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Anti-GMO crusaders miss rest of story

Published on December 31, 1969 3:01AM

Last changed on September 9, 2013 6:50AM


We have stated many times that we respect the fact that some folks don't want to buy, or eat, food with genetically modified ingredients.

That is their right, and they don't have to. After all, the American Way is about being able to exercise personal choices.

Any consumer can walk into any grocery store or farmers' market and buy certified organic produce, canned goods -- even frozen pizza. The "USDA Organic" green circle on the package or sign guarantees that food is GMO-free. As such, consumers know the seeds that were grown were not genetically modified and no non-organic substances have been used to grow it. In processed organic foods, no ingredients containing genetically modified organisms can be used. For the belt-and-suspenders folks, third-party GMO-free certification is also available.

That is why most observers are a bit puzzled by the insistence that consumers who don't want to purchase food with GMOs in them are somehow deprived of that choice.

But, as commentator Paul Harvey used to say, there's more to the story.

Let's look at the efforts of one group, GMO Inside, which says it is "powered by" Green America, a group that opposes all genetically modified crops. Among the organizations that also support GMO Inside is GMO Free USA, whose name says it all.

Notice they don't say that they want to label food with genetically modified ingredients. They want to ban it. They see labeling foods that contain GMOs as only a step in the direction toward getting rid of genetically modified crops altogether.

GMO Inside's modus operandi is to hassle companies that don't comply with its wishes. Specifically, those companies should not use ingredients that are genetically modified.

GMO Inside has targeted the Hershey and Mars candy companies, Coca-Cola and Pepsi -- and any company that uses sugar, corn syrup or anything else that includes GMO ingredients. It is no secret that most of the field corn and sugar beets that go into sugar and other sweeteners are genetically modified to reduce the amount of pesticides that farmers use. GMO Inside apparently prefers pesticides to GMOs.

Most recently, GMO Inside has begun to hassle Chobani, a company that makes Greek yogurt. Chobani's sin, according to the folks at GMO Inside, is that it has labeled its yogurt as "natural" and "real." GMO Insiders are upset that Chobani uses milk from cows that eat GMO corn.

Note that GMO Inside isn't asking Chobani to produce an organic yogurt line, which would meet its demands of not using GMO feed for the dairy cows. It is demanding that Chobani do business its way.

Beyond that, GMO Insiders have a theory, which goes something like this: The DNA from the genetically modified corn passes through cows' digestive tracks and has been detected in milk.

That comes as a surprise to both the Food and Drug Administration and animal scientists.

"Foods and feeds from genetically engineered (GE) plants that have been evaluated by FDA are as safe as those from conventionally-bred plants," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in response to a Capital Press query on the issue of GMO animal feed. "Based on available data and information, FDA has no reason to conclude that food products derived from animals consuming feed from GE plants differ in quality or safety from those derived from non-GE plants."

The science is even more clear-cut.

There is no evidence of foreign DNA from any feed appearing in milk, according to Mark McGuire, head of the University of Idaho's Department of Animal and Veterinary Science. Cow's milk does contain DNA from the cow, bacteria and viruses, but there is no intact DNA that would come from consumption of feed, so it is impossible to identify DNA from GMO or non-GMO feed in the milk, he told our reporter.

Facts aside, we assume GMO Inside and its fellow travelers will continue to hassle companies about all things genetically modified.

Their goal is not choice, and it's not labels. Their goal is to get rid of genetically modified crops and return agriculture to the days of low yields, pest outbreaks and crop failures.

Add the potential for starvation to that outcome. About 7 billion people around the world depend on farmers to feed them, and the stakes are far higher than what kind of milk goes into Greek yogurt or a chocolate candy bar.

The stakes are fundamental: feeding people, and providing choices.

That, as Mr. Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.


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