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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid