Thinking About Proposition 105

Update 11/5/14: Colorado voters have overwhelmingly voted against Proposition 105 in 2014.  I did vote in favor of 105 only because I took my mom’s saying to heart.  I just don’t see myself ever siding with Monsanto.  A similar ballot measure in the state of Oregon has failed, but by a very slim margin.  Voters in a Hawaii county have put a moratorium on growing genetically engineered crops in their county.  Maybe Lincoln County Colorado will follow suit.  
Perhaps the $15 million that was poured into the Colorado Anti-105 side will mean less money for new GMOs and the executives at those big companies.
If you have come across this blogpost after the 2014 election, it is still worth a read.  I did a thorough job of exploring some of the issues that the idea of labeling GMOs has brought up.  I have not seen any of these issues brought up elsewhere.  

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been thinking a lot about Proposition 105 lately. In November 2014, the voters of Colorado will be voting on this ballot measure (Proposition 105) to label or not label GMOs.

GMOs are an issue close to my heart.  I am an organic farmer  a farmer who grows things naturally without the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides (who is legally not allowed to use the o-word because I am not certified organic).  I am also a mother to five beautiful children. My job as their mother is to keep them healthy with a healthy diet.

The pro-GMO crowd insists that GMOs are just as safe as other crop varieties.  They also say that GMOs will lead to less pesticides, herbicides and toxins used in agricultural production and increased yields.  (I say “will lead to” since it hasn’t happened yet.) The anti-GMO crowd says that GMOs are not healthy for us humans or animals and that growing GMOs result in more toxins in the environments, which will be detrimental.

I am a sitting on the GMO fence.  I am not convinced either way.  However, by default, I am staunchly anti-GMO.  Maybe I’ll believe that there is no harm to the environment or to human health in, um, one thousand years after there has been much time to study them.  But until then, when we know the long term effects of GMOs, I am against GMOs.  Hybrids and other varieties have proven their safety of the course of millennia. GMO advocates have proven their safety for 20 years.  I’m going to side with Mother Nature here and not Monsanto.  I am also unsure that we should be messing with the genetic code.  Where do we draw the line between genetically engineering corn and eugenics and Natzism?  In Genesis, we (as a humankind) were given dominion, but where does dominion stop and playing god begin?  I don’t have the answer to those two questions, but I think that you should think about them as I have been thinking about them in the context of GMOs.

And, really, how can anyone tell you for certain that GMOs are safe?  I really don’t see how we can know this all in 20 years.  I do know that the occurrence of certain cancers have been in epidemic proportions.  So has obesity, autism, leaky guts, etc.  The prevalence of these maladies has also risen astronomically in the last 20 years.  Is it GMOs?  Is it vaccines or even the ‘other stuff’ in the vaccines?  Is it climate change or even just naturally occurring climate change that has been occurring for millennia as the Earth spins around the sun?  Is it pesticides? Was there some volcano somewhere that erupted and caused all this?  Is the entire increase in these occurrences only because we are better at diagnosing? The fact is that we have an increase in all of these maladies and we don’t know the reason for sure. GMOs are just as likely as any of these other reasons to have caused them.  I am not taking a chance with my beautiful children.  20 years of studies compared to millennia? I’m going with the crops that have proven themselves over millennia.  Take a risk on GMOs if you want with yourself.  That’s your prerogative.  It’s also my prerogative to skip the GMOs.

I wish that there wouldn’t be any more GMOs. Ever. I don’t think it’s worth the risk of finding out later that they caused harm to human health or to the environment.  I don’t think we should be messing with genetic codes.  But I am also against regulation.  Do you remember the story of the NewLeaf Potato? The NewLeaf Potato was a genetically engineered potato introduced in the 1990’s.  By 2001, they were no more because there was no market for them.  The market forced them to abandon the New Leaf Potato.  I wish that the market would kill other GMOs, too.  (Of course now they are talking about introducing a new kind of GMO potato, but for now potatoes are safe.)  Market killing is the ideal.

Since a food cannot legally be both organic and GMO, an increase in the organic market share means a decrease in the GMO market share.  The demand for organic groceries keeps rising. This gives me hope, hope that the market will resound against GMOs all by itself and without Proposition 105.  Whole Foods Market, for example, has promised GMO-transparency in all of its products in just a few more years.  Perhaps its competitors will follow suit.  Organizations like the Non-GMO Project keep growing and keep growing in the amount of groceries they certify.  Chipotle Restaurants have promised to phase out GMOs, too (except in their meats).  Cheerios eliminated GMOs due to public outrage.  There are all these little lights shining at what I hope is the end of the GMO tunnel.    We would need a lot more little lights, but I have hope.

Proposition 105 would only label certain GMO-containing foods.  Proposition 105 exempts meat, dairy and eggs that came from GMO-eating animals.  It exempts gum, alcohol and foods for immediate consumption.  These labels would only apply to food sold within the state of Colorado.

If JohnQPublic saw a “contains GMO” label on his favorite food products, would that impact his food choices?  Would Proposition 105, if passed, cause an increase in demand for non-GMO foods and therefore be another light shining at the end of the GMO tunnel?  It has the potential to be a very big light.  It can snowball into other lights and may kill GMOs, just like the lack of a market killed the NewLeaf Potato.

Will Proposition 105 negatively affect Coloradans? I am not a big-government-have-a-lot-of-laws type person. Referring to the NoOn105.com website, I’d like to offer a my unsolicited opinions on their reasons why farmers should oppose Proposition 105.
“Costly new bureaucratic requirements would impact farmers regardless of whether or not they grow GE crops.” They go on to say how this will create more paperwork and may require a farmer to have two sets of equipment.  I believe this to be false.  I do not know of a single farmer who grows some GMO corn and some conventional corn, for example. Farmers around here grow GMO corn and non-GMO everything else.  The wheat is wheat, for example, which is not GMO.  It will stay that way.  It is normal custom to clean equipment between harvesting a different crop. Also, growing GMO and copyrighted seed already impose many regulations.  I remember the time, for example, when we grew a copyrighted variety of wheat.  We legally had to sell it back to the elevator (and we did).  It was illegal for me to make a loaf of bread with my own wheat.  How ridiculous is that?  The extra rules for farmers that would be created by this law are no more ridiculous than the rules already in place.
“Proposition 105 would require Colorado food exports to be specially labeled – putting our farmers at a competitive disadvantage.”  This is a downright fallacy.  The proposed legislation requires labeling of food sold in Colorado.  It does not concern food produced in Colorado and sold elsewhere.  Also, if Proposition 105 passes here, other states will follow suit.  We won’t be the only ones.
“Proposition 105 would create a costly new bureaucracy.” Maybe so. Who is going to enforce all of these new rules?  If the cost is not to the consumer, it will be to the taxpayer.

I swiped this off the NoOn105 website.  It's all true.

I swiped this off the NoOn105 website. It’s all true. You’d be better off to go by my instructions on determining GMO. I hate GMOs and I worry that Proposition 105 will give consumers a false sense of security since they will not see a GMO label on these GMO products.

I worry that Proposition 105 will cause small farmers like me who occasionally direct market an unfair burden.  Right now I have to say, “I’m not allowed to say I’m organic because I’m not certified, but I follow organic standards.”  Will I have to say, “I’m not allowed to say I’m not GMO because I haven’t had my products tested, but I do not grow genetically engineered products.”?  If I ever got big enough to go to a farmer’s market, will my potential customers understand all this? And what about the Colorado Cottage Food Producers?

I also worry that Proposition 105 labels will become meaningless.  I worry that they will be “I-checked-the-box-so-now-you-can’t-sue-me” type labels. I see these type of labels all the time.  Some paraphrased examples are:
“Don’t let your babies play with this plastic bag.  They could suffocate.”
“May be made with soy, wheat or dairy.”
“May contain peanuts or be processed in a facility that processes peanuts or tree nuts.”
“This contains a substance known in the state of California to cause cancer.”
“Our farmers pledge not to give cows rBST hormones, but studies have shown that there’s no significant difference between rBST and non-rBST anyway.”
“Make sure you wear a gas mask and ventilate when you’re painting.”
“Open the window and evacuate the room if you break this lightbulb. Wear a hazmat suit when you clean it up.”
“If you’re pregnant or nursing, consult a doctor.” (on prenatal vitamins, too!)
“This will cure blah-blah, but this is not meant to cure, treat or diagnose any disease.”
“This coffee may be really hot and you may burn yourself.”
Again, remember these are my own versions and the actual content of these labels are different.  But I know you’ve seen them, too, and you know which ones I mean. We’ll have to add, “May contain GMO ingredients in the State of Colorado.” or some other version. These labels are really meaningless and we don’t need more meaningless ambiguous labels.

So all-in-all, I’m against Proposition 105, except for one reason…

My mom. My mom has a lot of wise little sayings.  One of her wisest little sayings is

“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

I am in favor of Proposition 105 only because Monsanto and the like are against it. I can’t see myself siding with Monsanto. These are the same people who made Agent Orange. These are the same people who make all these crazy GMOs and the chemicals for them. Monsanto is the reason that I cannot even obtain non-GMO corn seed in my area. Monsanto sees Proposition 105 as a threat, which is why they have poured all this money into campaigning against it. A threat to Monsanto is my friend. In the end, I’m not sure how I’ll vote.

There is a lot that I’ve thought about in regards to Proposition 105. Some of these thoughts that I’ve shared above I haven’t seen on any for or against article or website.  Take these points into consideration, too, when making your decision.  Decide well, Colorado. I hope you will make the right decision, whatever that will be.  I sure don’t know what it is.


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Knowing What is GMO by the Ingredient Label

Voters in the state of Colorado are voting on a ballot initiative this November.  Called Proposition 105, the proposed measure will require GMOs and GMO containing products sold in the state of Colorado to be more or less labeled.

I have been thinking much about Proposition 105 lately.  I’m thinking out loud, here with you dear blog readers.  I decided I’m going to organize my own thoughts and share them with you.

Called “Right to Know- GMO”, I feel this initiative is a bit of a misnomer.  The proponents of Proposition 105 claim that it is the public’s right to know what is in their food.

In this blogpost, I am arguing that the public already does have the right to know what’s in their food, Proposition 105 or not.

Let’s first review what GMOs are.  GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  That means that scientists have removed the genetic code of one organism and inserted it into the genetic code of a totally different organism.  The resulting organism has a new genetic code that is man-made.  That code would never exist in nature.  The resulting organism, that GMO, now has a trait that is more desirable by many.  For example, Bt Corn is corn that has a bacteria genetic code inserted in it.  The corn borer, a caterpillar larvae that used to kill thousands of acres of corn, will eat the Bt GMO corn and its stomach will explode.

I also wanted to clarify the difference between hybrids and GMOs.  I have come across many many people who are unclear on this distinction.  A hybrid is a cross-breed.  Mankind has been hybridizing crops for millennia.  They cross certain varieties of crops together and the resulting offspring has the good traits of both sides.  Man might help this along by sprinkling pollen or something, however, he is hybridizing through natural means.  If you planted varietyx of a crop next to varietyz they’d probably cross breed anyway.  GMOs have their actual genetic code changed by scientists.  Hybrids and GMOs are whole different ballgames.

There are a lot of differing opinions about GMOs.  Proponents of GMOs say GMOs are super-safe, as safe as hybrids, and better for the environment.  Anti-GMO folks say GMOs are the reason for all the epidemic chronic diseases (like cancer and autism) in the world. Anti-GMO folks also say that letting these, um, unnatural genetic codes loose into the environment will wreak havoc.  Look at one study and it says one thing. Look at another study and it says something else.  I follow GMO news very closely and I haven’t seen a 100% convincing  argument either way.

Personally, I am opposed to GMOs.  GMOs seem like franken-science. “They” say GMOs are safe, however, GMOs have only been in production for about twenty years.  20 years is hardly enough time to study long term health or environmental effects.  GMOs, at the very least, are unproven for human and animal health and the environment.  I am a mother of five children.  It is my job to feed my children good wholesome food and to keep them healthy.  I am not going to take a risk on my family with GMOs.  Non-GMOs are proven.  GMOs aren’t. I am also a farmer.  It is my job to grow food for others and to be a good steward of the land that these crops are grown on.  I will not grow a GMO since I will not grow something I wouldn’t eat.  I will not grow a GMO since I hope that my children will farm the same land that their great-great grandparents farmed and I am unsure that GMOs are safe for future generations of the environment.

I take my job as a mother very seriously.  As I said above, I am responsible for the health of my children and I truly believe that there are health connections to diet.  I feed my children the best that our budget and time allows.  I avoid GMOs.

Getting back to Proposition 105, many have argued that if passed, we will now have a “right to know” what is in our food.  I will spend the rest of this blogpost telling you that we already have the right to know what’s in our food and I will review how to tell if GMOs are in your food by truly reading the ingredient label.

The background of this little meme above is actually a Round-Up Ready GMO corn field here in Eastern Colorado.  The Round-Up killed everything but the GMO Round-Up Ready volunteer corn.

The background of this little meme above is actually a Round-Up Ready GMO corn field here in Eastern Colorado. The Round-Up killed everything but the GMO Round-Up Ready volunteer corn.

The first principle to remember is that there are only a few GMO crops currently in commercial production.  These crops are corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, papaya, summer squash and zucchini. This is as of October 2014, as I write this blogpost.  There are experiments all over the place for various additional GMO crops and various additional kinds of GMO of the already GMO crops. But right now, we only have GMO corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets, canola, alfalfa, papaya, summer squash and zucchini.

Secondly, we must remember that the word “organic” is a copyrighted word.  If a food item does not comply with the 2002 Organic Standards Act, it is illegal to be called “organic”. (Although I would venture to say that there are some loopholes where some foreign grown crops are allowed to be called organic where they may or may not be following the same standards as us.)  Organic standards exclude GMOs.  If a product says it’s “organic”, than it cannot be both GMO and legally organic, too.  It’s a pretty safe bet that organics are not GMO.  I should caution you, however, not to fall for the “made with” trick.  If you bought, for example, spaghetti sauce, that said “made with organic tomatoes” on the label, than that only means the tomatoes are organic.   That does not mean that the other components of the sauce are organic.  We should assume they’re not organic and they might even be GMO.

Moreover, we must also assume that any crop which has GMO production and is not sold as organic or specifically non-GMO is in fact GMO.  For example, 94% of the soy grown in the USA in 2011 was GMO (source).  We can assume any soy that’s not organic and not labeled non-GMO is in fact GMO.  94% is a whole lot.

Our fourth principle to remember is that certain crops are sold as crops and certain ones are made into everything.  Summer squash, zucchini and papaya are pretty much just sold as “themselves”.  One can just avoid commercially produced non-organic summer squash, zucchini and papaya and thus avoid these GMOs, easy peasy, done.  Cotton of course is used to make fabric.  We don’t eat fabric, but we may eat cottonseed oil.  Avoid cottonseed oil, food products made with cottonseed oil and eating t-shirts and you will avoid eating GMO cotton. Canola, or rapeseed, is a “new” oil, once touted as the healthy choice, primarily in the 1980’s. If you avoid canola oil and food products made with canola oil, you will avoid GMO canola.

We must also remember to assume that unless meat, eggs and dairy are specifically marketed as “organic”, “non-GMO” or “grass-fed”, we must assume that the animals have eaten GMOs.  GMO corn and GMO soy are the heart of most every animal food, from chicken, pig and cow feedlots to even fish food.  Additionally, some may give animals alfalfa, which is now GMO, too.  Also, there is a lot of “byproduct” fed to commercial animals.  These byproducts are assumed to be from GMOs.  It’s a safe assumption that commercially marketed meats, eggs and dairy have come from animals who ate GMOs unless specified. If you’re the-farmers-market-type who purchases things directly from the farmer, ask him. Chickens may free range and have access to pasture, but they may also be given a GMO-laden feed as a supplement. Ask.

Remember, also, that “sugar” as an ingredient or product probably comes from sugar beets, which are GMO.  Cane sugar is not GMO (yet).

Our sixth and final principle to remember is that about everything comes from corn and soy.  Vinegar, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn meal (and therefore corn chips and tortillas), cosmetics, cellulose, and I-don’t-even-know funky foods are all from corn.  There are way more qualified people who can tell you all the ‘stuff’ they make from corn and soy.  Look it up. Find out what these products are.  Avoid them to avoid GMOs.

We should also remember that everything changes so rapidly.  They are experimenting all over the place and it seems more GMOs are approved every year.  What I write is current as I write it, but give it a few months and it won’t be. Also remember that you should really do your own research on all of this and not just go by what some blogger said.

For example, I occasionally buy Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips at Sam’s Club. They contain just three ingredients- potatoes, olive oil and salt.  Since I know that potatoes, olive oil and salt are not currently GMO, I know that Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips are not GMO.  I do not need the proposed labeling from Proposition 105 to tell me that.  I can also look at the label and see that these chips are Non-GMO Project Verified. The good people over at the Non-GMO Project certify certain foods as non-GMO.  The food manufacturers choose to have their products verified.  The Non-GMO Project will allow the food manufacturer to put their label on the product if the product complies with the Non-GMO Project’s standards.  This is a choice that Boulder Canyon made, to have their potato chips verified and to put this label on.  Honestly, since I’m such an ingredient label reader, I already knew that Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Potato Chips are non-GMO.  If a hypothetical shopper was in the chip aisle, he or she can read the labels, just as I do and see that PotatoChipBrandX contains “soy oil” as an ingredient.  The shopper will know that since 94% of the soy grown in America is GMO and the label does not say “organic soy” or “non-GMO soy” it is safe to assume that PotatoChipBrandX contains GMO.

My husband Kevin made this point to me.  “Most people don’t care about GMOs. The people who do care, people like you, already know how to tell what is GMO by looking at the ingredients, just like you do. Proposition 105 isn’t going to do anything for them.”

Kevin is right.

You already have the right to know what’s in your food.  It’s called the ingredient label.  You should learn what those ingredients really mean, whether Proposition 105 passes or not. Use my GMO principle ingredient guide as a basis, but also do your own research. You don’t really need Proposition 105.
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Posted in GMOs, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with 2 comments.