Editorial: You Are What You Eat
From the Editor
by Craig Mazer
You are what you eat. But if you don't really know what you're eating, what exactly are you? You're the perfect consumer for the American food industry, which, with the full support of the U.S. government, loves to hide the truth about and the potential dangers of the food you ingest.
In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that genetically modified (GM) foods and ingredients did not need to be labeled. Essentially, they said that Americans don't care enough about what they eat to be concerned. They also base their decision on speculation that GM foods are safe. They followed that up with a January 2001 report that suggests voluntary labeling, something you can be sure companies will not do.
However, public opinion screams for labeling:
- 86% of Americans think that the government should require the labeling of all packaged and other food products stating that they include corn, soy or other products which have come from genetically modified crops (Harris Poll, June 2000)
- 79% of Americans said it should not be legal to sell genetically modified fruits and vegetables without special labels (USA Today, February 2000).
- 86% of Americans want labels on genetically engineered foods (Intl. Communications Research, March 2000).
The FDA is aware of the risks, including multiple internal memos that address these risks. (These memos were obtained by Alliance for Bio-Integrity in their lawsuit versus the FDA.) Yet, they are on a mission to promote the biotech industry. Why? In 1999, for instance, the Alliance for Better Foods (ABF) was created by 38 organizations that did not want mandatory labeling of GM foods. ABF members, during the first nine months of 1999, reported more than $676,000 in soft money, PAC and individual contributions to members of Congress -- 83% to Republicans -- according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
But that's not all. According to the ABF's website, each ABF member boasts a membership of hundreds of companies throughout the agriculture industry. That accounted for $43.3 million in campaign contributions during the 1998 election cycle. This doesn't include large, individual companies (DuPont and Monsanto for example) who are lobbying on their own (according to a November '99 New York Times article), spending millions to prevent mandatory labeling.
Even if you don't have millions to toss around, you can play a part in stopping this. Because the government has already shown that they are going to make this a difficult battle, the best thing you can do is buy non-GM foods and organic goods (visit the web site of Mothers for Natural Law for listings). Obviously, it's important to continue to press the FDA for stricter regulations. Until then the phrase "Watch what you eat" has even greater meaning.
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