Tester right on GMO labeling


by George Ochenski

Being the only farmer in the U.S. Senate, one might think it worth listening to Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester when it comes to issues involving food production and the use of genetically modified organisms, better known as GMOs, in the American food chain. But while Montana’s other senator, Steve Daines, went along with the wishes of herbicide maker Monsanto to keep Americans in the dark about GMOs, Tester stood up for consumers, clean food and our right to know what’s in the food that comes off the fields of agricultural producers.

“When I grew up, I was told that the consumers are always right,” Tester told reporters after his vote. “We should be empowering those consumers, those American consumers, with more information about the food they purchase, not with less. Don’t take it from me, 9 out of 10 consumers say they want labeling required for GMO food. What’s the problem with that? It’s already done in 64 countries.”

The problem, according to the herbicide, pesticide and GMO corporations dumping millions of lobbying dollars and campaign contributions into Congress, is Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law that took effect on July 1. If you believe their rap, having states require GMO labeling is going to cause some kind of mass confusion among consumers.

Their idea? Stick some scan codes that you have to read with a smart phone on the labels and provide a toll-free number consumers can call to find out what’s in the food they want to buy. What could be more practical, you might ask, than having to carry a smart phone and scan every product on the shelf to find out if you’re feeding your family GMO products? Or hey, maybe just stop in your tracks while you’re trying to get the week’s grocery shopping done and dial some toll-free number, work your way through recorded messages, punch some more buttons and maybe, just maybe, find out whether that salmon is a Frankenfish, that canola oil isn’t just canola oil, or those corn chips came from a pesticide-drenched field.

Fact is, the reason crops are genetically engineered is for herbicide and/or disease resistance. What that means to Monsanto, producer of the world’s most heavily used herbicides containing the active ingredient glyphosate, is that farmers can liberally spray fields with weed-killing herbicides while allowing the GMO crops to survive. Again, if you believe their marketing schtick, the end result is supposed to be a reduction in pesticides and herbicides used.

But what’s actually happening is that, thanks to the overuse of herbicides and pesticides, we are now seeing what are described as “superbugs” and “superweeds.” These are plants and animals that have evolved to resist the herbicides and pesticides, leading to more, not less, use. Just this April a new study published in Environmental Sciences Europe found that “glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since Monsanto’s ‘Roundup Ready’ genetically engineered crops were introduced in 1996.”

While scientists can argue endlessly over whether or not GMOs are harmful to humans and the environment, there’s little debate about the effects such widespread pesticide and herbicide application is having on the planet, its inhabitants and vital resources such as water.

Glyphosate was classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization last year and has been linked to hypertension and diabetes, as well as allergic and autoimmune inflammation. Considering 75-85 percent of all processed foods in the U.S. contain ingredients derived from GMO corn, soy, canola and sugar beets, it’s not surprising that diabetes, allergies and autoimmune inflammation are on the rise. Or consider this year’s testing by the University of California San Francisco’s lab that found a disturbing 93 percent of their nationwide participants tested positive for glyphosate in their urine. Bigger bummer is that children had the highest levels, as did people living in the west and mid-west.

Topping it off is the enormous hypocrisy of “states’ rights” lawmakers until a state decides to require GMO labeling. Then say that particular state right cannot be tolerated, so it must be prohibited by a voluntary federal labeling law.

Bottom line is that the herbicide and GMO corporations know that if they are required to clearly label GMO foods, consumers won’t buy them. As Tester concluded: “They’re denying people the information they need to know to make the best decision for their family. It makes no sense to me.” Well said, Senator Tester. Time for Senator Daines to start representing Montana’s consumers instead of Monsanto.