In the November 2005 elections, residents of Marin County, Calif., overwhelmingly voted (62%) to ban the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their region.
Marin joins California's Mendocino County-the first U.S. county to pass such a ban, back in March-in an effort to fight the profit-driven biotechnology industry and halt a dangerous agricultural practice. Other counties in the state are expected to follow suit.
Why all the hoopla?
By definition, GMOs are organisms whose genetic material has been deliberately altered, and they pose special burdens for our nation's economically beleaguered farmers. Growers must spend precious dollars on DNA testing to determine if their crops have been contaminated by GMOs through wind patterns and normal bird and insect activity. And if contamination does occur, consumers have no way of knowing whether they're buying genetically altered food-and whether they'll eventually suffer health consequences.
"Genetic engineering corporations have foisted these crops on farmers and consumers without sufficient testing, regulation or the ability to prevent contamination," confirms Renata Brillinger, director of Occidental, CA-based Californians for GE-Free Agriculture. "This movement of county bans signals the need to pause in the headlong rush towards genetic engineering and to engage in a statewide democratic debate about the future of this technology in California."
Anna Lappé, cofounder of the New York City-based Small Planet Fund and coauthor of the critically acclaimed Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, cites three reasons why GMOs pose threats to both organic and nonorganic growers.
"First, GMOs' seeds have already shown that they can contaminate neighboring plants," she tells OrganicAuthority.com. "Second, by drastically reducing the variety of crops that are grown-there are only a handful of GMO varieties-these crops reduce our food security. Today, if a blight strikes one crop, our entire food system can be crippled.
From the Organic Authority Files
"Finally, the focus on GMO technology has been, and continues to be, a gigantic diversion from research and funding for agro-ecological approaches to farming-those that work with nature, not fight a war against it, which are highly productive and pose none of the risks of GMOs," she continues. "For instance, a recent United Nations report notes that in just one year (2001), the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent 42 times more on biotech research as it did on organic research: $210 million to $5 million for organic. And this figure doesn't count the enormous amount of private investment dollars going into biotech research."
As Lappé is quick to point out, GMOs make us "guinea pigs for an untested technology," and no one can accurately predict how they will affect our health-and our children's well-being-in the future.
"One of the most disturbing aspects of the introduction of GMOs into our food system is that no long-term, comprehensive research was completed to analyze the impact of GMOs on our bodies or ecosystems," she says. "That GMOs are now found in more than three-quarters of all food in our supermarkets is evidence not of their benefits, but of the sheer tenacity of just a few corporations who have pushed their products through our regulatory mechanisms, onto our shelves and into our stomachs."
And where does our government stand on this controversial food safety issue?
According to Lappé, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration draws no distinction between GMOs and "regular" food, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
"This policy determination has significant impacts," she warns. "For instance, in the United States, GMOs are not required to be labeled, whereas they are in most of the other countries where GMO food is sold. But many analysts who have closely followed GMO policymaking argue these decisions have been compromised by key public officials with ties to the very companies whom they were supposed to be regulating."
What a surprise…
Also, check out this interesting blog about The Food Enhancement Act