Label Genetically Modified Foods, Yes on 92

One of the most important food issues consumers face these days is looking to label Genetically Modified Foods. Consumers more than ever want the “right to know” what their consumer dollars support, how their food is grown and what they consume. This November a very important ballot initiave is being brought to the people of Oregon, home of Tofurky.  Today we “Talk Tofurky” with Andy  Darkins, campaign director of  Oregon Right to Know leading up the initiative to label genetically engineered foods with Measure 92.

Thank you for taking the time to Talk Tofurky, Andy.

TT: What is the mission of Oregon Right to Know and what is your role in the organization?

Andy: Measure 92 and the Oregon Right to Know Campaign are focused on ensuring that all Oregonians have the right to know what is in the food they eat and feed their family. For us that means that when it comes to foods that have been genetically engineered, there should be a clear and simple label so when Oregonians are doing their shopping they are able to make informed decisions.

I’m the Campaign Manager. I’m at the head of all the day-to-day operations of the Campaign.

TT: Why is this Oregon Ballot Initiative so important?

Andy (A): Well, there are so many things that are out of our control, but knowing what’s in the food we eat and feed our families should be something we have control over.

Food is such an important part of our lives, and today there are so many concerns people have about what’s in their food, how its made, where it comes from, etc. that it’s important for all the information to be available.

We believe that it should be as simple and easy to understand as possible. That’s why Measure 92 would do one simple thing; if a food you are buying at retail were made with genetically engineered products, there would be a label on it. That label would keep it simple: “made with genetically engineered ingredients” that’s it.

TT: What can our fans and customers do to help with the initiative?

Andy (A): Well first and foremost you can make sure you are registered to vote for this November’s election. And while you’re at it talk to your friends and family and make sure they are as well.

You can also get important information about this Measure 92, what it does, and why it is important on our website: www.Oregonrighttoknow.org And if you want to support our campaign for Oregonian’s right to know what is in their food, you can donate to the campaign at: Oregon Right to Know Campaign

It is going to take all of us coming together to overcome what will be a multi-million dollar opposition.

TT: : Who are the forces/companies/organizations that don’t want labeling initiatives passed?)

Andy (A): The biggest opponents to giving Oregonians the information they deserve are the agri-chemical companies like Dow and Monsanto who make the patented genetically engineered seeds. They have concerns that if people are informed they won’t purchase their products.

These same companies label their products for over half the world’s population, but are fighting tooth and nail not to do the same for us. 64 other countries including the European Union, Australia, Japan and even China have labeling requirements for genetically engineered foods. The same companies that have been the biggest opponents here still sell their products in those markets, and they didn’t see a dramatic down shit, nor did prices increase for consumers. Labeling foods containing genetically engineered ingredients empowers consumers to make their own decisions with how they spend their money. We have the right to know what is in the food we eat and feed our family and I’m confident that Oregonians will come out this November to say just that.

I think after we pass it here in Oregon you will see more and more states pushing for labeling of genetically engineered foods. The people want it, and thus far there has been a large push back by corporate interests spending millions to confuse people.

TT: Besides Oregon are there other states that are trying to pass GMO labeling laws?

Andy (A): Well in the past 2 years both California and Washington attempted to pass labeling laws by referendum. In both cases they were narrowly defeated by opponents that overspent them 3-1. Arizona and Colorado also attempted to get labeling referendums passed this year.

We already have labeling laws in Vermont where the opponents are attempting to stall implementation with a lawsuit. And in both Connecticut and Maine there are labeling laws on the books that have a trigger clause to make them go into effect once more states pass similar laws. I believe 4 in the case of Maine and 5 in the case of Connecticut.

When we pass Measure 92 this November Oregon will become the first state to pass genetic engineered foods labeling through a vote of the people.

TT: What are the top GMO crops that people should avoid?

Andy (A): About 70% of the food you find in the grocery store today likely contains genetically engineered ingredients. It can be difficult to avoid genetically engineered food without a clear and simple label. We know that about 93% of all soy and 88% of corn in the United States is genetically engineered. Soy is a staple of processed foods under various names including hydrogenated oils, lecithin, emulsifiers, tocopherol (a vitamin E supplement) and proteins.

Without proper labeling it is nearly impossible to avoid genetically engineered soy all together. We believe that people should be able to avoid these products if they want. They have the right to know whether the product they are buying contains genetically engineered ingredients and decide for themselves if they will continue to purchase them or move to non-genetically engineered alternatives.

TT: What percentage of our cropland is planted in GMO right now?

Andy (A):  Right now more than 40% of all US crop land is dedicated to growing genetically engineered foods. In Oregon it is much less. Just last May two Oregon counties, Jackson and Josephine, passed a ban on growing genetically engineered crops. These bills passed with overwhelming margins, with 66% of Jackson County and 57% of Josephine residents voting in support of the ban.

If these farm communities are so worried about the negative impacts of genetically engineered crops that they voted to ban them, then it makes sense for us to label these foods so farmers to distinguish their traditional, local crops from crops genetically engineered by out of state corporations.

Oregon family farmers support labeling because they stand by the food they grow and think Oregonians have a right to know if it’s been genetically engineered.

Oregon farmers would see a real benefit from labeling, as it would create a level playing field for their traditional crops. And informed consumers would be able to make better decisions about what they want to eat and feed their families.

TT: Does the argument that GM food prevents starvation have anything to do with the argument to label foods so that people will have a choice?

Andy (A):  It is definitely something the opposition will try and claim, however the facts don’t support that claim at all. The majority of genetically engineered crops have been engineered for increased pesticide resistance, not to significantly increase crop yields, or to allow for less water consumption. These crops are engineered to sell more of the chemical pesticide and herbicides that the companies who produce the GE seeds also sell.

TT: Does the Right To Know initiative affect animals?

Andy (A):  Under Measure 92 any animals or products from animals that are themselves genetically engineered would have to be labeled if they are sold for human consumption. Right now the FDA is contemplating allowing genetically engineered salmon on to the market. This is salmon that has had a gene from an eel like fish inserted into it to make it grow larger faster.

Many people are uncomfortable about crossing that line, combining different species of animals through genetically engineering in a lab. We believe that Oregonians should have the right to decide for themselves if they purchase foods that are the product of genetic engineering like this.

TT: What are some of the illnesses that have been directly related to gmo crops?

Andy (A): There are lost of questions about the health impacts of genetically engineered foods. Allergies, food intolerances, intestinal issues, all have been linked to the increase in genetically engineered foods in our diet. Unfortunately since genetically engineered seeds are patented products and the FDA does not conduct independent testing we have no solid independent data about if there is a causal link.

The lack of independent study has raised serious concerns by organizations like the Center for Food Safety and Scientific American. Even the American Medical Association have expressed the need for more independent research into what long term impacts genetically engineered foods may have, calling for the companies who hold the patents on the seeds to loosen their control and allow more independent study.

TT: Until such time that labeling of GMO products becomes a law, can we assume that buying organic will suffice?

Andy (A):  Buying organic will ensure that you are avoiding genetically engineered food, but to be labeled organic there are a number of other things that farmers and food manufacturers have to do, like restrictions about certain pesticides and more.  This leads to the increased cost of organics. We believe that people should have the right to decide if they want to eat genetically engineered food, and it shouldn’t only be those who can afford organics who get the power to decide for themselves.

TT:. How can people in other states encourage their local governments to adopt a Right To Know initiative?

Andy (A):  They can write to their local, state, and federal legislators and let them know that this is an important issue to them. We all have the right to know what is in the food we eat and fed our families. And protecting the profits of companies like Monsanto and Dow is not a good enough reason to deny us that right.

Thank you, Andy for taking the time to speak about these important issues and spearheading this very important campaign.

Readers: Do you have any comments or questions for Andy? Are you concerned about eating GMOs?  Leave your comments below and  and we’ll choose 3 of your comments to win FREE Tofurky goodies.

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