Friday, September 23, 2011

GM corn and our rights as consumers

If you're a regular reader, you probably know how I feel about corn.  And you might think that if Monsanto has developed a new GM corn that can resist even stronger doses of the pesticide Round Up, and resists at least two different corn-loving insects; well, since the corn itself attacks ME regardless, it won't matter to me if it's on the market or not.
You'd be wrong.
I won't be buying this GM corn because I don't buy corn.  But, I object to it on principal.  Frankly, it scares me to read that the federal regulators don't require any approval, and it doesn't need to be labeled.
It terrifies me to think that big corporations don't feel a need to label food with origins that they think I might object to.  As a consumer, I have the right to know what I'm purchasing.  What my purchase supports, what I'm putting into my and my children's bodies.
I have an obligation to make informed decisions regarding my kids' health.  That includes what I feed them.  There is a reason I try to buy organic.  But simply buying organic isn't good enough.  Regardless of my personal desires, I have to balance ideals with the cold hard facts of my checking account.  If I can't afford an organic certified label one week, I should be able to make an informed choice among the non-organically grown options.  Which means, GMO need to be labeled.
This isn't about whether or not there should be genetically modified organisms on the market.  I think most people agree that they don't want to ingest GMOs or feed them to their kids; but that's not the point either.  I may not want GMOs to be mass marketed, and I may be concerned about the possibility of GMO pollen contaminating organic fields, but that isn't the issue here either.
The real issue is that if GM corn is sold unlabeled, then we as consumers lose our right to choose.  We lose our right to make an informed decision about what we buy and what we eat.  As consumers, we shouldn't have to research every morsel that enters our mouth.  (Trust me, as a corn allergy sufferer I do have to research every product.  It's hard work and the company representatives aren't always happy about the research I ask them to do.)  I'm guessing that companies are assuming that as busy individuals, we don't have the time or inclination to make a phone call prior to every purchase ascertaining it's GMO status.  And I'm also guessing that they are assuming that once the reveal that GMO corn has been on the shelf and a pantry staple for a certain number of months or years, we as a society will be more open to embracing other GMOs.  And that, in turn, can lead to an easier approval process.  Which, of course, won't need to be labeled because as a society we will already have accepted the use of GMOs in our everyday lives.
This is what I object to.
I don't know the long term consequences of GMO.  And maybe there won't be any.
But maybe there are some unforeseen consequences.  As a consumer, as an American Citizen, I have the right to choose.  The right to protect my family, if it makes me happy and doesn't impede anyone else's rights.  As a city-girl (like most of America) I can't grow all my own food.  Which means I need to rely on grocery stores.  And I deserve to know what's in the foods I purchase.  I deserve to choose whether or not to support GMOs.  We all deserve the right to avoid ingredients we don't want whether it's for physical, spiritual, religious or ridiculous reasons.  And we deserve the right to seek out specific foods if we so desire.  (Like raw milk, or even GMO if you really wanted it)  In order to exercize our right to choose, we need information.  Which means, GMO should be labeled. 
While we work on that as individuals, companies can work on it as well. 
Trader Joes and General Mills have indicated that they won't purchase unlabeled GM sweet corn (the kind that's sold frozen and/or canned.)  Today I sent a message through the True Food website asking other food manufacturers to do the same.  If you want to maintain your right to choose, consider doing the same. 

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