FRESH DIRT > Jeffrey Smith pushes for GMO labeling
Genetically Modified foods have been circulated within the United States since the early 1990s. The six largest Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops are soy, corn, canola, cotton, sugar beets, and alfalfa. Each of these crops has been genetically modified, with bacterial genes, to allow the plants to survive doses of weed killer. The second most common trait is a built-in pesticide, gained from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which secretes the insect killing Bt-toxin in every cell.
All of this was done in hopes of addressing the world food supply issue, yet according to writer, filmmaker, and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, Jeffrey Smith, foods that use GMO products are hurting humanity more than helping it.
“Essentially, anywhere I go where people hear the full message about the dangers of GMOs, they are ready to change their lifelong eating habits right there on the spot,” says Smith.
Smith gave a lecture in Santa Cruz on Oct. 21 at the Louden Nelson Community Center about GMOs and their effect upon the world’s food system, humanity’s health, and the environment. The event itself was just one of four event’s about GMOs sponsored by New Leaf Community Markets.
“We are seeing now, everywhere in the country a kind of popcorn effect where people are waking up to the dangers of GMOs and getting active,” says Smith. “And we’re seeing that particularly this month, Non-GMO month, where over 100 events occurred around the country in protest against GMOs.”
Smith claims that the only way to get this message across to corporations that use GMOs in their food is by “hitting them in their pockets.” That is to say that if consumers simply stopped buying the products that use GMOs, the message will be sent and understood. Smith cites the tipping point of consumer concern that occurred in Europe in 1999 where, in one week’s time, most “major” food manufacturers committed to remove genetically modified ingredients from their products.
“I think any drop in the total U.S. market, any drop in market share whatsoever, that they can show is linked to GMO rejection would be sufficient in my opinion because GMOs offer no consumer benefit,” says Smith.
The lecture itself was characterized with cheers, laughs, and applause, and overall it was a positive audience. Smith opened the lecture by saying how “relaxed” he was feeling, and how when he is in Santa Cruz he feels “at home.” Smith also expressed just how important Santa Cruz as a city is in contributing to this consumer tipping point and to getting GMOs visually labeled in the United States so consumers can decide whether they want to buy it or not.
This is why people such as Tarah Locke, who is a member of GMO-Free Santa Cruz, are working towards getting a GMO labeling initiative on the November 2012 ballot.
“It [the initiative] is about getting GMO foods labeled in California, it does not include animals reared on GMO foods, but package foods and produce,” says Locke. “There are 90 teams in California working towards this goal right now, and we hope to get it.”
The group will have to collect more than 500,000 signatures in order to get the initiative on the ballot. They can be found tabling at the Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons. The group also has a Facebook page and also lists LabelGmos.org on their flyers as a website where people can donate to the cause.
Learn more about Smith on his website, responsibletechnology.com, which contains all the information that he has written, filmed, or claimed.