Take Note Monsanto: Californians Demand Right to Know

Statement regarding the introduction of The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act for the November 2012 ballot.

By Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network

A staggering majority of Americans, 93% in fact, want to know when they are eating genetically engineered (GE) food. With up to 80% of the non-organic products on our shelves containing GE ingredients, and little-to-no long-term studies on their effects, people are concerned.

This November, Californians will for the first time have the ability to vote to require that foods containing genetically engineered ingredients bear a label indicating as much. Pesticide Action Network (PAN) strongly supports the public’s right to know what is in our food, and therefore endorses The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.

Much of the rest of the world — including Japan, Australia, the European Union and China — already requires genetically engineered foods to be clearly labeled. But in the U.S., pesticide and biotech companies like Monsanto continue to enjoy unfettered and unlabeled access to the market, and a consumer population that is left largely in the dark.

Not surprisingly, the major pesticide and biotech companies are strongly opposed to providing this information. It is this handful of corporations (Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont, also known as the Big Six) that dominate the world’s seed, pesticide and biotech markets and that control the fate of food and farming in our country. These corporations have exerted undue influence on our food and farming system for far too long, while making promises on which they fail to deliver. They have actively suppressed independent science seeking to establish the safety or efficacy of their products through a combination of direct intimidation of scientists and farmers alike, and restrictive control over who can examine their products and even how much shelf space must be devoted to their products versus their competitors’. These suppression tactics have been so effective that 26 scientists were compelled to write an anonymous letter to EPA decrying both our dearth of knowledge about the safety or efficacy of GE seeds, and the “chilling effect” on free inquiry.

What we do know is that after 15 years of commercialization, and millions of dollars in publicly funded research, the agricultural biotech industry has yet to deliver on their promises. Rather than reducing the need for hazardous pesticides, herbicide-resistant seeds have driven a massive increase in herbicide use that has been linked to significant environmental and public health concerns.

It’s clear that genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant seeds are the growth engines of the pesticide industry’s sales and marketing strategy. These seeds are part of a technology package explicitly designed to facilitate increased, indiscriminate herbicide use and pump up chemical sales. If Monsanto and Dow’s GE crops are so good for the planet, why are these companies so determined to hide their presence in our foods? What do they have to hide?

We have a right to know what we’re eating. The California Right to Know Act takes an important step towards fulfilling that right.