Now that California Proposition 37, a measure that would require genetically modified foods to be clearly labelled as such, has been overturned, there is a sea of questions about the future of the anti-GMO movement.
While Prop. 37 certainly increased the awareness of the issue, bringing it to the forefront as millions of voters cast their ballots in California, it may also bring to light some of the current political forces behind the support of GMO foods.
With Obama in the white house for another term, here are five facts to consider concerning his involvement with the issue.
1. During his 2008 campaign, Obama showed signs of understanding the GMO issues, impressing prominent anti-GMO activists. He promised to “let folks know when their food is genetically modified, because Americans have a right to know what they’re buying.” The failure of Prop. 37 highlights his broken promise.
2. Obama approved the appointment of Michael R. Taylor, a former VP of Policy at GMO Giant Monsanto, to the position of Senior Advisor to the FDA commissioner in 2009. In 2010, Taylor was appointed to a newly created FDA position as Deputy Commissioner of Foods (AKA: Food Safety Czar). Taylor was a lobbyist supporting the interests of Monsanto and, as a regulator for FDA policy is considered responsible for the apparent loophole that if genetically modified food is “substantially equivalent” to non GMO food then there is no need to label or safety test it. The regulatory frameworks invoked and perpetuated through Michael Taylor’s leadership have clearly benefited his former client (Monsanto). Dubious ties indeed.
3. During the Spring of 2011, when the world was distracted by the spectacular events of the Arab Spring, Obama put pressure on the US Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of Agriculture to deregulate GMO sugar beet and alfalfa crops in the US. What did this mean for the average American? It means that products including these crops (from coffee sugar to products from Alfalfa-fed animals) will be on dinner tables without the consideration of any scientific assessments of its potential dangers to the environment or to human health. The Obama administration’s role in this complete deregulation of heavily genetically modified crops threatens to undermine the integrity of the entire US agricultural system. The deregulation of GMO alfalfa alone has potentially devastating consequences including the spread of GMO dna via insects and the contamination of the organic beef and dairy sectors.
4. While independent scientific studies consistently prove the health risks of GMOs, including autoimmune disorders and organ tissue damage, Michelle Obama’s “shopping guide” does not reflect concern for such issues. Obama’s shopping guide is part of her “Let’s Move” campaign against obesisty, and is full of tips for healthy eating. Her tips include buying more edamane and popcorn–both of which come from heavily GMO crops. Glaringly absent from her healthy shopping guide is any hint of information about the unproven safety of GMOs as well as the dangers of bovine growth hormone, MSG and aspartame. These glaring omissions cast doubt on the Obama administration’s devotion to government transparency when it comes to food.
5. Major corporations that currently use GMOs would simply go bankrupt if GMOs were outlawed. Corporations spent over $50 million to fight the GMO labeling initiative of Prop 37, which would have been a strong victory for the anti-GMO lobbyists and set the stage for the further dismantling of established GMO empires. The GMO labeling initiative is not a partisan one, and the failure of Prop. 37 has invigorated the discussion about the intersection of science, health, government and corporate interests.