Consumer advocates asking Publix to label GMO foods
Last week we told you about a bill in the Florida legislature to require labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms and about opposition to that legislation. We interviewed Dalyn Houser, a program associate with Florida PIRG who is organizing support for the bill requiring labeling of GMO foods.
"GMOs are genetically modified organisms and these are seeds that grow our food that we eat and they have the DNA of the seed has been altered in some way. So, for instance, you can cross pollinate different fruits. I could inject the genetic makeup of an apple into an orange. But the problem with GMOs is that they have increased pesticide use and about 80% of GMOs have pesticides in them so since GMOs have come about chemicals like Roundup, which is a pesticide, have increased in the environment by about 15 times. Another problem that you get from using GMOs is that the amount of weeds that become present, they're called super weeds, become resistant to the pesticide. So there are almost no weeds and it basically knocks out all labor. When working on this campaign I ran into a seed producer, somebody who makes the seeds and he is pro GMO because it eliminates all labor you have to use on your farm so you don't have these laborers."
You're working on a campaign to have supermarkets label foods that contain genetically modified organisms.
"That's right. PIRG nationally is working on a campaign in the 24 states that we're in to target specific grocery store chains. A lot of people are targeting Safeway and other grocery stores but here in Florida we're targeting Publix because they're the largest chain in Florida, they have a great customer base and people just generally love Publix so we think that if Publix were to start labeling GMOs, such as Whole Foods has done, then other grocery stores would certainly follow. They also have done really well catering to organic customers and have organic food in their stores and generally a good selection of healthy foods. They've started labeling some things already."
Have you had a response from Publix?
"I have not had a response from Publix. I've heard that they're very hard to get a meeting with. I do know that they've been getting a lot of petitions. We have an online petition that you can go check out at FloridaPIRG.org and you sign the petition it goes directly to the CEO of Publix, William Crenshaw's email, asking him to label GMOs."
There's legislation in Tallahassee in the state legislature to label GMO foods. How's that going?
"This bill has been introduced in the House before and it has been squashed so I know that this bill now to label GMO foods which, when I read through it, it pretty much seems that everything is so logical, why would you not label GMOs when around 60 other countries have banned GMOs altogether because they don't know what the risks are of using GMOs. Just the consumer right to know. I have a right to know if I'm consuming GMOs or not. It seems like it's something very straight forward to me. It should be passed but it's always hard to get this passed because of the large chemical corporations and biotech corporations like Monsanto who have all of this money and leverage to lobby and really influence that decision."
You mentioned Monsanto. There's an annual march against Monsanto, I think it's coming up. Does that tie into your campaign?
"It does not but I have been working with the march against Monsanto people and they are very enthusiastic about the campaign. They've been helping me a great deal and their march is on May 24th. Thousands of people get involved in that so it's a very big deal."
What's the next step for your group? Do you have any events coming up?
"Yes, we have two press events coming up. Representative [Michelle] Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who is a cosponsor of the GMO labeling bill in the House will be speaking along with a farmer and a student. GMO Free Florida will be there. And then on Monday in downtown St. Petersburg at the Publix on 3rd Street, 2nd and 3rd Ave we're having another protest rally press event where we'll have a farmer from Healthy Heritage and he works on GMO stuff a lot and a woman from World Movement Change will be there and some other folks who support GMO labeling. It's going to be at 11:00 a.m."
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