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As consumers in several states attempt to pass legislation labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their food, industry groups and large chemical companies and agribusinesses have been fighting back with big bucks to stop the attempt to identify GMOs.

Indeed, following Oregon’s November 4 election, the vote tally for and against the ferociously fought labeling measure was so close, it triggered a recount—which is currently under away (December 3) . And Monsanto which, with DuPont, spent more than $20 million to defeat the legislation, has reportedly flown in observers for the recount. 

Proponents of Oregon’s GMO labeling measure raised roughly $8 million—nowhere near the opponents, but far outpacing Colorado’s labeling advocates who came up with less than $1 million. The “No Labeling” giants raised more than $15 million to beat back Colorado effort to label GMOs.  Makes one wonder just what they are trying to hide….

Three New England States Vote “Yes” 

Three states already have passed labeling measures: Vermont was first, passing a mandatory labeling law set to take effect in 2016, although opponents already filed suit to block it. Connecticut and Maine also passed GMO labeling laws but—reportedly concerned about the financial dangers of going solo—neither measure is to take effect until other states pass GMO labeling requirements. 

On a grass roots level, voters on the Hawaiian island of Maui recently passed a ballot initiative that bans the farming of GMO crops in Maui County until the county conducts an analysis of the health effects of genetically modified food and farming. Voters voted for the initiative  despite being outspent 87 to 1 by opponents including Monsanto and Dow chemical (known to Boomers for its Agent Orange defoliant used extensively in the Vietnam War).

Whole Foods Takes a Stand 

In the meantime, Whole Foods has listened to its consumers and made a strong, public commitment to GMO transparency: by 2018, all of its products in U.S. and Canadian stores must be labeled to indicate whether they contain any genetically modified organisms. 

Now while concerned consumers shop the aisles, they not only see an assortment of shelf labels identifying “gluten free” and nondairy products, but colorful shelf signage denoting “Non-GMO” products from forward-thinking food producers. 

While small grocery chains and independents don’t have the clout to tell their suppliers to identify GMO ingredients, their customers will benefit eventually from labeling mandates made by larger retailers, such as Whole Foods, and a growing number of manufacturers who are labeling their products. 

In the meantime, shoppers trying to avoid GMOs foods and ingredients can look for products labeled Organic by an independent third-party, such as the USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) National Organic Standards Program, and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).   

What Is GMO Food?

 The Center of Food Safety uses defines GMO food as: 

Genetically engineered (GE) foods, sometimes referred to as genetically modified (GM) foods, are created by artificially inserting genetic material from one or more organisms into the genetic code of another, using modern genetic engineering techniques. 

Other organizations note that GMOs are organisms whose genetic makeup (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. These crops are modified to survive herbicide treatment, produce their own pesticides and resist certain diseases. 

Testing of these products has not been done to any great extent, from all we read, and even scientists within some governmental bodies have concerns about the harm GMO crops may do to wildlife and the environment going forward, let alone what impact they have on the health of human beings.

In future blog posts, we’ll look at other third-party certifications, and a variety of other food issues related to healthier eating.