The topic of genetically modified (GM) foods has been raging globally now for the past two decades. In past articles we discussed the genuine concerns with GM foods. The main concern is quite simple – we do not know enough about the potential environmental and health implications involved with splicing the genes of one organism with the genes of another organism. And once you let GMOs out into the environment, there is no taking them back. They are there for good.
And in the middle of this raging debate, we have two major markets which have moved in two completely different directions with respect to GM foods. On one side, the US has led the development of GMOs and has embraced GM foods. On the other side, the European Union (EU) has rejected GM foods.
So why have these two major global markets moved in two distinctly different directions in this debate?
First, let’s look at the EU stance.
GM foods became an issue in Europe when food exports from the US containing GM soya first began trickling in to the EU without labelling of any kind.
When this came to light, European consumers voiced their clear displeasure causing EU legislators to take a careful look at GM foods. The end result was new legislation enacted in 2004 which required all genetically engineered foods to be labelled as such.
This policy change brought on by consumer pressure was significant. Why? Because once GM foods had to be labelled, consumers actively avoided them. The end results was that many retailers simply stopped carrying GM foods. In fact, approximately 49 major food and drink retailers in the EU now have non-GMO policies. In other words, these food and drink retailers have made a corporate decision to not carry any GM foods in their stores. These 49 food and drink retailers have a combined market share of over 650 billion US dollars accounting for 60% of the total EU market!
As such, GM foods are effectively locked out of the highly lucrative European market. And this does not look to be changing any time soon. If anything, there is a growing trend of more EU food retailers following suit with their own non-GMO policies.
The US policy on GM foods is in stark contrast to the EU. In the US all variety of food crops are GM. As an example, 93% of all soybeans, 86% off all corn, 93% off all cotton, and 93% of all canola are GM.
Furthermore, the US does not require any labelling of GM foods. As such, consumers have no way of knowing whether the foods they eat are GM or not.
Why such a stark contrast between the EU and the US on this issue? We might get some enlightenment from research that suggests Americans tend to trust scientific authority. There is an underlying belief that if the experts say its ok, there is a tendency to trust that authority.
Providing the authority is acting in your best interest, you can assume your trust is well placed. But consider this list provided courtesy of organicconumers.org:
Michael Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President, is now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, is now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Islam Siddiqui, Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife, is now the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative.
Rajiv Shah former agricultural-development director for the pro-biotech Gates Foundation (a frequent Monsanto partner), served as Obama’s USDA Under-Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist and is now head of USAID.
Ramona Romero, corporate counsel to DuPont, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the USDA.
Given the above list, can we truly believe the US government is acting in the best interest of the people when it comes to food policy? Given the direct high level connection of many of these individuals with Monsanto and Dupont, the largest producers of GM seeds, herbicides and pesticides in the world, I hardly think so.
It is time for average Americans to take responsibility for their own education regarding GM foods. Get educated and take action.