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Farm Bureau Wrong to Oppose GMO Labeling for NY State

Posted: May 07, 2014

Farm Bureau Wrong to Oppose GMO labeling for NYS!

By Elizabeth Henderson, organic farmer and co-chair of NOFA-NY Policy Committee

 The Farm Bureau has written an e-lobbying message for members to send to their state legislators in opposition to Senate Bill 3835-A/Assembly Bill 3525-A, a bill that would require the labeling 1.of foods that are entirely composed of genetically engineered (GE, also commonly referred to as GMOs) ingredients, 2. foods that contain GE ingredients and 3. GE seed.  I would like you to consider that opposing this bill is not in our interest as farmers.  Here are some of the reasons why we should support consumers who want to know what they are eating:

 

  • The Farm Bureau e-lobbying message states: “As a farmer, this is of great concern to both me and my business, as much of the food grown in New York is produced from this type of technology.” In fact, most of the food grown in NY is NOT produced with genetic engineering. This includes most fruit and vegetables (with the exception of some sweet corn and summer squash), meat, and most of the milk that is now rBST free. NY farmers grow a lot of GE soy and GE corn, but 80% of it is used to produce biofuels, silage, and animal feed, not food products directly consumed by human beings.
     
  • The e-lobbying message states: If this bill is passed, my farm will be directly impacted as I could be restricted from these safe technologies that allow me to be competitive as a business and to provide nutritious, safe and affordable food to the residents of New York State.” There is nothing in this bill that prevents the planting of GE crops.  It is a labeling bill. It does not restrict the cultivation or sale of GE seed, seed stock, or foods, nor does it restrict access to any agricultural technology. Labeling will enhance NY farmers’ ability to trade with our international partners. 64 countries, including the entire European Union and Japan have GE labeling laws in effect. There is a large and growing international market for non-GE crops.
  • The NYFB e-lobbying claims: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has consistently held that "...there is no significant difference between foods produced using bio-engineering, as a class, and their conventional counterparts." However, FDA policy to not require testing of GE foods prior to their approval for commercial sale was set against the advice of its own scientists. There are memos dating to 1991 in which FDA scientists warn of potential health risks and say these foods should be labeled. FDA ignored these memos and under the leadership of Michael Taylor, who had previously worked for Monsanto, made the decision not to require safety testing. Recent studies show that there ARE material differences between GE foods and their conventional counterparts -- nutritional and compositional differences. Genetic engineering is a process in which selected genes from one species are inserted into the DNA of another species, often using a gene gun or via a virus or bacteria. This process overcomes the natural barriers that prevent bacteria from mating with corn plants, for example. The goal is to get the second species to express a specific trait (produce a specific protein) found in the first species. But it turns out that genetics is a lot more complex than we thought, and the process of genetic engineering is far from precise, with the possibility for unpredictable changes in the DNA, proteins, and nutritional composition of the new organisms. We should examine each GE crop individually for changes that might affect the health of humans or animals that eat it, but there have been no long-term studies of this kind in the US.
  •  
    The NYFB should be leading campaigns to protect farmers our families. Round-up (main ingredient glyphosate), the most common herbicide sprayed on herbicide-tolerant GE crops, has known environmental risks and has been shown to have adverse effects on human health such as cognitive and developmental disorders in children. The first to be impacted by these risks are the farmers who use Round-up, their families and their employees. Excessive use of Roundup has resulted in the evolution of “superweeds” resistant to it, leading GE seed manufacturers to develop seeds tolerant to even more toxic herbicides, such as 2, 4-D, one of the main components of Agent Orange. Studies also show that Round-up is a powerful soil biocide, resulting in the increase of microbial plant pathogens, some of which form mycotoxins that can be very poisonous to humans and livestock.
  • The NYFB should be leading campaigns to protect farmers our families. Round-up (main ingredient glyphosate), the most common herbicide sprayed on herbicide-tolerant GE crops, has known environmental risks and has been shown to have adverse effects on human health such as cognitive and developmental disorders in children. The first to be impacted by these risks are the farmers who use Round-up, their families and their employees. Excessive use of Roundup has resulted in the evolution of “superweeds” resistant to it, leading GE seed manufacturers to develop seeds tolerant to even more toxic herbicides, such as 2, 4-D, one of the main components of Agent Orange. Studies also show that Round-up is a powerful soil biocide, resulting in the increase of microbial plant pathogens, some of which form mycotoxins that can be very poisonous to humans and livestock.
    • The Farm Bureau e-Lobbying statement goes on to say: “Consumers who prefer to purchase food products that do not contain biotechnology-derived ingredients can currently choose foods labeled "certified organic" or "non GMO" when shopping at a grocery store. Apparently, many shoppers choose this alternative as market share for organic products have increased dramatically over the past few years.”  Not all consumers have equal access to or can afford to buy organic or non-GMO labeled products. And without labels, potential short-term and long-term health impacts of consuming a steady diet of GMOs cannot be tracked or traced. Labeling GMO foods is a democratic means to enable consumers to have broader choices in the marketplace that will in part guide the future of this technology.

As an organic farmer and a consumer, I want to know what is in my food, how it was produced and where it came from.  Senate Bill 3835-A/Assembly Bill 3525-A will help me make decisions about what to buy.  I hope you will join me in supporting the right of all New Yorkers to know what we are eating!

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