Today, Amanda Rose from Traditional-Foods.com has graciously agreed to do a guest post about the GMO-labeling issue.
For the last month your Facebook feeds and Twitter account has probably been popping with ads about California’s historic food labeling legislation, Proposition 37. Tuesday California voters head to the polls to decide if food made from genetically modified ingredients should carry the label “genetically engineered.”
Imagine a soda pop, with a label “genetically engineered” because they contain corn or soybeans products made from the 90%+ of corn and soy on the market sourced from genetically modified stock.
Californians may finally begin to fear processed foods.
Companies will scramble to find corn, soy, and other ingredients that are made from seeds that have not had their genes altered in a laboratory.
This past summer, the vast majority of Californians thought this labeling was a good idea, according to poll numbers. However, in the past month corporate food giants have thrown millions of dollars into advertising — a million bucks a day, in fact — to narrow the gap. The polls show the race is dead even, if not a small margin for the anti-label side.
The ads from the anti-labelers have been strange at best. They proclaim that Proposition 37 is inconsistent because a take-out pizza would not be labeled whereas a store-bought frozen pizza would be labeled under the law. Next time you buy a pizza from Round Table or Dominos, examine the box carefully and you’ll notice it contains no legally required nutritional information. The part of the Food and Ag Code in California that governs nutritional labels on foods does not include take-out pizzas. This apparent inconsistency is not the fault of Proposition 37. Apparently the anti-labelers lack knowledge of California food code, or simply don’t let the truth interfere with a good story. In any case, they have leveraged these odd ads into potential electoral victory.
In fact, not only will anti-labelers tell you that food labeling is inconsistent and nonsensical, but they will also point out how we need GMO foods to feed the world. GMOs will reduce water and pesticide use (though we wait for that evidence). GMOs will curb malnutrition.
Often when we drill down and look at the evidence of the world-saving properties of GMOs, we find as many problems with the argument as we do with the take-out pizza advertising. I offer you an example: Solving the real problem of iron deficiency by genetically modifying a seed. The problem is real: 10% of young women and children suffer from the deficiency. (I write more about it here.) In this instance, scientists create a seed in which the phytase enzyme is heat resistant and will break down phytic acid even as bread bakes. The iron in the bread is more easy to absorb as a result. (Such a seed has been studied but is not commercially developed, at least not yet, but is a good illustration of the mindset of biotech companies.)
From reading CookingTF.com you know that there are far more simple techniques to reduce phytic acid than involving a biotech scientist and buying seed grain year after year from a giant biotech company. Our great grandmothers solved the problem by keeping a sourdough sponge and using it to leaven bread. The graphic below illustrates the choice: Sourdough or GMO?
We have GMO food and seed that may be putting our health at risk for what benefit? What if we can achieve the same benefit through a technique that doesn’t require a team of biotech Ph.Ds? Our focus needs to be on finding more simple and common-sense solutions to our food problems. Let’s label GMO foods. When we do, big food processors will go out of their way to find non-GMO ingredients to add to their foods.
Good for us.
- Sourdough or GMO? (When Genetically Modified Food Becomes Ridiculous)
- California’s Right to Know (Yes on Proposition 37)
- Michael Pollan’s “Vote For The Dinner Party
Amanda Rose, Ph.D., is a political scientist and real foodie in the Sequoia National Forest of California. She writes more about GMOs and sourdough at Traditional-Foods.com.