PRO: Call for labeling about money, health, choice
June 9, 2013 at 1:09 a.m.
Updated June 10, 2013 at 1:10 a.m.
GMO in the marketplace
Cotton, corn and soybeans are the most common genetically modified crops in the U.S.
Genetically modified cotton accounted for 94 percent of all cotton planted, genetically modified soybeans accounted for 93 percent of soybeans planted, and genetically modified corn accounted for 88 percent of corn planted.
There are also new varieties of several other foods, such as squash and papayas, which are from plants engineered to resist plant diseases.
James Canter earns his living by feeding people.
When it comes to planning his menus, avoiding processed foods and those containing genetically modified ingredients is his main objective.
"As of right now, what I've brought in is local, organic and sustainable products," Canter, the executive chef at Victoria Country Club, said. "We're moving to be a completely GMO-free kitchen."
Connecticut recently passed a law requiring labeling for all genetically modified organisms, or GMO - "food that is intended for human consumption and seed that is intended to produce food for human consumption, which has been genetically altered by scientists to improve its ability to grow in non-native environments, resist pests, tolerate extreme weather conditions, produce more food (like milk in cows) or show other desired traits."
In the battle for labeling genetically modified foods, Catner said it comes down to choice - being able to vote with your dollars.
"I want to know what I'm buying," he said.
Last year, the issue went to a vote in California, and right now in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, legislators are talking about bills requiring labels for GMOs.
"The intention (behind GMOs) was probably good, but in this day and age, I think the objective is skewed," Canter said. "It's more profit-oriented than feeding people-oriented. There's no place for GMOs at this point."
Phylis Canion, a certified nutritional consultant in Victoria, wants genetically modified foods labeled.
"If our food has been altered in any way, I think it should be listed on the label," she said. "I think that any food that is adulterated, genetically modified, altered, irradiated or whatever, the consumer has the right to know."
Price look-up, or PLU, codes for produce already show a distinction between genetically modified and organic food, she said.
Canion, who owns Organic Emporium, 2918 N. Laurent St., recommends to all her clients to avoid genetically modified foods.
"Look at our health statistics - where we were in the '50s and where we are now," she said. "How much of the decline of our health and all of these new autoimmune diseases we see raising their ugly heads are due to the foods we're eating that are altered in some fashion?"
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that genetically modified foods are safe, some studies found that those same foods may toxically affect several organs and systems.
It comes down to testing, Canion said. GMOs have only been on the market since the mid-1990s. Research on long-term health effects to humans is scarce.
While she has not published any studies on the health effects of diets full of genetically modified food, she said she sees the results in her clients.
"People are getting sick with stuff," she said. "I think it's the food that causes the problem."
Jonathan Berry, a 27-year-old food activist in Victoria, is taking a stand against Monsanto, the world's largest seed company.
"They say this stuff is so harmless, then label it," Berry said.
With many former Monsanto consultants and lobbyists now holding federal positions, Berry worries politicians are protecting the company.
Berry recently took part in two protests against Monsanto - one in Austin and another in Victoria. He said the Internet is the backbone of the movement against Big Food.
"The most imperative thing right now is having it labeled," Berry said. "We have a choice to know what we're eating. ... In an ideal world, genetically modified food would be banned."