planted in the U.S. and are used in about 70 percent of American processed food.
The Tribune went on to say that polls from the Pew Center, Consumers Union and Harris Interactive over the past decade have shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans would like to see genetically modified foods better regulated and labeled. Despite that, President Barack Obama’s administration has approved an “unprecedented number of genetically modified crops,” such as corn grown for ethanol.
The U.S. government is not the only entity boosting and greenlighting genetic engineering of our crops and foods. In 1963, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization adopted the Codex Alimentarius, the food code created by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, whose self-proclaimed mission was to protect health, remove trade obstacles and establish food guidelines. The commission now has 185 members, including the U.S.
Hundreds of guidelines have been adopted by the CAC, in areas ranging from additives to pesticides to, most recently, vitamin and mineral supplements. And this year, it is tackling the issue of whether to label genetically altered and engineered fruits and vegetables.
According to the Alliance for Natural Health, the natural health community has expressed concern about the CAC’s guidelines regarding supplements because of parts of the Codex’s preamble that “essentially discount the benefits from dietary supplements, and the fact that the scope of the Codex Guidelines includes developing minimum and maximum levels of vitamins and minerals.”
Though regulating those maximum levels is prohibited by U.S. policy – because dietary supplements are not categorized as drugs – it is one more sign that global governance of our foods is right around the corner. As if American households relinquishing their health and fitness habits to Washington weren’t enough, now the entire U.S. needs to be governed by a global food and drug administration?
U.S. food policy may not acquiesce to worldwide regulations tomorrow, but global control is a slippery slope that often is brought about through small steps, or so-called benign increments. The European Union already has enacted many universal food tenets into law. Could the U.S. be that far behind in this global age? In an era in which caving to international pressure is in vogue, how far behind are our food factories?
But does the U.S. really want foreign entities telling us how to eat, what vitamins to take, and how (not) to label U.S. food, now or in the distant future? I’ll say what I said in a previous article: The sooner we quit relinquishing our health and fitness responsibilities to the government and take control of our own lives the better off we’ll be.
Americans have a right to be concerned with international influence over labeling, marketing and masking the truths behind foods coming from abroad. Our health and welfare should not be turned over to foreign powers, lobbying groups, the Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If that were to happen, we could kiss goodbye the freedoms we’ve long enjoyed with dietary supplements and organic foods.
The added difficulty with genetic tampering and labels is that we know big business and lobbying often control the decisions in Washington. Recently, that was made evident again by the actions of the USDA. Despite the fact that tests prove that genetically engineered organisms become a part of the bacteria in our digestive tracts, the Alliance for Natural Health reported how the USDA now wants to eliminate any controls from genetically altered corn and cotton.
The ANH cited the wisdom of the late George Wald, a Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine and one of the first scientists to speak out about the dangers of genetically engineered foods: “Recombinant DNA technology (genetic engineering) faces our society with problems unprecedented, not only in the history of science, but of life on the Earth. … Now whole new proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism or their neighbors. … For going ahead in this direction may not only be unwise but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.”
Fourteen states have introduced legislation on genetically modified organism labeling, but most face governmental gridlock. So please, take action and keep foods safe (non-genetically engineered) by contacting your representatives, as well as the FDA and the USDA, and demanding that genetically modified food be labeled as such. In addition, corn and cotton must not be deregulated. Without strict controls, as the ANH concludes, genetically engineered crops will encroach on non-genetically engineered crops, contaminating them and rendering the organic crops non-organic.
The only real solution to prevent global food governance and our bodies from having to consume genetically altered foods is to mandate the proper labeling of all foods and to buy local and organic foods. By diminishing the supply of and demand for imported and genetically engineered foods, we can diminish their tyranny at the borders of our bodies.