The holidays can be like candy canes-they're sticky, they're sweet, with a whole lot of little surprises.
But worrying about the ingredients in candy canes is the last thing any parent wants to have to think about at this time of year. Yet with the growing number of children with diabetes, obesity, allergies, and cancer, more of us are forced to turn our attention to the ingredient lists–on candy canes and just about every other processed food we feed out families. We’re quickly learning that everything from innocent stocking-stuffers to the cornbread on the dinner table are now made from genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
More than two-thirds of processed foods in the United States now contain GE ingredients, for which there have not been any human health studies. But if you go to the grocery store, you would never know from looking at the package. There’s no warning sign, there’s no symbol to show that no human trials have ever been done, and no mention that other countries aren’t using these ingredients. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s current policy does not require products that use GE ingredients to be labeled, just the way that tobacco companies originally insisted that no warning labels be used on their products either.
That is why, as a concerned mother, one of the millions that now has a child with food allergies, I support the Just Label It! Campaign and why over 400,000 people to date, people like you–from moms, to State Senators, to teachers to small-business owners—have contacted the FDA to ask it to label genetically engineered foods because we have a right to know what’s in our food.
A GE food is usually a plant or animal that has had its DNA altered at the molecular level in a lab to include genes that produce foreign compounds from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria. This genetic alteration is not found in nature and cannot occur naturally. Nearly 90 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy grown in the U.S. are from GE seeds, thought the safety of GE crops for human consumption has not been adequately assured.
And while 50 countries, including the European Union and Japan have laws mandating that genetically engineered foods be labeled, the U.S. does not have such a requirement because the companies producing these products have concluded that there is not enough evidence to show that they cause harm. No evidence of harm does not mean that they are safe. And even with no independent studies, no human trials, and industry claiming “no evidence of harm,” public opinion polls still indicate that over 90 percent of voters support the labeling of GE foods.
Which is why this holiday season, I am so grateful for organizations like Just Label It, which are helping parents around the country take precautionary steps to protect the health of their children from products that have never been proven safe. Our children deserve more than to be part of one of the largest human trials in history, they deserve a label on these foods, the same label that is seen in other countries.
But until that label is mandated, the best option to avoid GE foods is to eat less processed foods; to buy USDA certified organic, as the organic standards prohibit the use of genetically engineered ingredients; to look for Non-GMO Project Verified Non-GMO products; and to buy whole foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Let’s make this the last holiday season that fails to give American parents the same right to know what they are feeding their children that has been given to parents in other countries and that fails to label these new ingredients in our foods. It’s time to place the same value on the lives of our families, to speak out and ask the FDA to label genetically engineered foods, to show our farmers that there is a demand for products that have not been genetically engineered, to create a transparent food system. Join me in reminding the FDA that as Americans, we have a right to know what’s in our food.
Robyn O’Brien authored “The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It.” A former food industry analyst and mother of four, Robyn brings insight and detailed analysis to her research into the impact that the global food system is having on the health of our children. She founded www.allergykidsfoundation.org and was named by Forbes as one of “20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter.” The New York Times has described her as “Food’s Erin Brockovich.” Watch Robyn’s TEDx Austin talk here or learn more at www.robynobrien.com.