Monsanto: Genetically modified food is viewed as unsafe by most Americans..

Genetically modified food is viewed as unsafe by most [Americans], and the public wants warning labels on food, a new on June 20, 2001 poll finds:

52% believe such foods are unsafe, and an additional 13% are unsure about them 93% say the federal government should require labels on food saying whether it's been genetically modified
57% also say they'd be less likely to buy foods labeled as genetically modified

Attack of the Gene Giants

The global controversy over genetically engineered foods and crops has intensified. Sensing that they are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the public, even in the US and Canada, Agbiotech interests, large food corporations, and their allies in government have stepped up their propaganda and intimidation campaign.

Since the beginning of 2001 an unprecedented number of editorial, opinion, and news stories have appeared in the world press, extolling the virtues of agricultural biotechnology while denouncing opponents as know-nothing Luddites. Accompanying this industry media barrage, choreographed by leading public relations firms, are a number of other recent noteworthy aggressions:
In Canada, Loblaws, Sobey's, Safeway, A&P, and other large grocery chains have banned the use of "GMO-free" food labels. Natural food companies marketing organic and other foods certified as free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been ordered by Loblaws and other chains to block out or remove "GMO-free" labels or else their products will be taken off supermarket shelves.

Despite polls that show 90% of Canadians support labeling GMOs, government regulators, pressured by the US and the biotech lobby, have thus far ruled out mandatory labeling. But a new GMO food labeling law has been introduced into Parliament, supported by 80 public interest groups.

The ABC News poll, as well as recent polls in Canada, shows that North Americans are slowly but surely catching up to their counterparts in Europe and Asia-where 70-80% of consumers remain firmly opposed to "Frankenfoods."

As ABC News put it, "Barely more than a third of the public believes that genetically modified foods are safe to eat."

In 1994 Monsanto and state agriculture officials in the United States launched a similar intimidation campaign against several thousand dairies and health food stores in the US attempting to label or advertise their dairy products as free of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH).

To this date, Monsanto's "no labeling" intimidation campaign has been quite successful. Less than 10% of US dairy products today are labeled as "rBGH-free" even though the overwhelming majority (90%) US dairy cows are not being injected with the drug. Most of America's 1500 dairies, backed by food giants such as Kraft/Phillip Morris, have collaborated in denying consumers free choice by co-mingling rBGH-tainted milk with regular milk and then deliberately lying to consumers about the presence of the hormone ("we don't know") in their company's products.

rBGH is banned in every industrialized country except for the USA, primarily because of scientific concerns that it is a cancer hazard and likely to cause increased antibiotic residues in milk. Voting with their pocketbooks against rBGH, millions of US consumers have turned to organic milk and dairy products as well as rBGH-free labeled brands.

Reports of genetic pollution and genetic drift continue to proliferate.

According to a CBC (Canada) radio broadcast (6/2/01), genetically engineered canola plants are showing up in farmers' fields all across the Canadian prairie, even though many of them have never planted GE seeds. Martin Phillipson, a University of Saskatchewan law professor, said that Monsanto may be liable for damages if their gene-altered, herbicide resistant canola continues to spread. "The GM canola has, in fact, spread much more rapidly than we thought it would," said Martin Entz, a plant scientist at the University of Manitoba.

"It's absolutely impossible to control."

Similar genetic pollution has been reported in the US by farmers growing organic corn and certified "GMO-free" soybeans. US trade representatives, working hard to engender a growing sense of fatalism regarding the "impossibility" of growing "GE-free" soybeans, corn, and canola, have told EU bureaucrats that it is unreasonable and "unworkable" to expect anything less that 5% genetic contamination in non-GMO grain exports.

But well-known critics such as Jeremy Rifkin point out that the biotech industry's genetic pollution is creating a backlash. "They're hoping there's enough contamination so that it's a fait accompli. But the liability will kill them. We're going to see lawsuits across the Farm Belt as conventional farmers and organic farmers find that their product is contaminated" reported that Monsanto has continued suing "hundreds" of US farmers for "patent infringement," for the "crime" of having genetically engineered plants growing on their property without paying royalty payments to Monsanto. Several farmers being sued by Monsanto are fighting back however, filing counter-lawsuits in North Dakota and Illinois, claiming that Monsanto is deliberately causing genetic pollution, and then turning around and suing innocent farmers who are victims of this genetic trespass.

Another poll (6/26/01) conducted by the Pew Charitable Trust, underlines the fundamental problem that the gene engineers face:

the more that Americans hear about genetically engineered foods, the more concerned they become.

More than half of Pew respondents (55%) reported they had heard a 'great deal' or 'some' about genetically modified foods sold in grocery stores, up from 44% just six months earlier, and many lack confidence in the government's ability to manage gene-altered foods, following last fall's recall of products contaminated with Starlink corn.

The poll also found that consumers are paying more attention to media coverage of the potential hazards of GE foods as opposed to their supposed benefits. In other words the more Americans hear about genetically engineered foods, the less they like them, despite a $50 million dollar a year propaganda campaign launched by the biotech industry two years ago.

Since biotech crops came on the market in 1996, US farm exports have fallen from $60 billion a year to $51 billion-a decline of 15%.

The US has lost $400 million a year in corn exports to the EU, while Canada has lost a similar amount in canola exports. Bernard Marantelli, a spokesperson for Monsanto UK, admitted April 18 that GE canola acreage in Canada this year "went down. a significant amount."

A similar pattern is emerging in soybeans, with US GE soya essentially being boycotted by major companies in Europe, Japan, Korea, and other nations. Over the past year, major EU food corporations and fast food chains have also begun to remove all GE corn and soya from their animal feed. Already 25% of all EU animal feed is now GE-free.

Meanwhile exports of GE-free grains from Brazil, Australia, India, and China are expanding. Sources in the EU feed industry say the present demand for certified non-GMO soybean meal has grown from nearly zero to 25% in only 12 months, with the expectation of further increases in the coming year. (AgJournal UK 5/30/01)

What's Next in the Frankenfoods Fight?

Despite industry efforts to create a false sense of fatalism, to convince people that Frankencrops are spreading everywhere and cross-pollinating everything, even organic crops, so therefore there's no possibility of resisting them, the global consumer and farmers movement against genetically engineered foods continues to grow and expand.

Although US and Canadian corporations such as Loblaws, Starbucks, and Trader Joe's are under tremendous pressure by their partners in the food and biotech industry to "hold the line," and not cave in to consumer and activist demands, the pressure coming from the grassroots against these and other food and beverage corporations will undoubtedly increase over the coming months.

Similarly, although the Bush administration, Monsanto, and the Gene Giants are trying harder than ever to pressure governments around to world to import and allow cultivation of GE crops inside their borders, very few are taking up their offer. Three nations continue to produce almost 99% of all GE crops-the US (74%), Argentina (15%), and Canada (10%)-and the export markets for these countries' crops are growing smaller, not larger, month-by-month.

On the regulatory front, the US and the Gene Giants appear increasingly isolated in their "no safety testing" and "no labeling" position. A growing number of scientists around the world now believe that the gene-splicing process itself is inherently unpredictable and haphazard, and that therefore proving that gene-altered foods are safe for human health and the environment will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Similarly on the labeling front, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Bush administration and the Agbiotech lobby to override the will of 90% of world's consumers who are demanding mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods--mainly so that they can avoid buying them.

As Norman Braksick, the president of Asgrow Seed Co. (now owned by Monsanto) predicted in the Kansas City Star (3/7/94) seven years ago, "If you put a label on a genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."