News / Science & Technology

GMO Opponents Take Protest On the Road

GMO Opponents Take Protest On the Roadi
X
August 16, 2013 1:58 PM
Opponents of genetically modified organisms are gaining ground in state legislatures around the United States. Advocates who want foods made with GMO ingredients to say so on the label scored victories in Connecticut and Maine this year. Facing a growing consumer backlash, the makers of GMOs are pledging to release an avalanche of data that they say should ease concerns about their safety. But they’re facing an energized opposition ready to fight in the statehouse, and on the road. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Riding around in a car topped with a giant half-vegetable, half-fish is bound to attract attention.

As Nikolas Schiller drives past the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., pedestrians gawk, kids point, and tourists snap pictures.

An oncoming driver pulls up in a stretch of slow traffic and asks, “What is it?”

Schiller explains it’s a Fishy Food Car and hands the man a card bearing a cartoon that asks, “Are we eating fishy food?”

It’s a visual pun. For opponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), there’s something fishy - suspicious - about putting genes from other species into food crops, and they want foods containing GMO ingredients to say so on the label.

Labeling laws

There are no fish genes in the GMOs on the market today, but nearly all of the corn, soybeans, cotton and sugar beets growing in the U.S. contain bacterial genes that help farmers control weeds and insects.

Schiller’s day job is with a D.C.-based public relations firm. But this summer his fishy apple car will join the fishy corn, soybean, sugar beet and tomato cars driving cross-country to Washington State, where a GMO labeling law is on the ballot this fall.

Momentum is behind them. Labeling laws were approved in Connecticut and Maine earlier this year.

Labeling everything containing a GMO ingredient would take a lot of ink. They’re in 80 percent of the foods on supermarket shelves, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, especially anything processed, in a bottle, box or bag.

Novel food

But are they bad for you? Schiller acknowledges that the only evidence of harm from GMOs is anecdotal, but he’s suspicious.

“This is a novel food. Our grandparents and previous generations didn’t eat this,” he said. “And now all of a sudden we’re seeing higher incidences of food and health issues. And so if [GMO makers] are saying, ‘Oh, everything’s safe,’ but nothing’s labeled, we really can’t trace the safety.”

Health authorities from the U.S. Institute of Medicine to the World Health Organization have said there’s nothing to fear from GMOs.

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is no substantive difference between GMO and conventional ingredients, so it can’t require labels.

On the other hand, products without GMOs may say so on the label, and these are now some of the hottest items in the supermarket. Last year, sales of certified-organic products grew 7.4 percent, twice the rate of the food sector as a whole. And foods with the “Non-GMO Verified” seal passed $1 billion in sales in 2011.

'We should've been talking about this'

This has not gone unnoticed by the biotech industry.

This summer, the industry-sponsored Council for Biotechnology Information made an unusual, if understated, admission.

“We recognize we haven’t done the best job communicating about GMOs,” Executive Director Cathy Enright said in a press release.

She was more frank in person.

“We should’ve been talking about this for two decades,” she said, adding that in the last few years in particular, social media have taken opposition to GMOs to a new level. “We haven’t even been near social media.”  

Transparency

But for opponents like Schiller, it’s not about a failure to communicate. For one thing, he wants to see the results of safety tests the companies submitted to the FDA.

“And they can say, ‘This is proprietary information. We’ve done our testing. We don’t have to disclose to the public,’” he said. “Anytime you have a veil over something, people are going to want transparency. People are going to want sunshine. And as long as you withhold that, people are gonna think, ‘This is kinda fishy.’”

Sunshine might be about to break through. For the first time, Enright said, the companies’ testing data will be available online at a new website: GMOAnswers.com.

“It’s gonna be technical,” she said. “But we’ve been asked, ‘Show us your data.’”

It’s part of a new pledge of openness and dialogue. Enright said the big seed companies will be opening their doors for people to come and see what they do. There will be dinners where supporters and opponents can sit down and talk. She said a panel of volunteers will be answering any questions the public might have.

“We believe that if people have the information at hand, that it won’t feel fishy; that they’ll be more comfortable with this technology,” she said.

But with a growing number of states considering GMO labeling laws, the industry has a lot of catching up to do.

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid