Rain, tantalizingly light, fell before dawn and then departed, leaving the ground barely dampened when Koko and Paele and I went out walking. Before us, the ever-green summit of Makaleha was draping itself in a cloak of soft white, while behind us, at the opposite end of the street, a bank of gray clouds revealed its scarlet underbelly.
Pioneer Hi-Bred hid its not-so-pretty GMO underbelly when it hosted an open house on the first day of October, which just so happens to be World Non-GMO Month.
While Pioneer was luring in unsuspecting kids with a petting zoo and playing up the dismal prospect of its business being the future of agriculture in Hawaii, a 16-day Right 2 Know March was getting under way in New York. Participants are headed for the White House, where they will demand labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. Simultaneously, the Just Label it Campaign went live today.
GMO labeling could affect an estimated 65 to 80 percent of the packaged foods sold in America, where 90 percent of the soybean crop, 93 percent of the canola crop and some 75 percent of the corn crop is genetically modified. And before you dismiss the marchers as lunatic fringe, a 2010 Thompson Reuters Pulse survey found that 93 percent of respondents felt genetically modified foods should be labeled, while a CBS poll found that 87 percent of American consumers would like to see GMO foods labeled, just as they are in Europe, Japan and Australia.
So why aren’t they labeled here? Because the powerful biotech industry knows that a lot of people would stop buying their products if they knew they contained GMOs. Because Obama has failed to deliver on yet another of his campaign pledges. Oh, and because labeling would supposedly violate corporations’ First Amendment right to not speak. Ahem....
Meanwhile, unsuspecting consumers chowing down on fast foods, convenience foods and just about all processed foods are serving as guinea pigs. As an article in Mother Jones points out:
[S]tudies on the long-term effects of of GMOs are few and far between. But here's the kicker: scientists who do manage to conduct independent research have tended to find disturbing results, FWW [ Food and Water Watch ] shows:
A 2009 International Journal of Biological Sciences study found that rats that consumed GE corn for 90 days developed a deterioration of liver and kidney functioning. Another study found irregularities in the livers of rats, suggesting higher metabolic rates resulting from a GE diet. And a 2007 study found significant liver and kidney impairment of rats that were fed insect-resistant Bt corn, concluding that, “with the present data it cannot be concluded that GE corn MON863 is a safe product.”
Research on mouse embryos showed that mice that were fed GE soybeans had impaired embryonic development. Even GE livestock feed may have some impact on consumers of animal products: Italian researchers found biotech genes in the milk from dairy cows that were fed a GE diet, suggesting the ability of transgenes to survive pasteurization. [Note: there are footnotes to each study mentioned in the FWW report.]
Now, it's important to stress that none of this research definitively proves that GMOs are contributing to the vast load of chronic conditions affecting Americans. We need more research—independent of industry influence. But surely, it repudiates that FDA's practice of casually granting "generally regarded as safe" status on GMO foods based on industry assurances.
Then, of course, there’s also the question of how all that glyphosate used on the GMO crops, most of them designed to withstand direct applications of herbicides, is affecting human and environmental health.
In short, with GMOs we’ve got yet another example of how corporate greed and self-interest is adversely dominating a key part of our lives: food. At the very least, all consumers have a right to know what’s in the food they buy. And Kauai residents surely have the right to know exactly what our “good neighbors” on the south, west and east sides of our island are really growing and doing — not just what they choose to showcase in a warm and fuzzy open house.