The Roundup Diet

Have you heard about the grocery store owner in Rhode Island who recently took Kashi cereals off his shelf and put up a note explaining that he just found out the cereal includes genetically modified Roundup ready soybeans?  He read this report produced by The Cornucopia Institute and realized he and Kashi – who is owned by Kellogg – define “natural” differently and as a result, he would not be offering their products to his consumers.  Kashi’s response at the time was similar to what a parent would say to a five-year-old who was upset with the house rules and going to run away – I’ll help you pack.

Then, the Organic Consumers Association called for a boycott of all Kellogg products until they:

Stop lying about GMO contamination of organic, start labeling their genetically engineered foods, and quit using GMOs in the products they sell in the U.S. . . . this includes a boycott of their so-called ‘natural’ brands, Morningstar Farms, Kashi, Bear Naked, and Gardenburger [as] any products under these brands which aren’t certified organic do contain GMOs.

To my complete surprise, Kashi’s general manager, David Desouza, quickly reversed his position that the company had done nothing wrong and issued a press release titled, “Kashi Increases Commitment To Organic And Non-GMO Project Verification.” In it, he states that “beginning in 2015, all new Kashi foods introduced into the market will contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and will also be Non-GMO Project Verified.”  Well, looks like the protest had some success (i.e. I’ll believe it when I see the label on the shelf in 2 and ½ years), but I hope the angry consumers who participated in the boycott realize Kellogg really was playing by the rules and if they don’t like it, they might want to redirect their energy to the political arena that establishes the rules.

I keep hearing statistics that suggest the vast majority of Americans want GMOs labeled, and I truly believe this isn’t a vocal minority passing as a majority.  Take California for instance.  A campaign run by a group called California Right to Know collected 971,126 signatures – well beyond the required number of 555,236 – to put an initiative on November’s ballot requiring that all genetically engineered foods be labeled.  If it’s passed, they’ll be the first state to make such a requirement.  Vermont came close to being the first, but said they couldn’t afford the lawsuits Monsanto threatened and subsequently killed their bill.

Here in Hawaii, the issue of GMO labeling is one that a current Honolulu City Councilmember, Tulsi Gabbard, is using to distinguish herself from her opponent, Mufi Hannemann, in the race for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.  Not only has she produced a campaign flyer marketing her position, she’s proving she isn’t all talk and submitted Resolution 12-57 to the City Council on February 29th, 2012 which calls for labeling at the federal and state levels.  After a tie vote on April 25, Councilmember Tom Berg reintroduced the resolution at the May 9th meeting and the council heard public testimony on the matter.

Honolulu City Council - May 9th, 2012

I went to listen to the testimony and was surprised to hear that all 16 people who gave testimony were in favor of GMO labeling and that the resolution got the 6 votes it needed to pass.  My favorite quote ended up coming from Councilmember Berg, who admitted to being, “…a walking bucket of ice cream and twinkies,” but said it isn’t about him. The people of Hawaii have the right to know what’s in their food.  The most surprising comment came from Councilmember Garcia who implied that he was even more concerned about what role herbicide drift played in the health of those near the largest farm growing GMO on the island, which happens to be in his district (Kunia).

My point in bringing up the California ballot initiative and Hawaii’s City Council resolution is to highlight the idea that legislators know what a hot issue GMO labeling has become.  They are being asked by voters to put pressure on the FDA to require accurate labels, and my guess is they realize how bad they look if they say they are against a type of transparency for consumers that even China requires.

My hope is that if this issue is important to you, you will start looking for that “Non-GMO” label on products the same way you probably look for the presence of High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Here are two soy products that get my loyalty because they were smart enough to select and advertise their products as being Non-GMO – Seapoint Farms Organic Edamame and Silk soymilk.

I also hope you find out what your elected representives’ positions are, because I bet they are on the record as being for or against the labeling of GMOs.  Then send an email to all of them letting them know you really are trying to cut back on the amount of weed killer in your diet and would appreciate any help they can give you.

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2 Responses to The Roundup Diet

  1. Judy Kuehn says:

    Thanks for a well thought-out article. I think most people attending Food Camp would be opposed to genetically modified foods; however, like myself, I don’t know that any or most would know how to implement a political process of change–someone at Food Camp who could instruct and inspire us to do so would be helpful.
    http://www.the9billion.com/2012/01/20/washington-state-seeks-to-label-genetically-modified-foods/
    So, it is in-process in WA state, couldn’t find a conclusive article of pass/failure.

    • Jenn says:

      17 states had pending GMO legislation this year, but California is closest to requiring that they be labeled – which will most certainly be resisted by the money of big Ag. I love the idea of having a session at Foodcamp about ways we can effectively change policy – Great idea, Judy! But until Foodcamp, one thing that I’m going to do is ask politicians who want my vote how they feel about the issue.

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