by Wendy Lincoln
GMO is an acronym that stands for Genetically Modified Organism. GMO foods come in a variety of forms and are virtually unavoidable in the American food supply chain. The vast majority of corn, soybeans, sugar, canola, and cotton produced in the United States are genetically modified.
Recently, GMO foods got a little more attention in the media because an amendment to HR 933 was passed by Congress on March 20, 2013 and signed into law by President Obama on March 26, 2013. The bill was an appropriations bill required to fund the United States Federal Government through September.
It included an amendment that essentially made GMO foods immune from the law. The language of the bill stated that:
SEC. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary's evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner...
In non-legalese, it means that if any provision of the Plant Protection Act* is found to be illegal or invalidated by the courts or other laws, then farmers and companies who produce GMOs will have impunity to continue growing and producing GMOs, regardless of the law.
Monsanto received a lot of criticism for the bill, nicknamed the Monsanto Protection Act, responded to criticism of the bill saying:
"As we understand it, the point of the Farmer Assurance Provision is to strike a careful balance allowing farmers to continue to plant and cultivate their crops subject to appropriate environmental safeguards, while the USDA conducts any necessary further environmental reviews."
Monsanto's casual verbiage is deceptive because their lobbying efforts resulted in the inclusion of the amendment to HR 933. Through flowery language, they acknowledge that the USDA is powerless to stop them from continuing to cultivate GM crops.
◊ GM soy, corn, and canola products are in virtually every food produced in the United States.
◊ The public is unaware of the implications of GM foods because much of the information about its negative effects has been suppressed, sugar-coated, or ignored.
◊ Lobbies for bioengineering companies such as Monsanto are incredibly powerful and well-funded. Since 2009, current members of Congress have received nearly $7.5 million in contributions from PACs and companies that promote GM crops and bioengineering.
GMOs are here to stay because the legal framework that allowed people to slow or stop the spread of GM foods was eliminated with the passage of HR 933.
Besides that, the food supply chain is reliant upon GM products. If GM crops were never cultivated again, the United States would see dramatic food price increases across the board.
One of the reasons is old-fashioned supply and demand; it would take at least a year to replace the current GM supply with non-GM supply. The other reason is that GM crops are much less expensive than non-modified foods because GM foods are eligible for federal subsidies.
By continuing to consume GMO foods in large quantities, the American public has become the official lab rat for GMOs. They are virtually impossible to avoid because they are in most processed foods, and the majority of livestock are raised on GM feed.
The problem with GM (genetically modified) foods is that they are largely untested. They were rushed to market after short, biased tests "proved" they were safe for consumption. Over the years, studies have revealed that GM foods have nasty side effects such as infertility and organ damage.
*The Plant Protection Act was passed in 2000, and it is the bill that gave rise to modern day genetic modification of plants.
Works CitedCongress, 1. (2013, March 22). H.R. 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2013, from GovTrack.us: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr933/text