October is Non-GMO Awareness Month, a time designed to increase awareness and education about the many issues surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food. One of those issues is how to avoid GMOs when we shop for food.
A new GMO labeling law was signed into law this summer. At first that sounds like positive news for American consumers who want to easily identify and avoid GMOs.
But it turns out it really isn’t.
With this news of the continuing assault on our food, I turned to my long-time friend and colleague, holistic nutritionist Melissa Diane Smith, to get the straight scoop on this law and what it means to consumers. She’s the author of Going Against GMOs: The Fast-Growing Movement to Avoid Unnatural Genetically Modified “Foods” to Take Back Our Food and Health (www.goingagainstgmos.com).
Her book is what I consider to be the definitive consumer’s guide on how to avoid GMOs and it’s the first full-length book about GMOs written by a nutritionist. Please join me as I sit down with the woman who is my go-to for the latest and greatest GMO info.
Q. Thank you for joining me on my blog again for Non-GMO Month this year, Melissa. Please fill us in on the GMO labeling law that was passed by Congress and signed by the president this summer. Is it a good thing for consumers?
No, it really isn’t. It’s considered a sham GMO labeling law.
There is a growing movement of people who want to stay away from GMOs in the foods they eat for a wide range of reasons. Unfortunately, this new law doesn’t help. There are so many problems and loopholes with the new law that it’s often called the Denying Americans the Right to Know (or DARK) Act. The law replaces clearly worded state laws with what the Center for Food Safety calls “a vague multi-year bureaucratic process specifically designed to provide less transparency to consumers.”
Nearly 300 consumer, health, farmer, and environmental organizations and food companies representing hundreds of thousands of Americans urged President Obama to veto the bill because it does not provide the mandatory, on-package text labeling that nine out of ten Americans want and that citizens from 64 other countries already have.
The law overturns something that was working—Vermont’s GMO labeling law that went into effect on July 1st of this year and required on-package labeling with the words “partially produced with genetic engineering.” Many national companies were labeling their products nationwide to comply with the Vermont law.
But GMO labels disappeared after the law was passed. In their place is a so-called National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard that is narrowly defined and riddled with exemptions, contains no penalties for non-compliance, and gives companies other options for disclosure of GMO ingredients that aren’t instantly understood by consumers. One of those disclosure options is to “label” a product with a code that is only readable with a smartphone. People who don’t own a smartphone are out of luck, which means the law discriminates against the low-income, rural, minority, and elderly populations who are less likely to own smartphones.
That’s outrageous and maddening! Is there anything consumers can do about our elected officials not giving us the mandatory on-text labeling Americans want?
Yes. There are two things. People can vote for their right to know whether GMOs are in foods at both the ballot box and the check-out line.
Since the beginning of 2015, there have been a number of key votes in Congress related to our right to know if the foods we are eating contain genetically engineered ingredients (it was more than just the recently signed DARK Act), and fortunately, The Cornucopia Institute, an organic and agriculture policy group, has kept a scorecard of how our representatives and senators have voted on all those bills. (You can see that scorecard here.) Because this is an election year, we have the opportunity to carefully consider how our elected officials voted on those measures before we vote on whether to re-elect them for another term. If they voted the wrong way—in other words, to continue to allow food companies to keep the information about GMOs in our food hidden from us—we can choose to vote them out of office.
And how do we vote with our dollar in the check-out line?
All we have to do is learn basic information about how to avoid GMOs, then put that into practice when we grocery shop. There actually is no need to wait for labeling.
As I explained in our first interview, avoiding the direct sources of GMOs involves learning the 11 genetically modified foods on the market by heart, and either avoiding them, or seeking out versions of those foods labeled Non-GMO Project Verified or USDA Organic.
To avoid indirect sources—animal protein from animals fed GMO feed—seek out meat, dairy, eggs, and poultry labeled Non-GMO Project Verified or USDA Organic, and buy only wild-caught fish.
People also can gradually learn how to avoid GMOs in the foods they eat by following my Eat GMO-Free Challenge, a series of 31 tips that can be found in my book and at www.EatGMOFreeChallenge.com.
My Going Against GMOs book also provides information on: emotionally and practically preparing for the challenges involved in steering clear of GMOs; basic non-GMO guidelines; eating for optimal health guidelines; targeted advice for those on various therapeutic diets; non-GMO shopping and eating out advice; and more than 45 non-GMO (and gluten-free) recipes. The book covers all the practical information people need to know to avoid GMOs now—even without mandatory federal labeling.
Thank you, Melissa, for sharing this important consumer news with us. It’s empowering to know that we don’t have to be passive, uninformed consumers on this issue!
For those who would like to read Melissa’s book Going Against GMOs, do take advantage of the limited-time special price she’s offering during Non-GMO Month at www.goingagainstgmos.com.