Freedom Of Choice: As American As Apple Pie

By: Just Label It
Posted on June 29, 2012

By Robyn O’Brien, Allergy Kids

The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It’s full of friends, family, food and fun, and it doesn’t require a lot of fuss or formality.  We come together to celebrate everything that makes our country great – the pioneering beliefs of our founding fathers that wanted to give their families the absolute best future they could create. And it is with food and festivities that we celebrate the beliefs on which our country was founded- liberty, justice and freedom for all Americans.

But this 4th, things look a little different.  With a growing number of diseases affecting the lives of our families, we gather together over backyard picnic tables mindful that life is short, to savor it and to try to do what we can to help protect the health of the people that we love.

With the increasing number of Americans now impacted by diabetes, asthma, heart disease, obesity, allergies, cancer and obesity, there isn’t a family in the country that hasn’t been touched by one of these conditions.  And on holidays, we do what we can to help them, mindful of the salt content, fat content, sugar content, allergen content and so much more as we provide foods that can accommodate the growing concerns and needs of the people that we love.

But surprisingly, there is one thing that we haven’t been told.  And it’s so surprising, actually, that when I first heard it, I wanted to dismiss it as alarmist or some kind of hippy thing.    And that is that a growing number of the foods that we feed our families contain ingredients that have been genetically engineered to withstand increasing doses of toxic weed killers and chemicals.

Now this certainly isn’t something anyone wants to hear and the 4th is an unusual time to talk about it, but talking about it just might be one of the most patriotic things that we could be doing.  Because as the US continues to fall behind the rest of the world when it comes to the health of our children and families, the chemical content of our foods is something that mounting scientific evidence, from the Presidents Cancer Panel to the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests that we pay attention to, as much as the salt content, fat content and allergen content of the foods that we are feeding our loved ones.

Because the fact of the matter is that these genetically engineered foods and the methods used to create them are relatively new and no long-term human safety studies have ever been conducted to know what eating these foods, hardwired for chemicals, might do to a pregnant mom, her developing baby or to anyone else that is eating them over an extended period of time.  And it is for that reason as well as others that these ingredients are labeled in over 40 countries around the world, so that consumers can make an informed choice when it comes to feeding their families.

But here in the US, in a country that prides itself on freedom of choice, we don’t have these labels.  The truth is that we haven’t been told that these ingredients have been introduced into our food supply.

And that’s hard to hear.

But it’s not the first time that this has happened (remember “pink slime”?) and it certainly won’t be the last, but it just might be one of the most important issues we could be talking about as it relates to our food supply today.

As countries in the European Union, as well as China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and places like Russia, label these ingredients that have been genetically engineered to withstand chemicals, it is time for Americans to have that same right to know, too.

Now some may argue that this labeling is cost-prohibitive, but the only thing required are the words “genetically engineered” to be inserted in front of the ingredients to which this hardwiring has been done (mainly corn, soy and canola) on the ingredient label.  No new stickers, no new labels, just a few additional words (like the one on the label above).

If we had those two words on our ingredient lists, the way millions of eaters around the world already do, we would know, all of us, if the corn on the cob we are eating has been genetically engineered to withstand increasing doses of pesticides or if the butter that we are putting on it or the hamburger we are eating with it came from a cow that has been fed crops engineered to make its own insecticide because these are chemicals that we can’t wash off, they have become part of the plant itself.

With a growing number of headlines asking, “Do chemicals cause cancer…obesity…autism?” Americans have the right to know what chemicals are going into food.  And we have a right to know if our food has been engineered to withstand increasing doses of these chemicals.

Can you imagine in the face of obesity and diabetes epidemics if we didn’t have the information on the labels that told us of the sugar and fat content in our foods?    And while correlation is not causation, in the face of the growing number of diseases, we haven’t been told which foods have been hardwired to withstand toxic chemicals.

Americans deserve the same freedom of choice that has been given to countless citizens around the world.  This freedom, this choice, is as American as apple pie and one of the founding visions upon which our country was established.

It is because of this that I have chosen to join over 1.2 million Americans and the Just Label It campaign, members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle and countless other citizens to call for the labeling of these ingredients in our food supply.

Sure, it might be a hassle for the food industry to add a few words to their ingredient lists, but they have proven that they can label these ingredients in over 40 countries around the world, as evidenced on their packaging overseas or their choice to opt out of these ingredients altogether in other countries.  At the very least, they can label genetically engineered ingredients in the United States, too, placing the same value on the lives of our citizens that they have already placed on the lives of citizens overseas.

Because if you think about it, especially on the 4th of July, it just might be one of the most patriotic things that the food industry and all of us could be doing – to label these ingredients and give all Americans the right to know if our foods have been genetically engineered to withstand chemicals – for the health of our children, our families and our country.