AUSTIN, TX, Feb. 13th, 2012 – Two weeks ago, a grassroots alliance of consumers, food manufacturers, politicians, public health and environmental organizations delivered a letter to the Austin City Council asking for swift passage of a resolution requiring labeling for genetically engineered foods within the Austin city limits.
The resolution would require foods which contain more than 0.9% genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to be clearly labeled similar to other nutritional labels currently required on packaged foods. A national survey conducted by MSNBC showed that 96% of over 45,000 people believe genetically modified foods should be labeled.
Austin-local chip manufacturer Beanitos strongly supports labeling of all GMO foods, and all of their products are Non-GMO Project verified. CEO Doug Foreman explains, “It’s simple really – you walk into any grocery store and can read a label to determine if your food contains gluten, high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats or MSG . We want GMO food to be labeled so people can choose – and can make an informed decision about what they eat.”
“Our concern is the risk that these novel, genetically engineered proteins [GMOs] present to the health of all children, particularly those with food allergies,” says Robyn OʼBrien, a TEDx speaker, native Texan, author and founder of the Allergy Kids Foundation, “common popular foods in the United States contain chemicals and toxins that have been linked to alarming recent increases in food allergies, ADHD, cancer, and asthma in our children.”
The GMO corn made by Monsanto is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as an insecticide, yet Americans eat this “insecticide” present in 70% of all corn production in the USA. The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that 80% of food in most grocery stores contains genetically modified ingredients. GMOs have been shown to cause severe allergic reactions in humans, increase the number of allergies present in the environment, create antibiotic resistance in plants and humans, create immune suppression, and are linked to organ failure and even cancer.
In a recent example, an independent Canadian study found that a toxin from GE corn was present in the bloodstream of 93% of pregnant women, as well as in 80% of their fetal cord blood. The biotechnology industry and FDA claim these toxins are completely broken down by the human digestive system before entering the bloodstream, and the FDA supports their claim with both the lack of labeling and regulation.
On both sides of the aisle, experts agree that mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods is a prerequisite to providing a critical method for tracking the potential health effects of consuming genetically engineered foods.
Over 17 states across the nation have GMO labeling initiatives currently stalled “in committee.” Despite wide-spread political, business and voter support, stalling has been the most successful tactic used nationally to keep this issue silenced for over ten years. Swift action is the only acceptable response to over ten years of national in-action on this urgent health and safety issue.
Broad-based Support for GMO Labeling
These organizations and individuals are in favor of manufactures labeling products that contain GMOs:
+ Grocers: Whole Foods, Fresh Plus, Wheatsville Coop, Natural Grocers, Ingredients, SFC Farmer’s Market
+ Non-Profits: Allergy Kids Foundation, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Sustainable Food Center, Institute for Responsible Technology
+ Political Organizations: Texas Senator Kirk Watson, Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Texas Representative Donna Howard, Sierra Club (National and Texas Chapter), Austin City Council member Mike Martinez, Austin City Council candidate Laura Pressley, Austin Earth Day, Liberal Austin Democrats, Bastrop County Commissioners Court, Texas Nationalist Movement, Justice Party of Texas, Million Musician March for Peace
+ Food Producers: Earth Balance, Zico Coconut Water, Beanitos Bean Chips, Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms, Windsor Park Community Gardens, Austin Permaculture Collective
+ Health Practitioners: Natural Health Center of Texas, Excelon Health LLC, Austin Yoga
+ Parental & Faith Organizations: Central Texas ‘Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies’ Coalition, Occupy Austin Interfaith Working Group
City of Austin Council-members Current Positions on the GMO labeling issue:
Mike Martinez is the only council member to make a public statement in support of GMO labeling. Council member Martinez has a history of endorsing pro-farmer resolutions. However, his office has done nothing since January 31st, when Occupy Austin delivered their letter asking for him to address the issue.
Bill Spelman‘s office has begun legal research into municipal GMO labeling resolutions such as in Boulder, Colorado and over 40 cities across California. However, they have refused Occupy Austin’s offer to provide legal assistance on the issue.
Chris Riley‘s office acknowledged that they received Occupy Austin’s letter, but have taken no action and declined to make a public statement about GMO labeling.
Kathie Tovo and Laura Morrison‘s office would not confirm that they received the letter and have not returned several phone calls over the last two weeks.