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Genetically Modified Plants

Genetically modified foods have become a serious risk to not just the viability of our food supply, but to human health. The articles below are provided to educate and motivate you to become engaged in this issue by making your voice heard to politicians and to the companies that create these plants.

Why You Should Vote for GMO Labeling, Measure 92

The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed "YES on Measure 92" to Label GMOs

GMO Safety Cartoon If the Penguins Don't Know, How Do We? Field Sign M92 But, There Is a Way For You to Know! Vote Yes on M92 Vote YES on Measure 92

Here are 19 (yes, 19) reasons for you to vote "Yes" on Measure 92:

  1. The basic case: A large percentage of consumers are concerned about GMOs, and GMO Labeling will establish, protect and enforce our rights to know what we are eating. Why wouldn’t we label?
  2. Worldwide, 64 countries require GMO labeling right now. Food prices have NOT increased in those countries. Don’t be fooled by hype. According to a new study commissioned by Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, the true cost of labeling will be less than a penny a day per person, and it’s unlikely manufacturers will pass that on to consumers. Measure 92 does not require food to be all organic, and it doesn’t require the manufacturer to change any ingredients.
  3. American companies label their GMO foods in 64 countries, but they’re spending millions of dollars to keep those ingredients secret here. Others know, but we can’t? That’s a double standard, and all families deserve to know what they’re eating and how it was grown.
  4. With over 30 new genetically engineered fruits and vegetables waiting to be patented and approved and more being developed, the food supply will soon become dominated by GMOs with no way for consumers to identify them. The basic right to know issue of GMO labeling is going to become even more important in the future.
  5. The US government doesn’t perform or require any safety testing of genetically engineered crops before approval. Because biotech corporations own the patents on GMO seeds, they can and do explicitly prohibit any health safety testing on their genetically engineered seeds and crops because it infringes on their “property rights.” Health studies touted by the biotech industry are too short, biased and paid for by themselves.
  6. In North America, over 75% of our processed food contains GMOs. Studies of animals who eat a GMO diet reveal disturbances in the digestive system, liver, kidney, pancreas, the immune system, and negative effects on fertility. A 2012 laboratory study confirmed that the Bt corn toxin opens holes in human intestinal cells. Leaky gut can cause allergies and a host of immune system problems.
  7. GMO crops cross-contaminate non-GMO crops, which cannot be contained, recalled or undone. Coexistence is not possible. They replicate and spread their DNA. This expanding genetic contamination threatens not only traditional and organic farming, it is a dire prospect that threatens future biodiversity and the natural web of life.
  8. With GMO crops requiring heavy sprayings of toxic herbicides and pesticides, the toxic load in our soil and water continues to increase environmental and health hazards. Between 1996 and 2011 herbicide use in the U.S. increased by 527 million pounds. Water testing shows the drinking water of 70% of American households is positive for glyphosate, the herbicide used on GMO crops.
  9. The process of genetic engineering forces genes from one species into a totally unrelated species to gain a “desirable” new characteristic such as the ability to withstand a herbicide without dying. This process of genetic engineering is imprecise and causes unintended consequences as the plant’s (or animal’s) genes respond to the invasion, altering its metabolism. You can’t simply plop in a new characteristic without creating changes throughout the whole organism. These “side effects” change the way the plant or animal responds to its environment, are not predictable, have not been well studied, and can carry acute health and environmental risks. It is profoundly unethical for biotech companies to release GE technology into the environment and public sphere without first carefully studying long-term “side effects.” These companies have ignored this basic responsibility, betraying the public, the environment and nature’s genetic heritage in the name of profit-making. They aggressively suppress and discredit independent research to keep such information hidden. It is time for transparency.
  10. Government regulations have recently been weakened to allow higher levels of toxic residues left on crops, and even more potent herbicides 2,4-D (part of the Agent Orange cocktail) and dicamba were just approved for use on crops by the USDA in mid-September. Only EPA approval stands in the way of its release for agricultural use, projected to be as much as 176 million pounds a year that will end up in our soil, air and water. Health problems linked to 2,4-D include cancer, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems.
  11. Millions upon millions of acres of U.S. farmland have been taken out of production due to superweeds that have evolved to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup Ready), forcing farmers to use ever more toxic chemicals. That means more sales and profits for biotech and agrochemical companies, but this escalating chemical arms race is a no-win for families and the environment. GMO Labeling will help consumers identify foods grown with heavy doses of herbicides.
  12. GMO proponents say we need GMO crops to feed the world, but studies show that sustainable, non-chemical farming methods match or out-perform GMO crop yields, while using inexpensive techniques such as mulching, composting, no till, cover crop and crop rotation. And, there have been no “benefits” to growing genetically engineered crops—no drought resistance, no greater yields, no increased nutrition or other claims.
  13. The massive use of toxic chemicals on GMO crops substantially contributes to the toxic load on our honey bees, other pollinators and beneficial insects that has decimated their populations and threatens the vital role pollinators play in growing food.
  14. The massive use of toxic herbicides and pesticides on GMO crops is destroying biodiversity and the web of life. Killed off are the many insects that have a place in nature and the food chain, impacting birds, lizards, all sorts of critters on up the food web. We know that microorganisms in the soil facilitate nutrient uptake into plants, but GMO toxic chemicals kill these friendly microorganisms, destroying their delicate but critical function and depriving crops of healthy minerals and vitamins. The death of soil microorganisms results in the release of carbon into the atmosphere, adding to climate disruption.
  15. Genetic engineering enables a half dozen multinational corporations to patent and own grain, vegetable and fruit seeds, putting our natural genetic heritage in the hands of a few powerful corporations. Passing GMO Labeling will lessen their grip on our food supply, and the marketplace will remain more open and viable for Oregon farmers, who produce a variety of crops.
  16. GMO Labeling will enable Oregon farmers to capitalize on the increasing demand for non-GMO crops and will help sustain a diverse and robust agricultural economy for Oregon.
  17. Measure 92 will protect Oregon farmers from lawsuits if their crops are contaminated by pollen drift from surrounding GMO fields.
  18. It is up to the states to set the standard for GMO Labeling before the federal government implements watered down legislation that may pre-empt more effective standards. Now is the critical time for our state to pass Measure 92.
  19. The Precautionary Principle is an ethic that applies to GMOs. It means that if a contemplated action or policy may cause harm to the public or the environment, it should not go forward until we know it is safe and will cause no harm. The burden of proof that it is not harmful belongs to those people proposing that action or policy. An untested, inadequately researched technology with such huge consequences like genetic engineering of our food supply—plants, animals, fish, trees—should be halted until long-term studies on environmental and health effects can be done in order to safeguard current and future generations. That is why so many people believe the “GMO experiment” should not be conducted on the American public.

Europe has adopted the Precautionary Principle in requiring GMO labeling, and so have such diverse countries as China, Russia, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam—64 in total, including our major trading partners. When American manufacturers sell to these countries, they often process their food products without GMO ingredients, so why not do the same for Americans? The Precautionary Principle is accepted as the basis of the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol of 2000, signed by 68 nations, based on the fact that there is sufficient direct and indirect scientific evidence to suggest that GMOs are unsafe for use as food or for release into the environment. Many organizations and scientists worldwide call for a moratorium on all GMOs until we fully understand their effect on the living world.

When we vote to label GMOs, we are not only voting for transparency in our food supply, but also stating that a highly chemicalized, industrial, mono-culture agricultural system is unacceptable because it affects our personal health, nature’s biodiversity, and our soil, water and air. A YES vote will move us closer to a diverse agricultural sector not dependent on ever more potent chemicals and genetic engineering that irreversibly alters and controls nature’s life forms. We have historical power to claim our democratic right to avoid genetically altered food. Please vote YES on Measure 92 to label genetically modified food.

Gretchen Valido

California’s 2012 Prop 37, "Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act", FAILS

Going down to defeat, California’s Proposition 37 ballot initiative campaign to label genetically engineered food was outspent $46 million to $7 million by Monsanto and other biotech corporations, pesticide companies and junk food manufacturers such as PepsiCo. Still, at 53% to 47% the loss was relatively close. Read more at the Organic Consumers Association web site. Stay tuned. The "Just Label It" movement is gathering momentum. We hope to see it return to Oregon soon.

"The World According to Monsanto"

On March 8th, the Juniper Group Program Night focused on a film about Monsanto’s tightening control of food production in the U.S., its bullying of small farmers, and its race to genetically engineer (GE) and patent the world’s food supply. This maker of Agent Orange, DDT and rBGH (milk) has now gotten approval to sell GE alfalfa, which will probably deliver a devastating blow to organic farmers from contamination.

There is mounting evidence of serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GMO) food and crops to humans, animals and the environment. A new pathogen has been found in GMO crops that points to rising infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20% and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE corn, soy, cotton, canola and now sugar beets and alfalfa are designed to withstand massive doses of weed killers, and GE crops have resulted in an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use between 1996 and 2008. Now, weeds resistant to Roundup Ready have resulted in superweeds that have taken millions of farm acres out of production.

You can join the fight against this overt threat to world-wide health. The Organic Consumers Association has initiated a campaign called Millions Against Monsanto. Go to their web site and sign the petition, call for a moratorium, be informed, and join the discussion.