Posts Tagged ‘Label GMOs’

Many years ago, I was a marketing manager at a global manufacturer of industrial marking and coding products.  I also spent several years working with a bar code scanning manufacturer who was very involved in providing innovative automatic data capture solutions for a large number of challenging industries – including packaging. In my experiences working in these roles, I learned about how all manner of product was required to be marked or identified in some way.  Our clients needed to mark individual products with expiration dates or best buy codes.  They needed to identify entire lots or batches of products produced.  They not only needed to mark the products, they needed to track them through the manufacturing and distribution process.  Today, even the U.S. government tracks parts and assets used throughout the military with item unique identification codes (IUID) throughout their full life cycle of usage.  Whether for compliance to various regulations or conscientious safety reasons, these identification marks are made on parts and products from glass to metals to pharmaceuticals and even food products.  Today, you only need to look on the bottom of any can of soda to see a small inkjet print providing this identification.  Open your fridge and look at a container of milk or juice – you’ll likely find another inkjet or laser mark providing the product’s expiration date.  These marks are everywhere.  We rely on them to keep us safe.

Close-up view of actual existing identification marks on juice box.

Example identification mark as printed on typical juice box with batch, expiry, country of manufacture, and other information. This article proposes that the food industry could easily add three additional characters to identify various products as “GMO,” for far less than one penny. In fact, a typical industrial small character inkjet printer may print up to 85 million marks per single liter of ink – with one liter of ink priced at only $90 on today’s market. Most food manufacturers and distributors already have this type of equipment in place on their production lines.

Time and time again, pro-GMO food manufacturers present the suggestion that requiring labeling on GMO-containing foods is too cumbersome, expensive, and unproductive.  They suggest there are a great many hardships that must be overcome before the adoption of GMO labeling could be fully implemented – that the cost of food would soar, small producers would be overtaken with burdensome cost, and some retailers may be unable to accommodate mandated regulations.  The real truth to the cost myth associated with labeling GMO foods is that the biotech and food industry have been feeding us lies designed to emotionally impact voting participants.  They know that we are all affected by the fears associated with rising prices or economic hardship.  They know that these lies influence voters and have been effective in defeating both Prop 37 in California and I-522 in Washington in the past two years.

I am here to share some of the truth behind these labeling lies.  I have worked in the identification industry for well over a decade and the most constant thing I’ve learned in this time is that just about every company has a need to produce some kind of identification for tracking every product they manufacture.  The framework for this level of identification is already in place for most manufacturers – especially those within the food industry.  Regulations and industry quality standards require most foods to be tracked by production batch, provide an expiration date, and more, so that safety concerns can be controlled quickly and thoroughly in the event a recall becomes necessary.  Most of these manufacturers, and even many distributors, already possess the identification equipment to make these marks on products and packages within their facilities.

There is absolutely no hardship in requiring such manufacturers or distributors to add three characters to their existing identification mark.  In fact, we’re talking far less than a single penny to produce millions of such markings.  In this industry, our customers often look at a metric defined as the cost per mark.  This takes into account the actual cost of the proportion of ink, or other necessary material, required to produce actual marks on a customer’s packages.  Of course, we also consider the cost of maintenance and other important factors, but remember, these guys already have this type of equipment sitting in their production/distribution facilities, right now.  They don’t have to go and buy a new machine – it’s likely already there and has been printing batch, expiry or best buy date codes for years.  They just need to update the equipment’s existing programs to include three little letters, “G-M-O.”  I asked for estimated “cost per mark” figures from a number of companies on LinkedIn.  I would like to quote one leading manufacturer’s quoted cost per mark metric to ensure you understand how minuscule this labeling cost really is, “85 million marks per liter of ink with one liter of ink approx. $90.”  This cost is projected for small character inkjet marking, however another marking manufacturer suggested laser might be the best method of coding such information because these marks are impossible to tamper with after printing.  Either way a company might chose to go, the cost is not a factor.  Laser doesn’t use ink and the cost of ink to produce three additional characters alongside existing individual product coding is a non-issue!  Take 85 million marks and divide this number by three and you’ll agree we’re talking well under a penny for basic GMO labeling per item.

So how is it that representatives from the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association and big biotech corporations continue to threaten voters with increased cost myths?  How do these distributors or manufacturers suffer from any hardship in adding three additional small characters to their existing coding process?  They only get away with this ruse because most people have no way to know or understand the actual cost of such things.  Why would an individual even care about the story behind the tiny marks on packages they encounter every day?  I didn’t until I entered the identification industry many, many years ago.  Seriously, think about these facts and share this article so that others may also understand the issue of cost is a myth and what’s worse, I believe this is a well known truth throughout the packaging industry by its biggest stakeholders.

These companies don’t need to incur costs redesigning packages or producing fancy new labels.  They don’t even need to provide extensive information, because for most consumers it only matters if a product contains GMO ingredients – not what percentage is present or specifically what ingredients are classified as GMO.  Three little characters printed by existing manufacturing equipment on individual product packages solves the debacle completely and without additional cost.

The real cost is the perception and recognition that these foods may not be “substantially equivalent” as the industry would like us to believe.  Ultimately, they are afraid that more of us will stop buying these products if such a label is enforced and mandated.  If it becomes even easier for us to avoid it because it’s clearly labeled.  If this “hyped up” issue becomes a reality that is spelled out on packages where consumers notice – if it’s mandated by state-level or federal government – then it must not be just a bunch of hullabaloo!

A close family friend once said to me in jest, “Well my kids haven’t started glowing yet, so I’m not really worried about it.”  But, I guarantee that the presence of such labeling would give validation and credibility to growing consumer concern surrounding GMO foods and may give more shoppers, like my good friend, some pause within the store aisles.  These are the REAL truths behind the industry’s myths.  Many corporations have spent millions of dollars repeatedly to keep consumers in the dark – not because the actual labeling process is costly or burdensome, but because it may be the death of their profits and they know it.

Yours truly,

Muckraking Maven

Learn more:

  • Want to understand more basics on the potential hazards of GMO foods?  Read GMO 101 here.
  • Are you coping with food allergies, Celiac, or other health concerns?  Did you know GMOs may be hidden these specialty foods too? Get information here.
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There are still so many people that are completely unaware of the genetically engineered foods all around us.  I wanted to provide a brief overview that may help others to understand the critical need for all of us to examine our family’s nutrition amidst the chaos of daily life.

What is a GMO and why would it be in my food?

A GMO, or genetically mutated organism, is scientifically altered changing the DNA of a plant or animal.  Using genetic engineering, it’s possible for biotech companies to insert genes from various bacteria, viruses, and other resources, forcing them directly into a plant’s DNA.  Once the gene is integrated into the DNA of a plant cell, the cell can be cloned into a complete plant.  Although the biotech industry describes these processes as exact and scientific – the truth is that it’s very primitive and randomized.  Such insertion of genes is often facilitated with the use of a gene gun, literally shooting the desired genes into a plate of cells.  The process is rife with scientific uncertainty and risk.

Today, the most commonly grown GM crops include soy, corn, cotton, and canola.  Processed foods are full of variations of soy and corn ingredients.  If you produce dinner from a packaged box off the grocery store shelf, there’s a high probability that the meal contains GMOs.  If your favorite foods are produced by companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, and Campbell’s then it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re consuming genetically mutated organisms.

So, What’s Wrong with GMOs Anyway?  Didn’t the FDA Approve these Foods?

Let’s travel back in time to the year 1992.  During this time, policy was being written for how the FDA would evaluate and regulate the release of GMO foods.  Scientists at that time had some very powerful concerns and criticisms of policy in development.  In fact, the general consensus among FDA scientists was that consuming these foods may lead to unexpected, difficult to detect side effects; including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and other nutritional concerns.  Scientists at this time urged the agency to force longer-term studies regarding safety.

Here are some quoted concerns from actual FDA documents circulated in the early 90’s:

  • The possibility of unexpected, accidental changes in genetically engineered plants justifies a limited traditional toxicological study.
  • Increased levels of known naturally occurring toxins, appearance of new, not previously identified toxins, increased tendency to gather toxic substances from the environment and undesirable alterations in the levels of nutrients.
  • By trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices, the agency was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
  • There is no certainty that [breeders] will be able to pick up effects that might not be obvious.  This is the industry’s pet idea, namely that there are no unintended effects that will raise the FDA’s level of concern.  But time and time again, there is no data to back up their contention.
  • What has happened to the scientific elements of this document?  Without a sound scientific base to rest on, this becomes a broad, general, ‘What do I have to do to avoid trouble’-type document…It will look like and probably be just a political document…It reads very pro-industry, especially in the area of unintended effects.

The Division of Food Chemistry and Technology recommended that the FDA test every GM food before it enters the marketplace.  They never did any testing.  Instead, they threw the ball back into the biotech company’s court and relied on companies like Monsanto and Dow to prove that such foods were safe.  How did this happen?  Well, it’s easy when the man placed in charge of the FDA, Michael Taylor, was Monsanto’s former attorney and later, their Vice-President.  All FDA conclusions regarding the safety of GMO foods are based on superficial, biased data and manipulated research.

How trustworthy is a company like Monsanto?  Responsible for Agent Orange, hiding PCB pollution, and now Glyphosate (RoundUp) pesticide and genetically engineered foods?  Well, they’re bad enough that two million people from 52 countries in 436 cities marched in protest against them last Saturday, May 25th.  This is the biggest demonstration of protest against a single company in our history!

So, how safe does the FDA policy statement, “The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way,” leave you feeling?  It’s a blatant lie if you examine the concerns brought up by Linda Kahl, Louis Pribyl, Gerald Guest, and other FDA administrative professionals, scientists, and specialists during the development of 1992 policy.  (Would you like more specifics on all the above?  Download the free presentation that’s offered by the Institute for Responsible Technology.  It contains an elaborate and helpful explanation of how our food system enabled GMOs, their potential for harm, and the research that proves a need for extreme caution.)

We truly have a revolving door between the government officials sworn to protect us through various protective agencies (FDA, EPA, USDA, etc.).  A true boycott is the only way we can really generate the consumer tipping point needed to remedy our food supply.

We truly have a revolving door between the government officials sworn to protect us through various protective agencies (FDA, EPA, USDA, etc.). A true boycott is the only way we can really generate the consumer tipping point needed to remedy our food supply.

What’s the Worst thing that Could Happen?

Well, there are a whole range of independent studies that have been performed around the world that correlate many health problems with the consumption of GMO foods.  They have been linked with potential causation to cancers and other auto-immune diseases, food allergies, various G.I. problems, Autism, ADHD, gut dysbiosis, and worse.

Let’s take a closer look at the three major types of genetically engineered crops to understand better, how their “unintended” effects may harm us:

1. Poison drinkers:  RoundUp Ready soy, corn, etc. with genetically engineered herbicide tolerance.  Poison drinker crops are able to withstand increasing amounts of herbicide applications.  However, they’ve left us scratching our heads due to herbicide resistant weeds and numerous health problems – including increased pesticide residue on our foods.

2. Poison producers:  BT Corn and cotton with genetically inserted BT toxin pesticide producers.  These GMO crops are gifted with the ability to produce BT toxin right within every cell of the plant they’re transferred to.  Although the EPA/FDA believe these foods are safe, because they claim it’s impossible for BT toxin to randomly mutate within our digestive tract.  However this assumption is founded on Monsanto’s research.

3. Virus-based:  Yellow squash, zucchini, and Hawaiian Papaya are genetically engineered by inserting target transgenes into a virus, which infiltrates the cells and possesses the potential for random and unexpected mutation.

Did you know that most of the corn grown in the U.S. is GMO BT corn, a poison producer?  This has the BT toxin gene inserted into every cell of a plant – you can’t wash it off – there is no way around consuming it.  It’s even regulated by the EPA!  However, the FDA considers it substantially equivalent to conventional corn.

Studies have proven that BT toxin, which is expected to be destroyed during its travels through the human digestive tract, may instead survive and be detected in human blood – it’s even been detected within the blood of unborn fetuses!  It’s quite possible that it adversely affects human DNA, resulting in a problematic imbalance within the gut that contributes to a wide range of serious conditions or worse.

However, the biotech companies don’t like to present any information that sheds a negative light on their products.  In fact, they often launch misinformation campaigns (like they did in California over Prop. 37), criticize and threaten credible, independent resources (Dr. Arpad Pusztai), and remind the concerned people that the FDA has verified their products as safe for human consumption.  Remember the FDA’s position, “The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”  When these tactics don’t work, biotech lobbyists and game players are not above strong-arm techniques to sway political and legislative influence. (Monsanto Rider in 2013 Ag Bill)  Remember, in this business it’s profits over people…

Pro-GMO critics have been hard at work trying to discredit Seralini's study that proves GMOs may cause serious harm through consumption.

Pro-GMO critics have been hard at work trying to discredit Seralini’s study that proves GMOs may cause serious harm through consumption.

This, my friends, is why I am so compelled to write about this subject.  I feel this betrayal deep within my bones and I want our legislators to do what is right for our world’s health.  How dare they approve untested foods and medicines – and then not even tell us about it!  If my Fairy Godmother popped up and offered me a wish right now, I swear I’d ban GMOs from the entire planet.  Penny for your thoughts on these matters?! Leave me a comment!

How Can We Get Rid of GMOs in our Food Supply?

First, we must become educated on the issue.  Next, we generate increased awareness within our own circles of friendship and boycott GMO containing products and companies that contribute funding to thwart the legislation of labeling initiatives.  We vote for progress with each trip to the supermarket through the choices we make for our family’s dinners.  We make noise about the issue and continue to stay connected to remain aware of important calls to action.  When we band together, we help to create a consumer tipping point that forces profitable food manufacturers to commit to eliminating GMO ingredients throughout their food products.  This momentum, creates a cascading movement for more and more food producers to source non-GMO ingredients to meet our growing consumer demand.  This issue is far too big for our government to remedy alone.  It’s up to us to show them exactly how serious we are about these matters!  Visit Mom’s Across America March to learn how you can get involved with change today!

Learn more about GMOs by browsing these excellent reference sources:

All my best!

Muckraking Maven

The GMO labeling initiative is spreading through our states like wild fire and it gladdens my heart to see support for honest and transparent labeling throughout our country.  This fire is getting to big to simply throw a bit of salt on and I am anxious for the day that the truth is revealed on all labels.  Hell, if I had my wish, I’d want to see exactly every component of anything in the food my family eats – right down to the spelling out of “natural ingredients” and other Trojan horses.

Many people don’t pay much notice to the ingredients listed on foods, however awareness of this issue is catching some attention and more Mothers are scrutinizing food every day.  More individuals are looking behind the veil of advertising to uncover the basic facts of a food product’s ingredients.  If you or one of your children has a food allergy or intolerance, chances are reading the ingredient portion of a label is old hat.

In Washington, I-522 is taking some heat from the NorthWest Food Processors Association.  The scare tactics employed are very familiar having recently gone through the advertising blitz attacking Prop. 37 in California, where I reside.  They’ve already implemented the cost threat, “The cost of compliance will be felt by consumers and will disproportionately impact small- to medium-sized businesses in our region, putting local jobs at risk.”  Oh, I like how they worked the impossible issue of unemployment into this tactic.  Bravo to the PR spinners at Monsanto for this sly twist.

I-522

 

Look, the truth is that cost seems to be one of the hardest issues for many people to get over.  None of us like the threat of spending more on any factor – let alone, when it comes to food – our most basic fuel for human life.  Sadly, I know that it’s hard to overcome the threat of increased cost.  I know, because I feed a hungry five-person army that’s more man-boy-teenager power than dainty rabbits.  If I eat organic I must spend more on food, but I’m going to spend less in other areas because it truly balances out.  We can’t afford to eat healthier, I can barely afford my groceries now.  But you know what, the more of us that switch to organic and GMO free foods, the less costly these items will be.  It’s already happening in my local community.  Now, I can go to my regular supermarket and purchase a growing range of affordable and even diverse organic foods.  I can even find my son’s preferred gluten-free and dairy-free staples there – everything from coconut milk yogurt to lunch meat, breakfast bars, bread, and baking goods.  I even save a few bucks when compared to Whole Foods pricing on several items, so this movement is a positive force!

Since I’ve gone GMO-free I feel much better.  Upon adopting a Paleo diet last Monday, I’ve noticed I feel even better still and I’ve lost twelve pounds to boot.  My carpal tunnel hasn’t been acting up and I don’t feel the stiffness and hurt from arthritis in my hands in the morning.  I feel a little more alert, more energetic in the day.  My nails are even growing – and I haven’t had pretty nails without a professional manicure in over 20+ years!

Here’s the truth as I know it:  Labeling will not raise food prices substantially.  You will not experience massive job loss or hardship as claimed by the Northwest Food Processors Association.  I’m calling BS on that entire statement because it’s not correct or verifiable.  I worked in the packaging industry for over ten years and I know that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to add a simple word to a package label.  In fact, there are nearly a bazillion ways to identify or label nearly any object.  It’s not as hard as they make it out to be, in some cases, it’s simply a revision to a computerized file that prints labels on demand – or even prints the labeling information directly onto a product’s packaging.  Others can simply purchase a label applicator or install an industrial ink-jet printer to quickly and easily add this information for the consumer.  There are continuous inkjet printers that print in a legible and very small text.

Many of today’s successful food producers already have such solutions in place.  It’s simply a matter of revising a message in the device’s program.  For those companies that may wish to make consumers believe that such in-line production equipment is excessively costly, it’s important that you understand that these solutions range in pricing as low as $3000 and as high as $100,000+.  It just depends on the bells and whistles you choose and most food producers already have some form of identification marking system in place for the printing of expiration dates, batch and lot codes, and other required information for food safety.  It’s a ten minute programming revision, that’s all.  This will not jack up the cost of food, plain and simple.  The real problem is that companies like Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Kashi simply don’t want consumers to know that GMOs are present in their foods.  They already know how to make GMO-free versions and are already doing this throughout much of Europe.

Supporters of I-522 stay strong!  Join in the fight and pay a visit to http://www.facebook.com/labelitwa?group_id=0 and give the a Like.  I’m with you and am rooting for all states looking to secure this legislation.  Learn the truth before you make a decision.  Research the issue yourself to understand what lies beneath the hype.

My best regards,

Muckraking Maven