Genetically Modified Foods in the Natural Product Marketplace
By Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America
Non-GMO is quite the buzz in the food industry.
- “GMO-Free” was the fastest growing claim for store brands in 2009; it’s now the third fastest overall Health & Wellness claim.
- Supermarket News predicted that 2010 would see an unprecedented upsurge in consumer concern about GMOs.
- Over 600 retailers and manufacturers participated in last October’s Non-GMO Month.
- And the FDA’s attempt to fast-track Frankenfish, and the court cases and approvals of GM alfalfa and sugar beets, has resulted in unprecedented coverage in mainstream media.
If you think all this awareness will finally get the government to do something, don’t hold your breath. The FDA is pushing for GE salmon by ignoring the 91% of Americans who don’t want genetically modified (GM) animals. The agency doesn’t require GMO labeling in spite of the 95% of us who want it. President Obama packed top positions at the USDA with pro-GMO people. And he actually put Michael Taylor back in the FDA as the US Food Safety Czar.
Taylor had been an outside attorney for Monsanto in 1991 before being recruited by the FDA to be the man in charge of policy. According to formerly secret FDA documents, the GMO policy that Taylor presided over ignored repeated warnings by agency scientists about the health dangers of GMOs. Instead, it waives unlabeled genetically modified (GM) foods onto the market without a single required safety study. Taylor later became Monsanto’s vice president.
Consumers can kick out GMOs
Don’t let the marriage between our government and the biotech industry get you down. There’s a much easier way to stop GMOs than trying to arm wrestle biotech lobbyists to change government policies. Consumers are at the top of the food chain. Since GMOs don’t offer a single consumer benefit, if even a small percentage of shoppers stopped eating them, they’d be kicked out by food companies trying to save market share.
This is precisely what happened in Europe. In January 1999, the biotech industry was still projecting a 95% replacement of all commercial seeds within 5 years. But three weeks later, a gag order was lifted on Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a top scientist who had discovered profound health dangers related to GMOs. A media firestorm ensued; 10 weeks and 750 GMO articles later, most European food companies had committed to stop using GM ingredients.
Likewise in the US, consumers booted GM bovine growth hormone (rbGH) out of most dairies, including Wal-mart, Starbucks, Dannon, and Yoplait.
Starting a revolution in the natural products store
Although the condemnation of rbGH is now institutionalized by medical organizations such as the American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association (they denounce the milk’s higher levels of a cancer promoting hormone, IGF-1), it didn’t begin with them. The tipping point against rbGH was jump-started by health-conscious shoppers, especially parents, who shop at natural products stores.
It is this same demographic that can push out all GMOs. Many people estimate that only about 5% of committed non-GMO shoppers are needed in the US to achieve the tipping point. Already 28 million Americans, 9.3%, buy organic products regularly. That’s more than we need.
Although the vast majority of these folks say they would avoid GMOs if they had a choice, most are still a bit vague about which products are genetically modified, and how dangerous they can be. The retailers can fill in the missing information here, and empower this trend-setting force to launch the non-GMO tidal wave. Here’s the missing pieces:
Which products are GMOs and how to avoid them
The vast majority of soy (91%), corn (85%), cottonseed (93%) (used for oil), canola (85%), and sugar beets (95%), are GMOs. Their derivatives are found in more than 70% of foods sold in the supermarket. All five crops have varieties that are spliced with bacterial genes to allow them to withstand deadly weed killers like Roundup. Some corn and cotton varieties are engineered to produce an insect killing poison called Bt-toxin (for the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis). Some corn and cotton do both.
Most Hawaiian papaya is engineered to resist a virus, as are some zucchini and yellow crook neck squash. Popcorn is not yet modified.
There’s also milk from cows treated with rbGH, and all dairy and meat from animals fed GM feed. Aspartame is made from a GM micro-organism. And there are GM enzymes used in food production that aren’t even on the label.
Organic products don’t allow the use of GMOs, and plenty of products are labeled as non-GMO. Although organic products have always been a trusted oasis for finicky non-GMO eaters, they don’t require any actual testing for at-risk ingredients. And generic non-GMO labels don’t guarantee testing either.
The Non-GMO Project third-party verified non-GMO claim
Fortunately, there’s a nonprofit organization called the Non-GMO Project that has sparked a major shift in non-GMO claim-making. They offer the nation’s first uniform standard. It does require testing of at-risk ingredients, as well as third-party verification. This program was originally started by retailers, and now includes participation from manufacturers, distributors, and consumers as well.
Our Institute’s Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, publishes the popular free public service reference, the Non-GMO Shopping Guide (see www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com) which features products enrolled in the Non-GMO Project.
Why avoid GMOs?
Although most natural products shoppers say they would avoid GMOs if given a choice, it helps to give them compelling reasons to switch brands. That’s easy. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine cites animal feeding studies linking GMOs to reproductive, immune, gastrointestinal, organ, and aging disorders. They are urging all doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets. For more detailed information on the health risks, visit www.responsibletechnololgy.org for articles, videos, audios, and a free electronic newsletter.
Take charge and change the world
There are now more than 100 local and national Non-GMO Action Groups forming in order to help get the word out and promote the tipping point of consumer rejection against GMOs—to force them out of the market. People are warmly invited to join the Non-GMO Tipping Point Network to find their group, and we also offer GMO speaker training, either online or in one-day workshops. The next one-day training in the Northeast is Sunday May 1st, at Columbia University in New York.
Help plant the seeds for a non-GMO future.
Jeffrey M. Smith is the leading consumer advocate for promoting healthier non-GMO eating. His first book, Seeds of Deception, is the world’s bestselling and #1 rated book on the subject. His second, Genetic Roulette, documents 65 health risks of the GM crops Americans eat everyday. Mr. Smith has spoken in more than 30 countries, and has been quoted in hundreds of media outlets including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine. He is the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, which produces the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, Health Risk Brochures, Non-GMO Education Centers, and other consumer education tools. He lives with his wife in Iowa, surrounded by genetically modified corn and soybeans.
Please join us for two very special events in Greenwich and Fairfield featuring guest speaker and author Jeffrey Smith
“DON’T PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH”
Lecture + Q&A + Book Signing
WHEN: Wednesday April 27th @ 7:00pm
WHERE: Audubon in Greenwich 613 Riversville Rd Greenwich, CT
CONTACT: Jeff 203-869-5272 x239
WHEN: Thursday April 28th @ 7:00pm
WHERE: Community Film Institute 1424 Post Rd. Fairfield Ct.
CONTACT: Catch A Healthy Habit Cafe 203 292 8190
Read More or Purchase Tickets Now
Jeffrey Smith is offering a special day of
WHEN: Sunday May 1st @ 9:30am-5:00pm
WHERE:Columbia University, Uris Hall (business school), Room # Uris 301.
CONTACT: email@example.com 641-209-1765
Columbia University students: Free (donations gratefully accepted)
Spend a day with international bestselling author and filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith to learn how to speak about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and to organize effective activism on the issue. Help achieve the tipping point of consumer rejection to force GMOs out of our food supply!
Whether you want to be a leading anti-GMO campaigner or simply help out when you can, don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn from the leading spokesperson on GMO health dangers. Jeffrey has presented in 32 countries, counseled world leaders on every continent, and written the world’s bestselling book on the topic—Seeds of Deception.
You will learn:
The five components of a GMO presentation, and the studies, quotes, statistics, and concepts to convey.
Why genetically engineered foods are dangerous for our health and environment. How to customize PowerPoint slides (provided) for desired length and focus.
Proven ways to motivate people to change their diets on-the-spot.
During the workshop you will:
Receive a scripted PowerPoint, sample recorded lectures, a facilitators’ guide, and comprehensive list of reference materials.
Practice presenting in small groups; and
Have plenty of time for questions and answers, to gain confidence in the material.