The Boy's Campaign Against GM Foods

Yesterday the Boy and I headed over to the farmers market to pick up some fresh produce and drop off some baked good to one of the vendors with whom I barter. The market is hosted by Peoples, a local food co-op, and while there we noticed that the co-op would also be hosting an ice cream social with a talk by Jeffery Smith that evening.

Smith was speaking the dangers of Genetically Engineered foods. Many have questioned why it is that while consumers in Europe have the right to know through labeling which foods contain GM ingredients and thus to make an informed choice consumers in the United States, purportedly the bastion of freedom, democracy and the "free market" in the world are denied this same right. Polls indicate that the great majority of Americans who are aware of the issue want labels. Attempts to accomplish some kind of labeling have repeatedly been rebuffed due to tremendous opposition from biotech cooperations, which fear loss of sales if people know. In 2002 Oregon tried and failed to pass just such a labeling initiative. The campaign cited big money and misinformation propagated by biotech as contributing to the defeat.

Despite biotech industry claims that the FDA has thoroughly evaluated GM foods and found them safe, Internal FDA documents made public from a lawsuit, reveal that agency scientists warned that GM foods might create toxins, allergies, nutritional problems, and new diseases that might be difficult to identify. Although they urged their superiors to require long-term tests on each GM variety prior to approval, the political appointees at the agency, including a former attorney for Monsanto, overrode the scientist's concerns. Manufacturer can introduce a GM food without informing the government or consumers. A January 2001 report from an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada said it was "scientifically unjustifiable" to presume that GM foods are safe. Likewise, a 2002 report by the UK's Royal Society said that genetic modification "could lead to unpredicted harmful changes in the nutritional state of foods," and recommended that potential health effects of GM foods be rigorously researched before being fed to pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly people, those suffering from chronic disease, and babies.

A growing body of scientific research demonstrates the dangers of GM foods. One study showed evidence of damage to the immune system and vital organs, and a potentially pre-cancerous condition.12-13 When the scientist tried to alert the public about these alarming discoveries, he lost his job and was silenced with threats of a lawsuit. Two other studies also showed evidence of a potentially pre-cancerous condition. The other seven studies, which were superficial in their design, were not designed to identify these details. In an unpublished study, laboratory rats fed a GM crop developed stomach lesions and seven of the forty died within two weeks. The crop was approved without further tests.

In a now infamous scandal involving Monsanto, Fox news reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson were fired from the Florida station they worked at, for refusing to weaken their story regarding rBGH or Bovine Growth Hormone. The BGH Scandals--The Incredible Story of Jane Akre & Steve Wilson recounts how Akre and Wilson rewrote the story 83 times in an attempt to mollify a threatening Monsanto, the new Fox station manager Dave Boylan and Fox attorneys yet remain truthful at the same time. They won a "landmark whistle blower lawsuit" against the station and were awarded $425,000 in damages. However, Fox appealed and prevailed February 14, 2003 when the jury decision was reversed on a legal technicality: the appeals court agreed with Fox that it is technically not against any law, rule or regulation to deliberately distort the news on television.

The Boy and I have been trying to avoid GM ingredients, and increasingly difficult task. One of Smith's major points is that if it's not labled "Organic", it's not food (not safe food, anyway)
One of the few non-organic food treats I have allowed The Boy is Freschetta pizza. Now that I am aware of how severe the dangers of GM ingredients are, especially to children, and of the fact that one must assume that packaged foods have GM ingredients unless otherwise labeled, I don't want to allow him to have it. A second point that Smith makes is that the public wields a great deal of pressure in their purchasesing power. We literally vote with our wallets. Knowing that companies in Europe bowed to public pressure, the Boy wants to bring similar pressure to bare with the makers of Freschetta, and he wants your help!

Please contact Freschetta and ask that they commit to using only non-GM ingredients, and that they put that commitment in writing and on their packages. You can find sample letters, as well as more information on the dangers of GM food at this link

307 West College Dr. Marshall MN, 56258
email link
1 866 373 7243

More on the 4% solution:

I found a cool site designed to help you calculate you savings and possitive environmental impact in using various alternative forms of transportation. My one critisism is that they give you a flat number of calories burned per mile in cycling, obviously, variable such as terraign (hills, etc), wind resistance, your own weight, etc. your results will vary. Still, it can fun to plug in the distance of your trip and other details, and get some idea of the good you are doing by not driving.

The sites calculations are based on:

* $0.73 per mile cost of driving private vehicle (Based on 2005 AAA formula using June 2006 gas prices)
* 152 calories burned per 20 minute mile (3 mph) Walking
* 36 calories burned per mile (12 mph) Biking
* 0.0512 pounds carbon monoxide emissions (posionous gas) produced by private vehicle per mile


zilla said...

Would the boy try Amy's Organic? The garlic spinach is my personal fave.

The GM issue is a bit scary. One of my granola-friend's biggest concerns is that the widespread use of modified crops will somehow endanger the food supply over the long term -- he envisions a time when there's no turning back, when turning back is what it will take to ensure a food supply. His concern includes even the use of hybrid seeds.

In New Zealand there are billboards along the highways that read "Keep NZ GM-Free."

griffin said...

Isn't that funny, Amy's garlic spinach is one of my faves as well! Great minds think alike! The Boy, on the other hand, is hooked on Freschetta. He gets a lot of junk/fast/processed food at his dad's house, and the pizza was one of the compromises (though why it would take longer or be more difficult to prepare Amy's I will never understand)

The more I am learning about this issue the more concerned I become, I think theres a good case for your friend's possession. In the mean time, I figure you cant go wrong with getting kids involved in this kind of effort, and if we can win one more company over to being GM free, all the better

zilla said...

How do you acquire pasta with zero food miles?

zilla said...

PS: the only thing I hate about Amy's is that it is just as overpackaged as other frozen pizzas. Wealso need to start a letter writing campaign to food companies and government officials insisting they address the freakishly wasteful way in which goods are packaged.

The organic produce available in our area, which is typically packaged by Earthbound Farms, presents the same problem: gorgeous, safe foods packaged in plastic of the type that is not recyclable in our area -- this plastic is ending up in the bellies of single-celled ocean-dwelling animals. Our oceans are dying.

We are too often having to make a judgment call on what is the lesser of two evils, and this simply is not necessary, let alone conscionable.

I'm curious, without the garden to provide your produce, and without a co-op or farmers market where you could buy items in bulk providing your own reusable containers, which would you choose, the potentially toxic carrots without the plastic bag, or the organic carrots bagged in plastic? How would you arrive at your decision? I think you could write a fabulous essay on this issue.

griffin said...

I love your questions, observations and contributions: which in this case, I think deserve their own post.
The short answer(s) are
With the pasta, I guess it depends on how you count, and I love that you have me thinking about it. The statement was based on the notion that the pasta is locally produced down the street. I imagine though, that the ingredients travel some distance.
I totally agree about the packaging issue, we gotta get something going on that, I know some folks who mail the packaging back to the company, but I bet theres a more effective approach. I agree that 'the lesser of two evils is unconscionable.
I actually moved from another town in order to be near a co-op and farmers markets, though lived in apartments until recently, so I guess the short answer is that I would not tolerate living so far from sources of fresh organic produce, I reached a point, a level of awareness, where I just couldn't do it.
All of this is important, and I think deserves it's own post, which I hope to get to soon, after I finish pussling about the pasta

zilla said...

Well, if you're game, let's take it a step further. Or five or ten steps, which would be entirely possible to do!

First, though, I have to say, that I love using local products! I tend to support Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company as oposed to Starbucks or even some of those very tempting "free trade" stamped brands at my store, just because I live in Leelanau County. My dad raised us to support our local economy whenever possible. The only laundry detergent I use is produced in a home-based business one town north of me -- Moon Works All Natural Laundry Soap. I sometimes even give it as a gift! The packaging is either a brown paper bag (recyclable) or a PP5 tub (recyclable). You know what they give you for a scoop? A re-used film canister!

I digress.

Thinking about pasta, and grains in general, which we all love (maybe even a little more than we should), so many more questions pop up beyond food miles.

A few years ago, I had become so wracked with stiffness and pain in my joints that I couldn't sleep. I thought I had fibromyalgia, it was that bad. When I, at the recommendation of my holistic doctor, went entirely grain-free for three weeks in an effort to become pain-free, and IT WORKED, I started asking a lot of questions. I told my mother what I had gone through, and how wonderful it felt to be pain-free, she sent me a copy of "Fat Land" by Greg Critser.

Until I read that book, I had never thought about the food pyramid and its relationship to agri-business. We're told by our government that eating grains, especially whole grains, is good for us, to the degree that grains took up something like 80% of the food pyramid. Why? Because grains are plentiful and cheap, and because American farmers grow them.

The book covers not only the history of the diets of human beings, but also, specifically, our arch enemy, high fructose corn syrup. Fascinating stuff in that book.

I honesty think it is probably healthier for people to eat a lot less grains than they typically do. I still eat grain, but not the way I used to. I do think refined grains and simple sugars are just as addictive as nicotine. We need way more veggies than we typically eat, and most of us should avoid dairy completely -- opting for soy.

However convinced I am, I will admit that Mr Z bought a box of Dots at the gas station today, and I ate about half of them. I feel sick to my stomach, but I am weak, weak, weak when it comes to sugar!

Even if your pasta wasn't whole grain, and even if the grains traveled a kajillion miles before the pasta landed on your plate, at least you supported your local economy! My holistic guy says we'll never be perfect so we shouldn't feel like we have to try for perfection. If we're striving for a B as opposed to an A+, we're doing much better than the majority of people in our country.