Health foodies want labels on genetically modified foods

09/21/12 Janelle Irwin
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This month, French researchers said genetically modified corn may have caused tumors in laboratory rats. People concerned about genetically modified foods are launching a campaign for accurate labeling. At an event hosted by Food and Water Watch at a health food store in Tampa Thursday night, 40 people learned how they can persuade elected officials to introduce a law that requires labels on genetically engineered foods.

Kara Kaufman is the Tampa field director for the Let Me Decide Campaign. She said there’s no reason not to let consumers know what they’re eating.

“It’s so simple. The solution is right there. Just like we have nutrition information, caloric information and ingredients on food packaging and labels, we should also have a label that says whether something in that food item or the item itself whether it’s a whole fruit or vegetable, has been genetically engineered.”

One sentence added to labels and stickers that are already on foods people buy in grocery stores is all the group is asking for. That’s important to Jack Slaydon who founded a company called Healthy Heritage Beef Company that sells all organic produce and meets.

“They’ve more or less taken mother nature out of the equation and they’re growing whatever they’re growing at two to four times or greater the growth rate that that product’s intended to grow at. And of course when you do that, everything’s diminished – product quality, food safety, nutritional value.”

Slaydon, a father of two, grew weary of the health choices his children would grow to make in a society where most people don’t think about the products they put into their bodies. According to his research, modified foods can contain cancer-causing toxins and other components that aren’t healthy for adults or children. But he said it doesn’t stop there.

“You’re actually subjecting what’s the natural stuff – plants and animals – you’re subjecting them to extinction and anything that’s not GMO can also have its life form threatened if it’s not a GMO eventually because we’re going to sustain biological pollution is what’s going to occur.”

But growing populations across the United States have left consumers hungry for more and more food. Growing produce and livestock unnaturally is quicker, cheaper and more profitable. But Slaydon said farmers can get the same results without science labs and chemicals.

“Instead of fertilizers or pesticides, we’re letting our free range chicken fertilize the fields for us to grow our greenery that our cows, lambs, sheep, goats are going to be eating.”

Before going green with his food choices, Slayden worked for a major food company. In that roll he saw first hand how smaller, more sustainable farms were shafted by the big guys. He said food companies would be forced to enter into binding contracts,

“That states that they will only use that company’s feed and they do that because the company has genetically modified their feed ingredients with all type of other things as well to enhance the growth way past its normal rate. And so, instead of being more concerned with product quality, food safety and the environment, they’d rather just get their return quicker at the cost of the consumer.”

The group recommends people buy organic food instead, but it is more expensive. Joel Chudnow is a holistic health teacher at Hillsborough Community College. He said paying a few pennies more for naturally grown foods is worth the extra budget.

“Organic foods are your most important investment in your health. It’s not expense when you can save trips to the doctor.”

That cost can be mitigated by growing produce at home. Brian Griffith is a distributor with Tampa Bay Organics and green thumb enthusiast. He explained that a garden can work in just about any space with the right tools and research. It’s all about knowing what, where and when to grow certain fruits and veggies. And he added, even getting rid of pests can be done naturally.

“There are organic solutions that you can spray on the ground around your flower beds or plant beds. There are products on the market which you can Google and find – natural critter control for gardens. I mean, the technology we have is pretty easy.”

Healthy Heritage Beef founder Jack Slaydon said organic produce isn't grown using pesticides.

“Through sustainable farming we can actually help reduce the carbon foot print that large industries have left behind.”

Volunteers with the Let Me Decide campaign are hosting a grass roots awareness event in two weeks where they’ll give voters a chance to hear why they think people need to know if they are buying foods that have been genetically modified. More information is on their website.

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More talk on GE food labeling

We'll be talking with Kara at our next Holistic Happy Hour on Oct. 9 at The Refinery. Come join us!