One of the things I like best about teaching families how to sign with their babies, is that the practice is embraced by a very diverse group of parents, parents who often have varying parenting styles, differing perspectives on life and priorities, different political views, and so on. However, one thing they all have in common is they want the best for their babies. I’ve never used my business as a platform for my own political views but I feel so strongly about one of the initiatives on this November’s ballot and I know it truly effects the well-being of Washington parents, their children and especially their babies, so I feel strongly compelled to speak up and share some startling information.
Initiative 522 (I-522) on this fall’s ballot will determine if Washington is one of the first states in the country to require labeling of genetically modified foods. A similar initiative failed in California last year, but by a margin of just 3%. Similar labeling laws have recently passed in Maine and Connecticut but there are stipulations for enacting those laws, requiring that other states require labeling before their mandates can take effect. Therefore, Washington State could be the catalyst to truly turn the tides for labeling of genetically modified foods on a national level.
A genetically modified organism (GMO), also known as a genetically engineered (GE) organism is the result of a laboratory process in which genes from another species including bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, or humans are forced into the DNA of unrelated plants or animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot and do not occur in nature or in traditional hybridization.
GMOs are now in 80% of America’s package food, including baby formula, and the United Sates requires absolutely no labeling and very limited regulations on genetically modified foods. However, GMOs are banned or strictly regulated in 64 countries including China, Australia, New Zealand, India and much of the European Union. Legions of food safety groups, farmers associations, researchers, medical experts, scientists and environmental groups across the globe have serious concerns about the effects of GMOs and the serious lack of testing and worldwide regulation.
Last May, food safety groups including The Cornucopia Institute – a farm and food policy research group – tried to pressure the three major producers of baby formula to remove all genetically modified ingredients from their baby formulas. None of them did. Those three companies are Similac, Infamil and Gerber Great Starts, which combined make up 90% of the infant formula sold in the U.S. “Based on the body of existing research, nobody should be eating GMO foods, especially not babies,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, Policy Director at Cornucopia. “Until infant formula makers stop using GMO ingredients, hundreds of thousands of newborns, infants and toddlers are unwitting participants in this huge, uncontrolled experiment with the health of the next generation. It’s time for formula makers to stop experimenting with the health of babies who consume their products,” she added. The Cornucopia Institute hasn’t given up their fight to have all genetically modified ingredients removed from baby formulas, and you can sign their petition here.
Sadly, despite ongoing pressure from the public, baby formula companies don’t appear to be making and changes anytime soon, which is why required labeling (at the very least) is so important. Many of the ingredients used in infant formulas, especially soy-based formulas, are made from crops that have been genetically altered to internally produce their own pesticide or have been engineered to be resistant to certain herbicides, so that weed killers that would normally kill or injure the plant can be sprayed more frequently and at higher doses. So not only could your baby’s formula contain genetically engineered ingredients with very limited testing but it could very likely contain ingredients, derived from crops that were sprayed with exceptionally high levels of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. The soy or corn in the formula may be a strain which produces pesticides on its own thanks to DNA splicing and restructuring of the plant – probably not what you had intended for your baby’s formula.
Countless experts around the globe have expressed concerns about GMOs, the excessive amounts of chemicals they require and their potential effects on the environment and our health. Wondering why you’re not hearing much about GMOs in the U.S.? This is largely because the chemical companies producing these seeds, as well as the chemicals they require, are DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Monsanto and they’ve been granted a great deal of control over our nation’s food supply by our government and have also been given all sorts of legal immunity against potential lawsuits and loopholes in existing laws. Additionally, former Monsanto executives hold key positions in the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, and this has been happening since the 1970’s. In some cases, these executives, such as Michael Taylor the current Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has gone from working for Monsanto to working for our government and back to working for Monsanto and then back to our government – for years. With this sort of activity, national experts have found it very hard to educate the public about their concerns around GMOs and suspected links to organ damage, immune deficiencies, tumors, cancer, food allergies, learning disabilities and autism, just to name a few. American scientists speaking out or attempting to conduct research have, in many cases, lost their jobs and research grants. Additionally, the biotech industry has been granted patents and proprietary rights to block third party investigations making testing in this country legally impossible. To date, the testing done on genetically modified seeds in the U.S, which was presented to our government as “proof” of their safety, was a 90 day study conducted and funded by the very companies producing the seeds, not third party researchers.
The most extensive research, a two year study, on GMOs was conducted in France by a researcher at University of Caen in Normandy. Not surprisingly, the media immediately tried to claim the study was flawed. You be the judge. There seems to be mounting evidence that GMOs are hazardous to our health, especially the health of the developing bodies of babies and children. At the very least, more third party testing is needed.
A study in China earlier this year, found that the old adage is true – we are what we eat. Chinese researchers found small pieces of rice ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The type of RNA studied is called microRNA. It has been studied extensively in the past ten years and has been linked to numerous diseases including Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. MicroRNA typically function by turning down or shutting down certain genes. While this study had nothing to do with genetically modified food, it could have implications on that front, demonstrating how GMOs could be influencing human health in unanticipated ways. It doesn’t take much of a leap to see that the study certainly seems to support the current concerns about GMOs and what they’re doing to our bodies. Want more info on this? Check out the article in The Atlantic.
When the dust of the debate settles, if a parent decides they have no qualms about feeding their family food with genetically modified ingredients, at the very least shouldn’t those ingredients be clearly labeled as genetically engineered? The FDA already requires our food to be labeled if it contains artificial ingredients and additives and the nutritional value needs to be clearly displayed on all packaged foods sold in this country, so wouldn’t requiring labeling of GMOs simply be an extension of that already established mandate? If the biotech giants that brought us nerve gas, Agent Orange, Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and assorted other chemical concoctions think their GMO seeds are fabulous enough to patent, then why are they so averse to labeling them so we know we’re buying and consuming?
This November, you have the opportunity to effect a change that could be a catalyst for the rest of the country and the safety of our nation’s food supply, the safety of your family’s food. While GMOs have been banned in dozens of countries across the globe, we’re just fighting for labeling and product transparency to know exactly what our families are eating. I hope you’ll look into the facts as presented by scientists around the globe. A few sites I recommend are listed below.
I hope you won’t fall victim to the misleading and false claims being made in the TV commercials currently running, commercials that were funded with more than $17 million from the the country’s largest food producers and the biotech giants trying to recreate and patent life via GMO seeds. A few of the points from these misleading ads are addressed here.
Finally, if you’re looking for baby formula and baby foods that are GMO-free, check out the following companies: Earth’s Best, Baby’s Only, Plum Organics, Oh Baby, Little Duck Organics and HappyBaby/Happy Family. An informed consumer is a powerful consumer, especially if that consumer is a parent!