What to Do about GMOs in the Trump Era (PostDARK Act)

Posted on in On Our Radar by Jeffrey M. Smith


If you look at our history of government policy on genetically modified organisms (GMO), it seems like nothing but bad news. But if you can stomach this short list of some of the more significant disappointments, we’ll get to the good news.

First the Bad News

» The FDA allows GMOs on the market without any required safety testing or labeling. Monsanto’s former attorney (and later their vice president) oversaw that policy.

» Obama failed to meet his campaign pledge to require labeling and good science.

» Ballot initiatives requiring labels in four states, including 2012’s Prop. 37 in California, failed to pass after the industry falsely claimed that labels would cost each shopper $550 extra for groceries per year.

» Vermont’s legislature passed a labeling bill, but Congress overturned it and prohibited all states from requiring GMO labels. Nicknamed the “DARK Act” (Denying Americans the Right to Know), it is essentially a fake labeling bill. It’s worded so ambiguously that it will depend entirely on the whim of President Trump and his USDA to determine if the bill’s loopholes add up to nothing but empty space.

We haven’t heard Trump’s position on GMOs, but based on his pick for Secretary of Agriculture, don’t hold your breath for labeling. Sonny Perdue took about $1 million in campaign contributions from agribusiness during his political career, and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) named him its 2009 Governor of the Year. (The previous Ag Secretary, Tom Vilsack, was also a BIO Governor of the Year.)

Trump also elevated the original author of the DARK Act, Congressman Mike Pompeo, to head the CIA.

With no glimmer of reasonable government policy on the horizon, you might think we’re all screwed as far as GMOs are concerned. But you’re looking in the wrong place.

It’s Not a Government
Bailout That We Need

For long-term stable rejection of GMOs, government policy is not a requirement. A government’s position can even be irrelevant. Did you know that the European Commission is pro-GMO, and there is no law prohibiting the sale of genetically engineered foods in the EU? However, you’d be hard-pressed to find foods in Europe that contain GMO crop derivatives. That’s because Europe’s food industry committed long ago to consumers that they would not use them.

people at the demonstration

While a favorable government policy would be handy, politics is unreliable. For example, years ago the Polish government flew me over to give a press conference with the minister of environment, where I praised the country’s strong non-GMO position. One week later, that government was voted out of office and a more pro-GMO government took its place. I’ve watched similar flip-flops around the world for two decades. But the European consumer rejection has been a constant.

You can trace it back to 1999, when over 700 articles were written in just one month in the UK alone about GMOs. The firestorm followed the lifting of the gag order on Arpad Pusztai, a scientist who had accidentally discovered that GMOs are dangerous. His groundbreaking research demonstrated that the very process of genetically engineering a crop causes unpredictable changes, which in his research were largely responsible for massive damage to the health of rats in just 10 days.

The onslaught of negative press about GMOs prompted Unilever to publicly commit on April 27, 1999, to stop using GMOs in its European brands. The next day Nestlé followed suit. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the European food industry capitulated.

But the US mainstream media didn’t cover the story. So the food industry continued to feed unsuspecting Americans the stuff that our friends overseas had rejected.

Good News: The End of
GMO Foods Is in Sight

Keenly aware that in the world of GMOs, the customer is king (and more often queen), the strategy we have undertaken at the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) has been to affect the market through behavior-change messaging.

It’s working!

Depending on which survey you read, the average American is now concerned about the health dangers of GMOs. This has initiated a corresponding cleanout of GMOs by the food industry starting with the natural products sector, and now extending to mainstream food products.

Nestlé advertises on television that its coffee creamer is non-GMO. Dannon brags that its animal feed for dairy cows will be non-GMO within three years. Chipotle has non-GMO signs in their restaurants. Non-GMO Project Verified is the fastest-growing label in the natural products industry, representing $19.2 billion in annual sales and more than 39,000 verified products. And nearly every major food company has products or even product lines that are non-GMO or about to be.

Social media circulates stories of dramatic health recoveries following the switch to organic and non-GMO. Thousands of patients are being instructed by their physicians to make the change. The non-GMO tipping point is underway in the United States.

The Organic Imperative

One of the reasons why GMOs are so dangerous is that the vast majority of them are engineered by Monsanto to be sprayed with their toxic Roundup herbicide. Classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and linked to more than 30 other diseases, this poison gets absorbed into the GMO crops and can’t be washed off. Avoiding Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, is a priority for those of us who have under stood their impacts on our immune system, digestion, energy level, neurotransmitters, hormones, fertility, and overall health.

But there’s more bad news: Roundup is sprayed as a drying agent just before harvest on numerous non-GMO crops! That includes wheat, barley, rice, oats, rye, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and numerous others. The FDA stopped testing for glyphosate residues long ago, so we don’t even know which crops are dangerous.

Fortunately, organic foods are not allowed to be sprayed with glyphosate or other nasty synthetic chemicals. Organic also doesn’t allow the use of GMOs (although contamination can happen).

What We Can Do

To protect yourself and move the market even more, here are some practical suggestions:

» Choose organic. If you can’t find organic, Non-GMO Project Verified is the next best. (Products with both on the label are the gold standard, since the Project tests for GMO contamination, while organic does not.)

» Start paying a lot more attention to animal products. Again, buying organic is best. If a label says “free-range” or “no hormones” or “no antibiotics,” the animals are still likely eating GMOs. Raising awareness about animal feed is extremely important. Even in Europe, consumers haven’t put much attention to this topic, and most animal feed there is GMO.

» Stop using Roundup, and encourage your city, county, parks, schools, and homeowners association to stop using all chemical weed killers. See RoundupRisks.com for information and a training webinar to get organized.

» Pay attention to the impacts of healthier eating and share them. When you commit to be more organic, immediately make a journal of your daily energy level, mood, health symptoms, and what you are eating. Watch the trailer to the upcoming film Secret Ingredients for some inspiration here. SecretIngredients Movie.com

» To help get the word out in the US and the rest of the world, visit Responsible Technology.org, sign up for the newsletter, follow the Facebook page, and please make a contribution so that we can get this done.

IRT’s focus is to finish the tipping point against GMO ingredients in the US, expand the rejection to include animal feed, and export this successful model to the world. And along the way, educate healthcare practitioners and the public about the serious health effects of GMOs, stop the spraying of poisonous herbicides, and change the world.

This strategy of taking responsibility for issues that we formerly relied on the government to handle is probably a good one for life, especially now. Not only is it often more reliable, it also helps us move from victim to victor.

In the case of GMOs, we are totally winning. And we have ourselves to thank.

Safe eating.

Jeffrey M. Smith is executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, director of Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives, best-selling author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, and by the end of this month’s Eastern Europe tour, will have spoken on GMOs in 45 countries. His upcoming film with codirector Amy Hart is Secret Ingredients. He lives in Marin County.

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