Wait, That's GMO, Too?

An Initiative Heading to the Fall Ballot Would Require Labeling Genetically Modified Foods

Wait, That's GMO, Too?

Kelly O

OMG, GMO! When we contacted the companies that made these groovy, natural foods, all said their products contained or may contain genetically modified ingredients.

I'm wandering the aisles of Central Co-op, a natural foods market on Capitol Hill, checking its shelves for genetically engineered foods. Once you know what to look for, it turns out those ingredients are everywhere—even here, among the fake meats and packages covered in leafy art, smiling animals, and hand-lettering. They're in the whole-grain bread, in the veggie burgers, in the peanut-free soy nut butter. You can't always tell from friendly labels—"100% natural," "multi-grain," "fair trade." But you may be able to tell soon.

Washington State will be voting in November on Initiative 522, which would require food made with genetically engineered ingredients (also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs) to be labeled as such at the retail level.

When I set out to research the initiative, I thought I'd end up with a clear and obvious answer about how I felt about it—and what the science says. I was wrong.

I was raised on organic produce, bulk-bin grains, and peanut butter you had to crank by hand; these food-labeling people are my people. But I still wanted to see hard science that backs up the squick factor of vegetables birthed in a petri dish. I wanted studies I could point to, something I could wave around and say, "Here! Here is incontrovertible proof that GMOs are evil! Their curse will last for generations and our grandkids will have four noses, and here, have some organic hummus." But the smoking gun just isn't there. Not that the anti-labeling side is all that convincing, either.

Genetically engineered food crops have been around since the 1990s, and they took off rapidly across the United States. Now certain American crops are almost universally GMO: more than 90 percent of soy and sugar beets, and 88 percent of corn, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Modifications are done at the genetic level (mainly by corporations that don't exactly inspire trust, like Monsanto and Dow Chemical), often to make a crop resistant to a particular pest or herbicide. The FDA regularly approves new GMO plants—and soon, an animal: GMO salmon are on their way.

GMOs aren't just in the processed food you grab in a stoned midnight run to Safeway. And while a 100 percent organic product can't contain GMOs, lots of foods we think of as "natural" can and do.

For example, Gardenburger's package is stamped with a cartoon cow and chicken embracing, and the message "There are no unimportant ingredients. If it's in here, then it's got a role to play." That includes corn- and soy-based ingredients (and remember that nearly all US corn and soy is GMO), and when we e-mailed their parent company, the automated response we got back said that some of their products "do contain biotech ingredients." In a form letter, the company explained: "It has become increasingly difficult to maintain non-biotech sourcing of the soy proteins."

Franz Family Bakeries offers a "100% Natural, 100% Whole Grain" loaf of bread, touting its "premium Northwest grown & milled ingredients" and lack of high-fructose corn syrup. We asked Franz about GMOs in their bread, and they "do use cornmeal, soybean oil and canola oil in our products, and most of the corn, soybeans, and sources of canola oil are GMO, so most certainly these ingredients would be genetically modified."

Even the crazily named I.M. Healthy Chunky SoyNut Butter, which announces on the label that it contains non-GMO soybeans, doesn't guarantee that other ingredients in the same jar, such as corn-derived maltodextrin, aren't genetically engineered. And the boxed gluten-free cake mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen contains some ingredients that "are not GMO-free," the company says.

This isn't to pick on these companies at all, or the groovy grocers that carry them; it's just to point out how ubiquitous GMO ingredients are. And if I-522 passes this fall, we'll be reminded wherever we shop how common they've become. Or, on the other hand, the measure could prompt more food producers to eradicate GMOs from their ingredients to avoid the GMO label altogether.

A vast majority of the American public supports labeling foods with GMO ingredients. A 2010 NPR/Thomson Reuters poll found that 93 percent of Americans were on board. Worldwide, more than 60 countries already label foods with GMO ingredients, including members of the European Union, China, Japan, and India.

Still, the opposition to labeling is fierce. In November, Proposition 37, which would've mandated labeling of GMO foods, lost on the California ballot after the opposition dumped more than $45 million into a campaign arguing that labeling GMOs would be deceptive, pointless, and expensive. The donor list looked like exactly what you'd expect: Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, BASF Plant Science, Kraft Foods Global, Nestlé USA, ConAgra Foods.

Here in Washington, there's already opposition to I-522. The Seattle Times came out strongly against it, saying that "there is no reliable evidence crops containing genetically modified organisms... pose any risks." The Washington Association of Wheat Growers is opposed as well, saying that mandatory labeling of GMO foods "that are indistinguishable from foods produced through traditional methods would mislead consumers by falsely implying differences where none exist."

When it comes to the science, people on each side promise they can debunk anything the other side claims to prove. Biotech researcher Dr. Martina Newell-McGloughlin gave compelling testimony at an I-522 hearing in Olympia, saying, "There is practically no domesticated plant or animal today that has not been genetically engineered over the last 10,000 years," since we've been selectively breeding, grafting, and even irradiating foods forever. Today's precise genetic engineering has been found by all major science and health organizations to be "as safe or safer than" conventional methods, she said. Further, she argued, GMO foods are actually "more thoroughly tested than any in the history of food," subjected to years of research before they make it to market.

But George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, who helped draft I-522, says, "We're essentially taking the science from the industry for safety," because the FDA doesn't do its own pre-market testing, instead signing off on testing done by Monsanto and other companies developing the biotech foods. Dr. Michael Hansen testified in favor of I-522 in Olympia; he works for Consumers Union, the public policy arm of Consumer Reports, and he points to his organization's long-standing position in favor of mandatory pre-market testing as opposed to the current system of "voluntary safety consultations," as Consumers Union describes it. In place of that, Hansen says, they support labeling so consumers can at least make informed choices.

Another commonly heard argument is that labeling would burden manufacturers and grocery stores. But initiative spokeswoman Trudy Bialic, who works for PCC Natural Markets, which is running the I-522 campaign, says that's bogus. GMO labeling would be "no different from any of the other things we keep track of already," she says. "It did not cost us to add country of origin labeling, it did not make food unaffordable when we added nutrition panels, [and] it did not create a lot of extra costs when we started labeling trans fats."

I-522 is also written differently than Prop 37. It specifies who's required to do the labeling—the manufacturers—whereas Prop 37 didn't. And Prop 37 was roundly criticized as being catnip for tort lawyers, who could claim damages from companies that didn't properly label. In Washington, I-522 doesn't allow awards for damages, just a reimbursement of attorney's fees. Kimbrell says it was "deliberately drafted narrowly" to disincentivize costly lawsuits.

In the end, a lot of this comes down to how hard the food-industry opposition is willing to fight I-522. And weirdly, it turns out that buying some of the hippie products at the co-op may still be supporting the GMO industry. In California, big food companies poured money into the anti-labeling campaign, leaving labeling supporters furious. Angry green websites called for boycotts of GMO-free Silk soy milk (owned by Dean Foods), Kashi cereals (owned by Kellogg's), Odwalla juice (owned by Coca-Cola), and tons more, since all those larger parent companies wrote checks to fight labeling. Here, as of yet, no counter-campaign to I-522 has filed with the state. recommended

Additional reporting by Ben Steiner.


Comments (76) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Great article, Anna!

And for another superlative article to supplement this, please see Darwin Bond-Graham's detailed posting:…

Posted by sgt_doom on February 27, 2013 at 10:31 AM · Report this
Sorry, should have listed his web site for the original posting:…
Posted by sgt_doom on February 27, 2013 at 10:32 AM · Report this
Griffin 3
You do know that before the era of GMO, there was another, even more fun way to create new strains of crops, right? And that was nuking seeds with gamma radiation and seeing what happened when they were planted.

Before that, it was years (or centuries) of selective breeding, creating 5 pound dogs that can eat carbs, docile sheep who do not shed their wool and thus must be sheared annually, and barley with 6 rows of seeds (instead of the naturally occurring two) and non-shattering grain heads.

We create "genetically modified" things all the time and pretty much have done so since the beginning of humanity. We can just do it much faster now.
Posted by Griffin on February 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM · Report this
I'm a big supporter of the initiative & helped collect signatures for it, but my own feeling is that it's not about the possible safety or hazards of genetic engineering. I just think that consumer information has no real downside for the citizenry. If you think they're safe, you can buy them, and if you think they're not, you can work to avoid them. Hope i522 passes!
Posted by alight on February 27, 2013 at 10:57 AM · Report this
I was telling people years before the financial crisis that is was coming and was gonna be ugly. Most people just chuckled. How in the world can this economy fall? You have evidence? Well not much right now, just my common sense and intuition.

The GMO debate is no different from the economic crisis. People spending money wildly and blinding because the corporate elite through the media said everything was fine. You want to believe Monsanto as you raise your new born child on GMOs? Or would you just like to have the option to say no by labeling?
Posted by pluto in capricorn on February 27, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Breeding methods have changed over the decades. People are calling for labels to say if GE breeding is done and wonder why anyone would object to it. OK then lets label all food with all breeding methods.

I can hardly wait to hear why "Produced with ionizing radiation mutagenesis" labels on organic food are not "right to know" as well.
Posted by Robert Wager on February 27, 2013 at 11:40 AM · Report this
If you look back at history (yeah that silly history analogy again)--- you will know that life on earth for humans, animals and plants has always been mutable. I would argue that most if not all of this mutability happened naturally without human intervention.

Fast forward to 2013. Intelligent people are not against progress if it benefits humankind. How do you measure progress? Wait for the damage to occur first, then regroup and start over? I have a better plan. How about planning against a future possible catastrophe? However, if you don't mind using your newborn child as a guinea pig ---- you will have the option to do that under labeling for GMOs.
Posted by pluto in capricorn on February 27, 2013 at 12:01 PM · Report this
WOW---thanks again, Anna, for a well-written, informative article!! I'm extra glad I've gone gluten-free then---Franz used to be my whole grain bread of choice because of their high fructose free breads.
Time to really read the nutrition labels even more carefully, and avoid processed foods whenever possible.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 27, 2013 at 12:24 PM · Report this
Yeah, the consumer information angle is the best argument in favor. I could probably be convinced that GMOs are completely safe in every way, but still be completely grossed out by them for my own subjective reasons, and I'm definitely not the only one. It's kind of a tautological argument in favor: if this is something that a majority of citizens want to be informed about, and the initiative passes, then that justifies the law completely.
Posted by redemma on February 27, 2013 at 1:07 PM · Report this
The secretion from the anal glands of beavers are 100% safe for consumption, and used as flavoring. That doesn't make me want to eat it. GMOs are an ethical choice. Unfortunately for Pro-GMO companies, labeling is going to happen at some point. Look how close Prop 37 was, despite the ads. They can keep stalling all they want, but it's inevitable. It's a shame they're going to waste so much money before they realize it's a losing battle.
Posted by Anonynon on February 27, 2013 at 1:26 PM · Report this
tike0vitz 11
Great article, however it completely misses a major reason to avoid GMO foods.
That is, the damage done to the environment. A big reason these crops are so loved by big farming is they can then spray with abandon weed killers to protect their immune crops, which by itself is horrible.
It gets worse, since weeds reproduce and grow so easily they evolve quickly to become resistant themselves to Round-Up or you name it. Thus causing the use of bigger quantity's of weed killer (which is great if you're Monsanto and that's how you make your money) and more potent weed killer.
The latest batch of GMO crops are resistant to, basically, what amounts to agent orange or napalm as it used to be called. The prevalence of all these chemicals is showing up not just in the soil and water around farming towns but even in the atmosphere of major cities like Chicago.
This, I think, is the biggest reason to avoid GMO produce.
Posted by tike0vitz on February 27, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
I don't want to buy GMO if possible because I don't support Monsanto and Dow. They harm the environment, drive farmers out of business, and the monopolies behind our shitty food supply.
Posted by ishf on February 27, 2013 at 1:50 PM · Report this
Could you please indicate where in I-522 the requirement for manufactures to label is indicated. To me, it reads dangerously close to Prop 37. I-522 does not mandate that manufacturers add the GMO warning label when the product is harvested, produced, packaged, or distributed. Section 3 if the initiative clearly states the label is only required when food is "offered for retail sale". That implies that the retail store must assure the proper label is on the front of the food container. Without the label, the store cannot offer the food for sale unless specific documentation showing the food is GMO free is available. Failure to comply could put them at risk of receiving a significant infraction.
Posted by VBD on February 27, 2013 at 2:34 PM · Report this
The article misrepresents the science - the scientific consensus is that GM technology is safe and that products made using the technology should be examined on a case-by-case basis.

This means the statement “When it comes to the science, people on each side promise they can debunk anything the other side claims to prove” is effectively wrong. After all, I can find you doctors and scientists that claim immunization is dangerous, global warming is not happening, the earth is 6000 years old and that instead of evolving we were created by God. However, they are effectively wrong because the scientific consensus is the opposite of those points of view. And by “scientific consensus” I mean organizations like the National Academy of Sciences, the AAAS, the WHO, The Royal Society in the UK not to mention pretty much every regulatory body (EFSA, USDA, FDA etc), all of whom agree with the first sentence.

This also means that labeling it does not provide any meaningful information. It tells you what tool was used but not what was built. GM technology can be used to create plants that are herbicide resistant or produce their own pesticides or have a lower glycemic response or have lower gluten levels or have been scientifically proven to be more nutritious. Labeling these with the name of the tool that was used in their manufacture is as sensible as labeling everything (weapons, buildings, medical equipment) that was made using a screwdriver as “screwdriver used during manufacture”.
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 27, 2013 at 4:48 PM · Report this
Contrary to what #11 and others say, GMOs are not doing more damage to the environment than conventional farming. The herbicides like round up that GMO crops are resistant to are much more short lived in the environment. BT reduces the need for pesticides.

The use of GMO crops has also done wonders for both yield and soil management. Because you don't need to constantly till to kill weeds, fewer nutrients are lost from the soil over winter and you can plant your fields more densely.

Yes, there are some problems associated with the technology including resistance spreading to weeds and insects. It's an issue resembling antibiotic resistance and, similarly, can be managed by more intelligent use of the technology. GMOs are still relatively new and I think its understandable that a few kinks need to be worked out.

If you're interested in an introduction to the advantages associated with the use of biotech to improve food production, I highly recommend Stewart Brand's "Whole Earth Discipline," which dedicates a chapter to the issue.
Posted by cjb5 on February 27, 2013 at 7:26 PM · Report this
It is completely disingenuous to argue that selective breeding remotely resembles modern genetic engineering.

In selective breeding nature is still making the decisions - humans are just messing around with the odds.

The worst of modern genetic engineering takes genes from one species and inserts them into another. Two species that would never breed in nature. Hell, they might not even be from the same kingdom (plant genes into animals, or vice versa.)

We've had at least a hundred thousand years experience selectively breeding animals, and we've got all sorts of dog breeds with hip dysplasia, respiratory problems, blindness and cancer.

We've got about one generation of experience genetically modifying organisms under a microscope and then eating them.

I'm sorry, but I'm sure as hell not convinced GMO foods are safe, even if I have been eating them unknowingly for years.
Posted by David in Shoreline on February 27, 2013 at 7:51 PM · Report this
This article's neutrality pisses me off. Yes, GMOs should be labeled. I'm not sure it's going to happen in this country because corporations have too much power, but it should happen. There's no ambiguity in this issue.
Posted by bromol on February 27, 2013 at 9:25 PM · Report this
Great article, but It is absolutely bogus to say that research is inconclusive about GMO's. They only studies that claim they're harmless are PAID for by monsanto. Studies by independent scientist turn up results like this:…

And to say that GMO's are similar to food modifying techniques practiced for centuries is absurd; there is no way mother nature could splice a fish gene into a tomato.

Posted by itsmagik on February 27, 2013 at 10:03 PM · Report this
Posted by itsmagik on February 27, 2013 at 10:07 PM · Report this
As well, it has been roughly 20 years (a generation) since GMOs were introduced to the food supply (1994) and in that time:

"Overall cancer rates have increased by 56% among white men over the course of a single generation. Increases in black men are comparable."


"A contemporary woman's risk of breast cancer is 54% greater than was her mother's at the same age among blacks and 41% greater among whites."…
Posted by itsmagik on February 27, 2013 at 10:34 PM · Report this
Check out this article:…

Posted by neptine in pisces on February 27, 2013 at 11:55 PM · Report this
It's good that The Stranger tried, but this article on GMOs ends up praising with faint damn - a milquetoast analysis of a dangerous, unaccountable trend in the food supply.

As #16 points out, there's a huge difference between nature's built-in veto of strains and hybrids that reach too far, and corporate frankenfoods that could not otherwise occur in nature. Attempts at lawyering the terminology cannot finesse this fact. Biotech laboratories are not farms, and these organisms have *not* been tested (in any meaningful sense of the term).

Apart from the dangers GMO crops pose, like BT corn killing monarch butterfly larvae, their entry into the food supply wasn't by public discussion and consent, but by deception and/or force, the latter documented in high court cases in the US and Canada. A Wikileaks release documented that our ambassador to France, a Bush business partner, recommended trade retaliation against EU nations unfriendly to GMOs. In the name of profit, GMOs have poisoned human relations and disrupted thousands of years of traditional agriculture.

The article does get one thing right: many other nations are properly suspicious of and clearly label GMO foods. Battles over GMOs have always been about corporations' lust for profit and control, at the expense of environmental safety. There's far more to say, and any soft-peddling of this bitter conflict is a serious mistake.
Posted by Che Guava on February 28, 2013 at 4:30 AM · Report this
@16: your points have already been refuted by @3.

@18: this is a common misconception. Google “470+ safety assessments”: “Currently there are near 470 peer-reviewed reports in the scientific literature which document the general safety and nutritional wholesomeness of GM foods and feeds. Close to 30% of these publications are produced and funded by organisations that are completely independent of large commercial seed companies.”

@19: The Seralini paper has been eviscerated by scientists, e.g. from the European Food Safety Authority: “Serious defects in the design and methodology of a paper by Séralini et al. mean it does not meet acceptable scientific standards and there is no need to re-examine previous safety evaluations of genetically modified maize NK603.”
“EFSA’s final statement considered the independent assessments of the paper by organisations of six EU Member States: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Full copies of these evaluations can be found in the annex of EFSA’s statement.”

@20: there has also been an increase in the consumption of organic food over that time period. So therefore do you conclude that organic food causes cancer?

@22: from the USDA: “There is no significant risk to monarch butterflies from environmental exposure to Bt corn, according to research conducted by a group of scientists coordinated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture. This research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).”
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 28, 2013 at 7:01 AM · Report this
Regardless as to whether or not you think GMOs are dangerous and need labeling, I-522 would NOT accomplish the intended goal. It does not force food manufacturers to label their food. Washington law has no jurisdiction outside the state to enforce that. The idea of the initiative is to force grocery stores to put pressure on food producers to label. ALL enforcement would occur at the retail level.

I-522 does not indicate that the GMO label must be present for wholesale, distribution, import, or restaurant use. ONLY when offered for retail sale. In most cases, that means the retail store would be held responsible and fined if the label is not present and appropriate item-specific documentation stating the food is GMO free is unavailable. This rule places the compliance obligation upon a group who often has no control over the content of the products they sell.

It is a terrible proposal that would not work. If it were to pass, there would be a flood of lawsuits, ultimately resulting in withdrawal of the law. A HUGE waste of money for the retail stores, and all of us.

If you think I'm full of crap, read it for yourself. It's all there.
Posted by VBD on February 28, 2013 at 8:33 AM · Report this
It's absolutely wrong to claim that there's no evidence GM foods are unsafe. There's quite a bit of evidence from animal feeding trials that they have toxic effects. Please read the evidence before you sound off on this topic.
GMO Myths and Truths, fully referenced report for download here:…
Posted by Lise100 on February 28, 2013 at 9:45 AM · Report this
Bang on VBD!

I-522 - "This rule places the compliance obligation upon a group who often has no control over the content of the products they sell."

A lot of good I-522 is gonna do!

Posted by V_Rod on February 28, 2013 at 9:56 AM · Report this
shitbrain 27
Just a me-too for comment #25. Not very good research, Anna.
Posted by shitbrain on February 28, 2013 at 10:19 AM · Report this
Arsenic7 28
GMO foods should be evaluated for safety on a case by case basis. As should natural food strains. Both can be dangerous, both can be beneficial to health and the environment. There really is no difference that can be described by blanket statements.
Posted by Arsenic7 on February 28, 2013 at 11:19 AM · Report this
Lise100, there is plenty of evidence the earth is flat and global warming is a hoax. But you can't rely solely the on evidence that supports your view. Science demands that all evidence be considered, and the weight that any one finding carries depends on the peer review and repeatability of the findings.

In the case of GMO, the vast majority of scientifically sound studies have shown that they are quite safe. All major scientific and governmental organizations around the world have come to the same conclusion. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions. So you can be assured that studies will continue for quite some time.

The argument for the environment is different, in that the biggest issue is not the GMOs, but the possibility that they promote poor agricultural practices, such as over use of herbicides. This is a legitimate concern. However, poor agricultural practices are not unique to GMO crops. In reality, GMO crops, in some cases, promote better practice. So this is not a compelling reason to label either.

But, if the majority of the public wants labeling, fine. But understand I-522 won't accomplish it. It's the wrong approach.

Many GMO-free products are labeled as such, and if you want to purposefully seek them out, that is your choice. USDA Organic also must be GMO free, and there is lots of that available.
Posted by VBD on February 28, 2013 at 11:23 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 30
This was a very good article.

However, it is true that organic foods have half or less of the pesticide compounds in them that GMO crops do, and as a result are more likely to be better for women and children.

Men are not that efficient, so for them, not as much.
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 28, 2013 at 11:36 AM · Report this
Arsenic7 31
Conventional crops are not necessarily GMO crops, Will.
Posted by Arsenic7 on February 28, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
tell her what you think:

Telephone: (530) 752-8237
Fax: (530) 752-4125
Posted by fgonbi on February 28, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 33

At this point, they pretty much are, particularly if you're talking about staple crops like wheat, corn, and soy.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 28, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
If GMOs aren't evil, then there shouldn't be an argument about labeling. Just label the shit.
Posted by treehugger on February 28, 2013 at 1:40 PM · Report this
raku 35
The largest problem with GMO's is that they are, by definition, owned by corporations as intellectual property. If Monsanto creates GMO corn that is 2% cheaper to grow, every farmer has to grow their GMO corn to sell anything, or else go the other route and grow only organic corn. Suddenly, Monsanto or whoever owns the entire corn, soy, or salmon market and lobbies the government for subsidies and loose regulations.

It is not a coincidence that crops (corn, soy, sugar) ends up in everything at Safeway once a company owns the market through GMO.
Posted by raku on February 28, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
The science just doesn't support any argument for total avoidance of GMOs as a category of food. But if you are a consumer who wants to blindly avoid GMOs for some reason anyway, then just buy organic! That label provides you all the information you need. I'm still waiting for a convincing explanation as to why mandatory labeling is superior.
Posted by Morosoph on February 28, 2013 at 1:55 PM · Report this
@34 - "If GMOs aren't evil, then there shouldn't be an argument about labeling. Just label the shit."

Why stop there?

I believe that foods farmed in US states beginning with a vowel could be potentially toxic. There's not a lot of empirical evidence, but who cares? I think the government accommodate my belief and add "RAISED IN A US STATE BEGINNING WITH A VOWEL". If Idaho and Alabama farmers have nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind the extra regulation, right?
Posted by Morosoph on February 28, 2013 at 1:59 PM · Report this
Arsenic7 38
@33, sure but GMO foods do not inherently require more pesticides. In fact, some strains are designed to require less. In fact, I'm willing to bet that the reason GMO foods tend to have more pesticides put on them is because most GMO foods are popular monoculture crops that tend to have pesticides heaped on them anyway.
Posted by Arsenic7 on February 28, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this
Bemusedchicken 39
omg...STOP THE INSANITY. so many fools...all around me! you wonder about the negative effects of gmo's? Those that defend them in this thread have been raised on them...and the posts in this thread prove the food that numbed them into retardation! Just because we can does not mean we should! Wouldn't it be better to just work to make food as NATURAL and HEALTHY as possible? Let's aim higher, people! Heavens to Betsy!
Posted by Bemusedchicken on February 28, 2013 at 2:14 PM · Report this
If you think Monsanto wants to feed the world, help the children, Kumbaya, peace on earth-- you are sorely mistaken. This is a chemical company interested in selling chemicals, at any cost to our health or the environment.

Labeling GMOs is no different than labeling Kosher, and Kosher foods are not more expensive.

New study shows Roundup is more toxic than officially declared, and it causes birth defects:…

Watch "Genetic Roulette" - it's absolutely devastating to the pro-GMO crowd:
Posted by dscreeen on February 28, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
dscreen, your premise is idiotic. If Roundup is excessively toxic, then ban Roundup.

Your solution is like saying the speed limit is dangerously high, so we should label cars.
Posted by VBD on February 28, 2013 at 2:52 PM · Report this
@35, thank you. Or how about the conventional farmer growing near a GMO farm, who gets slapped with thousands of dollars in royalty fees because pollen from the GMO plants blew over into his fields and "infected" his regular plants?
Posted by JenV on February 28, 2013 at 2:57 PM · Report this
@41, fat fucking chance of that happening. Roundup is a Monsanto product and their powerful lobby wouldn't let it get banned even if Roundup bottles were coming alive in the night and eating small children and babies.

I see you just registered today. You sound like a paid shill for a GMO company, to be quite honest.
Posted by JenV on February 28, 2013 at 3:07 PM · Report this
VBD - all your posts are idiotic. You're the one talking about cars and global warming - totally off-topic.

My point is that Monsanto (whom you worship), cannot be trusted. Remember when they said agent orange was safe?

Your scare tactics may have worked on Californians, but Washingtonians are not buying it. All of your points have been debunked:…

It's ironic that you say "If it were to pass, there would be a flood of lawsuits", because Monsanto has been bringing a flood of lawsuits to farmers whose fields have been contaminated by GMOs from nearby farms.

Learn more here - watch "Seeds of Deception" - it's absolutely devastating to big biotech interests, like VBD:…
Posted by dscreeen on February 28, 2013 at 3:16 PM · Report this
@40 - Kosher labeling is done VOLUNTARILY. Companies choose to have their food certified "kosher" to cater to a specific demographic; they aren't required to under penalty of law.

And guess what? There's already an analogous voluntary means for companies to label their products GMO-free in the same way: organic certification. The mandatory "Contains GMOs" label this bill proposes, by contrast, makes all taxpayers pay for its enforcement.

Don't like GMOs? Then you're excessively paranoid, as far as I'm concerned, but that's totally your business. Just buy organic, and don't make me pay to support your unsubstantiated fears.
Posted by Morosoph on February 28, 2013 at 3:19 PM · Report this
@45 - why did Monsanto support labeling in the European Union in 1999, but now it vehemently opposes labeling in the states, so much so that it spent more than $4 million to defeat Prop. 37 in Cali?
Here's an image from a Monsanto PR campaign:…

I know why - because since then, numerous safety studies have been published linking biotechnology to organ damage, reproductive problems, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. And once the GMOs were labeled in the EU, people stopped buying them.

It seems Monsanto is losing faith in its own product. Why all the deception? Shouldn't Monsanto want to label its proud, patented product?
Posted by dscreeen on February 28, 2013 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Here's my anecdata: my sister tried to go vegan (she's been a vegetarian for about a thousand years) once, but found out she's allergic to soy milk. Soy products had never been a problem before, so it seemed weird. Come to find out a few years later, the soy milk was made from GMO soybeans that incorporated Brazil nut genes, which she is allergic to.

Or maybe I'm misremembering the story, or she was, or it doesn't matter anyway because it's an anecdote. At any rate, it changed my stance from "Who cares?" to "I'm personally not going to freak out about GMO in my food, but it does make sense to label it." It does suck that inevitably, people will overreact to it, but hey, them's the breaks.
Posted by Ben on February 28, 2013 at 4:37 PM · Report this
Arsenic7 48
Monsanto does not own GMO technology. They use it to produce their products.

Genetic modification is a technology and a concept. If you don't like Monsanto don't buy Monsanto products but it has literally no bearing on whether an individual GMO is safe for consumption.
Posted by Arsenic7 on February 28, 2013 at 4:57 PM · Report this
@44, FYI, I hate Monsanto, and would be quite happy to see Roundup banned, and many of the other chemicals they produced eliminated as well.

There is ample evidence that overuse of pesticides and herbicides are bad for the environment.

I'm not against labeling either, as I stated above, provided there is good reason, and the public demands it. So far public opinion is mixed, and the science is very inconclusive. Them's the facts, like it or not.

What I'm against is the ridiculous method I-522 proposes that stipulates labeling should be regulated at the retail level. It WOULD lead to law suits, since retail stores cannot control the contents of food packaging, or verify the accuracy or the labels.
Posted by VBD on February 28, 2013 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Eastpike 50
Here's required reading for anyone claiming GM corn is bad for you. Just gather information for the sake of being enlightened.…
Posted by Eastpike on February 28, 2013 at 5:45 PM · Report this
There is a big difference between hybridization or selective breeding to create food and the injection of pesticide producing bacteria genes or other plant or animal species into a 'food'. Monsanto is the same company that produced Agent Orange - come on! And Dow Chemical wants to create a crop resistant to Agent Orange...really? Any business whose aim is to increases the use of pesticides/herbicides/fungicides or who aggressively hunts and sues farmers for seed migration or is trying to own/patent natural resources or whose former employees are in top governmental positions with the FDA should not be in charge of the food I eat. You can't trust them with your health!!!!
Posted by BellaF on February 28, 2013 at 8:00 PM · Report this
Prop 37 Loses, Scientists Cheer:…
Posted by exlucjja on February 28, 2013 at 8:42 PM · Report this
@51 If that's how you feel, then go after Monsanto. I-522 does not in any way harm Monsanto. It harms retailers.

READ THE DAMN INITIATIVE!! Let me help you out. The rules start in NEW SECTION 3, about 2/3 of the way down. It clearly states the rule applies to food "offered for retail sale", NOT produced/manufactured/packaged/wholesale:
Posted by VBD on February 28, 2013 at 9:48 PM · Report this
David Trujillo 54
Alright, lemme lay out the broad picture for everyone, nice and simply.

Money for scientific research comes from two sources: corporations or government. In recent times, governments (or their subsidiary branches, universities) have been strapped for cash, so much scientific research has come from corporations - or a lot of the times, corporations have funded research within universities. Research design is extremely easy to manipulate so that the average person feels that an outcome is meaningful when in fact it is not. Thus, you get research, like a few months ago, saying that organics and conventionally grown crops have similar levels of macronutrients, and this "upsets the debate" and people start thinking that this research has discovered some new knowledge. However, the macronutrient insight is obvious, and pro-organic advocates have never suggested anything to the contrary; a more honest exploration of the major questions in the organic vs. conventional debate would take on the issue of micronutrients, which are fundamental to questions of health but a bit more subtle and difficult to communicate to the average observer. (It's a cut-and-dry win for organics in that area.)

Whenever scientific research touches any industry, corporate bias becomes a problem. Therefore, you get the current situation where, for example, in healthcare, drug research funded by a pharmaceutical corporation with a vested interest in the drug has a four times greater probability of producing a favorable outcome for the drug than research funded by a more disinterested source. And if you think research that comes out of the government is pristine, consider this, which should resonate with your liberal values: Republicans have been in control of the executive branch for most of the last 30 years, and the regulatory branches of the government are under the executive branch's purview. Reagan led a campaign against the FDA and cut its funding like wild; additionally, its directors, as well as those of the FDA, EPA, and USDA, and whatever other regulatory agency you can think of, have often been politicians and not scientists. And although these regulatory agencies typically are created because of public pressure, the public quickly forgets about whatever issue they had been concerned about and the agency starts being aggressively lobbied by the industry groups they are regulating, so much so that they often eventually succumb to "capture" by industry, as we say - thus you have the current case, where the second-in-command at the FDA, Michael Taylor, was a former lobbyist for Monsanto, the powerful principal pioneer in the GM movement. If you think that doesn't impact the FDA's priorities, its research, and its rulings, then you are fooling yourself. The fact is, much research is a deliberately misleading sham. If you want to better understand this issue, read the book "Trust Us, We're Experts." You can find it on amazon.

There is lots of research saying that GMOs are safe, and research saying that they're not. But given that money runs things in this country, which side do you trust? Tell me, how many lobbyists do you think the organic, non-GMO farming industry has to every lobbyist of a giant GMO-pushing agribiz like Monsanto? If you don't understand the state of today's politics, there's no way you can understand the state of today's science.
Posted by David Trujillo on February 28, 2013 at 10:19 PM · Report this
Sandiai 55
@47, your anecdote is supported by a study. In the New England Journal of Medicine, no less:…
Posted by Sandiai on February 28, 2013 at 11:45 PM · Report this
@11, you don't exactly help your credibility when you say ignorant things like "agent orange or napalm as it used to be called".

Agent Orange is a defoliant that was used in Vietnam in an attempt to make it so enemy troops couldn't disappear into the jungle. Napalm is essentially jellied gasoline that was dropped in bombs because it's one of the most horrifying ways imaginable to kill other human beings. They are NOT the same thing.
Posted by Rip City Hustle on March 1, 2013 at 12:02 AM · Report this
Arsenic7 57
@54, your argument over the science seems to be completely political and not based on the technology itself.

However, the example Ben gave is a real thing and does demonstrate one of the potential dangers both of inadequate forethought and labeling.
Posted by Arsenic7 on March 1, 2013 at 7:15 AM · Report this
"The example ben gave is a real thing."

It's not. It's a made up example loosely based on a real thing that happened once in the 80s and no longer applies to modern GM foods.
Posted by GermanSausage on March 1, 2013 at 3:25 PM · Report this
Eastpike 59
I pretty much like what you've said, until "There is lots of research saying that GMOs are safe, and research saying that they're not." What studies have concluded that GM food is not safe? My understanding is that there are no studies (that have not been shredded by the scientific community) that say this conclusively.
Posted by Eastpike on March 1, 2013 at 4:28 PM · Report this
I demand we label the air so we can know how much oxygen it contains.
Posted by Unbrainwashed on March 2, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
David Trujillo 61
@59 Eastpike, the vast majority of research says GMOs are safe. It's also the case that there is almost no research that was not funded by bioag corporations, and this is largely because of intellectual property laws that prohibit the purchase of GM crops for the purpose of research. Also, as mentioned before, Monsanto and other GM-pushers have dug into US regulatory agencies, and the consequence is that you have leaked memos in which subordinates in the FDA have had their research findings suppressed by superiors. Also, as the article below mentions almost all GM experts have industry ties. There is no scientific consensus, there has been a very thorough and intentional muddying of the waters in order to support the use of GMs around the world.
Posted by David Trujillo on March 2, 2013 at 5:47 PM · Report this

"Monsanto does not own GMO technology. They use it to produce their products."

Wrong, dude! They can make a slight genetic modification to an heirloom species of rice (as they have done in India), file a patent on it, and then sue any farmers that might have possibly cross-bred with it through airborne pollination, if they try to save their seed:…
Posted by SangreDeTierra on March 2, 2013 at 8:09 PM · Report this
We're getting distracted from the real issue: the patents granted Monsanto and other huge corporations that allow them to monopolize and profit from life itself. When GMO soy is seeded near non-GMO soy, inevitably there is cross fertilization. When that happens, there is one less non-GMO food source refined primarily by nature, and I trust nature's tinkering over corporate short term profit motivated engineering every time. As proof of that greed, Monsanto will now sue the previously non-GMO farmer if s/he tries to harvest the seed for the next season from the crop now cross fertilized (polluted) with Monsanto’s "genes" and s/he is inevitably forced to purchase seeds from Monsanto or some other Big Agricorp. Bio-diversity or the lack of it should be addressed in a different forum than labeling, because a label won't do much more than tell us what we already know: our food source is controlled by huge greedy corporations. It's this monopoly that's the real threat. You can thank Clarence Thomas and the Supremes for that. We’ve been suckered in to paying for water in a bottle that’s the same and near free coming out the tap. Next some corporation will spray the air with some altered Oxygen atom and we’ll all pay to breathe. Wait, they’re already doing that with industrial pollution. Heck, we’re free falling off the cliff!
Posted by BigEyes on March 3, 2013 at 8:42 AM · Report this
David Trujillo 65
@64 hear, hear. You all should watch a documentary called "The World According to Monsanto."
Posted by David Trujillo on March 3, 2013 at 1:16 PM · Report this
@64, no the real issue is whether I-522 would do anything to influence Monsanto at all. There is no way to enforce rules for labeling outside the state. Monsanto is not a Washington based company. Therefore,the only people who's way of doing business will be affected is grocery stores in Washington.

What a waste.
Posted by VBD on March 3, 2013 at 1:42 PM · Report this
@63: could you provide a better reference for your claim? That link just sent me to a general news site. Generally these type of claims are appalling exaggerated - e.g. "poor" Percy Schmeiser who deliberately and knowingly planted Roundup Ready Canola and (surprise!) got sued is still parting fools from their money on the anti-GM speaking circuit.

@48 is right - Monsanto is ONE organization that used GM technology (for fairly dubious purposes). Opposing GM because of the way Monsanto uses it is akin to opposing screwdrivers because they are used by weapons manufacturers. There are plenty of government research organizations investigating other uses of the GM tool - ones that would more directly benefit the consumer. Unfortunately many of these trials are being destroyed by narrow-minded activists who make the logical fallacy that GM = Monsanto.
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on March 4, 2013 at 9:05 AM · Report this
I'll vote for GMO labelling of food (YOUR Constitution probably requires it).Inadequate labelling as a type of false advertising,anybody?(Pfft!!!)
Posted by 5th Columnist on March 4, 2013 at 4:14 PM · Report this
This is such a sad affair to me.
That this country, our great Big America would allow this to happen to it's citizens. This isn't about nature, the land & water. This isn't about the health of millions and millions upon millions of people. It's not about the fauna, too innumerable to list. THIS, (I'M SHOUTING) IS ABOUT MONEY!!!!!! Money, and all that it seemingly buys.
If there were more WOMEN involved in Big Business I really believe that these decisions would be more carefully thought out. Women bear our children, they nurture and nurse and support their children teaching them simple ways to use the land. (OK, that's a bit sappy, but you get the drift)
Money vs. life living.
Money wins by a tainted landslide.
Posted by Immasosad on March 5, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Why not spend the money, which would be wasted on labels, and make food even more unaffordable for the poor ,on mandatory biology classes for everyone so that the BS that the uneducated keep spouting goes away.
Posted by Education is Powerful on March 6, 2013 at 6:40 AM · Report this
Kenya, a nation with one of the highest hunger indexes in the world has banned GMO's. This December Peru followed suit. The move to genetically tinker with salmon for higher yield and disease resistance can be considered in the overall controversy over GMO's. from Australia, addresses through decades of research the issue of the lies over crop yields, sustainability and environmental damage, as well as the dangers to democracy and biodiversity. I I would recommend the video The World According to Monsanto for a close look at how Monsanto is trying to gain a monopoly on the world's food and arable land, if you haven't seen it, it's full of plenty of insider testimony from respected and credible sources.

More than a billion people on the globe go hungry every day -but biotechnology's claims to be able to fix it -are false. According to hundreds of scientists, it is not only not likely to fix it, it is likely to make it worse. In short, its mostly a sales pitch.

The controversy rages not so much around science, but global democracy and global biodiversity, and the lies big Biotechnological corporations are spreading about these GMOs increasing crop yield.

The movement is global, strong and growing, and with continued consumer and democratic education will likely be one of the largest global wins against corporate monopoly of our basic resources and against corporate steamrolling of the democratic process globally.
CJ Wold
Posted by CJ Wold on March 7, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
Why would Kenya, which has one of the globes highest hunger indexes and Peru both as nations ban GMOs? As it turns out, for very good reasons.

The move to genetically tinker with salmon for higher yield and disease resistance can be considered in the overall controversy over GMO's. from Australia,addresses through decades of scientific and cultural research the issue of the lies over crop yields, sustainability and environmental damage, as well as the dangers to democracy and biodiversity.

I recommend the video The World According to Monsanto for a close look at how Monsanto is trying to gain a monopoly on the world's food and arable land, if you haven't heard of it it full of plenty of insider testimony from respected and credible sources.

More than a billion people on the globe go hungry every day -but biotechnology's claims to be able to fix it -are false. According to hundreds of scientists, it is not only not likely to fix it, it is likely to make it worse. In short, its mostly a sales pitch.

Posted by CJ Wold on March 7, 2013 at 12:24 PM · Report this
hexalm 73
Would just like to point out that the vast majority of Monsanto's lawsuits against farmers were against farmers who intentionally reserved seeds from GM strains, rather than those who 'accidentally' grew the crops in question via contamination or the like. It was a few months ago when I was looking into this, but I believe I found that they'd filed around 100 such lawsuits in the US. I can't remember exactly right now, but it was either only 11 that found for Monsanto in the end, or only 11 that involved accidental contamination.

Either way, the actual impact on honest farmers seems relatively small, and it's almost entirely driven by farmers not honoring their agreements when they purchase GM crops (it's a bizarre situation, but I don't have much sympathy when people go back on their word, even against a more or less classically 'evil' chemical company like Monsanto).

Contamination by GM crops is a real issue, but generally has a limited distance, beyond which it drops to nil (I did find a study about this before, it seemed to be one of the first such studies, as the issue of contamination wasn't something that seemed like a priority in monoculture land, I suppose). I don't think I was able to find info on the alleged cases of GM crops eliminating heirloom crops via contamination/hybridization; I'd be shocked if that was true and it wasn't just a case of strangling the market into that sort of situation (reminiscent of cases where the IMF and such have mandated that nations receiving their funds must use GM high yield crops, only for drought or the like to cause them to fail).
Posted by hexalm on March 10, 2013 at 7:32 PM · Report this
Eastpike 74
In case anyone is still lurking, and wants to know which of the world's leading scientific bodies has something to say about GMOs (hint: the quacks are wrong): World Health Organization…

The American Medical Association…

The National Academies………

Science Advisor to the European Union

The Science Advisory Committee for the Indian Government…

American Association for the Advancement of Science…

Scientific American Magazine…

Discovery Magazine…

The Center for Science in the Public Interest…


The Belfar Center for Science and International Affairs…

The International Food Policy Research Institute…

“Genes in Your Food” Review by Richard Lewontin, New York Review of Books…

Quest: Exploring the Science of Sustainability…
Posted by Eastpike on May 27, 2013 at 11:02 AM · Report this
@Griffin. Perhaps you are joking, but you should find out more about how genetic engineering is executed. This is NOT hybidiaztion, this is breaking the species barrier which exists in nature and inserting dna of say , a pig into an orange or a walrus into a pear. I have never heard of a pig getting it on with an orange and the thought that they do this in a lab then pass it off as "food" is very unpalatable. Just because they discovered they CAN do this, does not meant they SHOULD. It is a very unnecessary and irresponsible way to grow our food,. Scientists around the world are finding many reasons to not use this in our agriculture system. Food grown using technologies that include regenerative, biodynamic practices are far more likely to succeed since they follow the rules of the natural world. There are many new synthetic biology practices that have me thinking hard and the outcome is never good in my mind. But don't rely on me! There are real independent scientists out there that agree with me, the ones who have not gone to dark side, but instead follow the precautionary principle which are the guidelines the rest of the world follows. In the USA, our government, our schools and our food is being corporatized and that means corruption, greed and disregard for the public well being and safety.
Posted by maria Concilio on October 22, 2013 at 5:51 AM · Report this
Let's see, the general population of the USA is over 90% against Monsanto, Seattle tends to be far more anti-corporate than the country as a whole, and The Stranger caters to a far more anti-corporate segment than the general population in the city.

Yet look at all the comments "debunking" the legitimate concerns of people who want a say in whether their food money is going to fund the replacement of nature with lab experiments.

Has anyone found it odd that the percentage of Monsanto cheerleaders in here far exceeds their demographic numbers in our fair city?

Well, it isn't all that odd. It is nothing new for corporations to hire shills that hide their paid shill status for obvious reasons.

Hello whores. Take your disingenuous arguments and shove them up your Frankenasses.
Posted by everythingunoiswrong on November 19, 2013 at 8:07 PM · Report this

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