Connecticut Sierra Club Takes on Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)At the Connecticut Sierra Club Leader Retreat on January 19th, the Chapter voted our two priority issues for the coming year, one of which is to tackle the necessity for GMO labeling at the state level.
Why this is an environmental issue. First we must define GMOs. GMOs, or "genetically modified organisms," are plants or animals created using the technique of genetic engineering (GE). GE merges DNA from two or more different species, creating combinations that don’t occur in nature. Corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, and a small amount of zucchini and yellow squash have been genetically engineered for human consumption. It has been estimated that GMOs are in at least 80% of processed foods in the United States. Used in agriculture mainly to allow higher use of herbicides or to allow the plant to create its own insecticide, current use of GMOs has failed to fulfill the promise of increased yields, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or other benefit.
Environmental risks associated with GMOs. At least one major environmental impact of genetic engineering has already reached critical proportions: overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant "superweeds," which leads to even more herbicide use. This widespread herbicide use has also caused a huge decline in milkweed in the Midwest, an essential food for monarch butterflies, whose numbers are also in decline. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment they cannot be recalled
Human health consequences. Research has found that an “inert” ingredient in a popular herbicide can kill human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cord cells. In one study, scientists found that even inert ingredients in the herbicide amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns. One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself – a finding the researchers call “astonishing.” “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on herbicide-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens. The research team suspects that this popular herbicide might cause pregnancy problems by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages. Health consequences definitely need more study. But these have been difficult as the companies holding the patents on the seeds have not been willing to release them for research purposes.
Food labels fail to disclose GMO content. Although most Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, powerful interests have continued to deny this information to the public. Prop 37, a voter initiative to require labeling in California, failed by a small margin after a $50 million industry campaign opposing it.
Our Advocacy Partners. Sierra is working in concert with a vigorous and energetic group of food advocates in the state including GMO Free CT (http://gmofreect.org/) and NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association). We are also part of the community of advocates in 37 states trying to pass labeling legislation. Since there is currently little hope for federal legislation, our work is instead focused on the state legislatures. The goal is to pass similar bills in several states requiring GMO labeling of food for retail sale. This is not about regulation of agricultural practices, and it is not about impacting local agriculture in any way. Further, it is not about putting Connecticut agriculture at a disadvantage in any way.
The Legislature. Bills requiring labeling will be introduced in both the Public Health and Children’s committees, one for labeling of foods for everyone, the other targeting food for babies and children. They will be included on the agendas for public hearings, and sometime after the hearing, the bills will be voted on in committee. They may then go to other committees for consideration. Finally, the bills will be voted on by the full House and Senate, then travel to the Governor for his signature.
In summary, the Connecticut Chapter of Sierra Club supports Food labeling for GMOs because:
· We believe Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, especially concerning products for which health and environmental concerns have been raised, so they can make informed decisions about buying food for their families.
· Mandatory labeling will allow those consumers with specific allergies or intolerances to identify and steer clear of food products that cause them problems.
· Surveys indicate that a majority of Americans support mandatory labeling.
· Over 60 countries have established either mandatory GMO labeling or outright bans.
Why You are Important. We cannot get there without your help. We need you.
-Contact your state Representative and Senator and ask them, as a constituent, for their support
-Come to the public hearing and testify
-Submit short testimony as an email message-Ask the Governor to support the bills
All of this is easy. We can show you how. But first you need to tell us you are interested. Send either of us a message and say you are onboard. We’ll show you how to do the rest.
Your help is needed, welcomed, and necessary for this campaign to succeed. Contact the Connecticut Sierra GMO Committee - Peter McKnight and Marty Mador. We need help contacting legislators, writing letters to the editor, recruiting your friends, attending committee hearings and educating the public. Your presence is needed now!Legislative Chair
Martin Mador, 203-281-4326 (h), 203-500-7245 (c)
Email him here
Peter McKnight: 203-257-6796 Email him here
GMO Press Release