This November, Oregonians have the chance to make their state the first to require genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled as such. In the wake of failed GMO-labeling ballot initiatives in Washington and California, representatives of Oregon’s “Yes on 92” campaign have invited biologist Michael Hansen to drum up support for the measure.
Frank Morton, a Philomath organic seed producer and member of the governor’s task force on GMO crops, says that the debate over GMOs in our agricultural systems and grocery stores is a strange one because it is not based on evidence, but a lack of it.
“Do GMOs have an effect on the health of people eating them?” Morton asks. “There’s no way to know, because there’s no way to know who’s eating how much GMO because it’s not labeled — it’s an experiment without any controls.”
Genetic engineering in American agriculture is ubiquitous when it comes to certain crops. For example, the USDA reported this year that 93 percent of all corn planted was genetically engineered. “GMOs are all engineered to use pesticides [on],” Morton says. “All GMO soybeans contain Roundup. All GMO corn contains Roundup. All the crops that have Roundup resistance, they all have FDA approvals for high levels of Roundup in them.”
Morton points out that huge biotech companies like Monsanto, which distributes crop seeds engineered to live in environments bombed by Roundup (which they also produce), have conducted no long-term studies of the health affects of their products.
To Hansen, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union and a fierce advocate for GMO-regulation, the argument for labeling GMOs can be boiled down to the basic concept of transparency. In the absence of serious research into what effect GMOs and the pesticides in them are having on our fields and in our bodies, he says, the very least we can do as citizens is demand a system to detect them in our stores — a system that already exists in 64 countries around the world. “Isn’t that how free markets are supposed to work?” Hansen says. “They’re based on information!”
Hansen will speak and participate in a Q&A with attendees from 5:30 to 6:30 pm Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the Yes on 92 office, 1450 W. 7th Ave. Free.
The Institute for Responsible Technology presents “It’s in Your Food,” a GMO talk by GMO-regulation advocate Jeffery Smith 6 pm Sept. 15, at First Christian Church, 1166 Oak St. $5-$15 suggested donation.