Organizers at Just Label It, a website that campaigns for the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, launched a campaign last week to try to get 5,000 new supporters in five days. Their deadline is tomorrow (May 1), and they still have not met their goal, so now they are calling on current subscribers to reach out to friends and family to spread awareness for their cause.
Genetically engineered (GE) food uses biotechnology to alter the genes and traits of nine crops cultivated in the U.S., such as corn and soy, to make them grow larger and become resistant to disease and pesticides so that more herbicides can be used without killing the crops. Genetic engineering combines genes from different species in a way that could not occur in natural breeding, introducing foreign genes into plants and animals. GE foods could produce additional toxins and allergens that have not been seen before in food.
Most livestock raised in the U.S. eats a diet high in GE corn and soy, two of the most common genetically engineered crops used as animal feed. Genetic engineering is now present in salmon, which is the first meat product that the FDA has come close to approving for commercial sale. Though it is not sold in supermarkets, GE salmon could be sold and served soon if it gains FDA approval.
Genetically modified food was approved by the federal government almost 20 years ago and introduced into supermarkets across the country in 1996. The public is still divided about whether these foods are safe to eat, but only one in four Americans strongly believes that genetically engineered foods do not pose a health risk.
Bipartisan public support for GE food labeling is overwhelming: polls show that 92 percent of Americans want GMO food labeled, including 93 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans. Americans believe that they have the right to know what they are feeding themselves and their families; current food labels that reveal ingredients, trans fat content, food allergens, and nutrition facts are already in place, and the American people want the FDA to go a step further in being transparent about where food comes from and what is in it.
While the debate rages on about whether or not genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are harmful to public health, the vast majority of Americans want to make informed choices about what they buy and eat as consumers.
The United States is among five countries that grow 90 percent of the world’s supply of genetically engineered food (others include Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and India — the latter two of which mandate labeling of GMOs). Forty countries worldwide currently mandate GE food labeling, including Australia, countries in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia.
Earlier this month, more than 1 million people submitted public comments to the FDA regarding genetically modified food. The FDA’s response has been tepid, as it has said that it cannot reach a decision on labeling GE food right now. Following the FDA’s lack of commitment and action, Just Label It decided to take their arguments straight to the White House. The organization launched a campaign to get 25,000 petition signatures by mid-May – the number needed in order for the White House to review the petition – and has kept building pressure on the FDA and the White House.
More than 500 organizations have partnered with Just Label It to promote labeling of GMOs. To help Just Label It get 5,000 new subscribers by May 1, sign the petition to the FDA at justlabelit.org and forward their message to your family and friends by clicking this link.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/5532775128