As more food companies are opting to go “GMO-free” in response to rising public awareness, Monsanto and the biotech industry can count on their friends in government to help counter the movement.
A paragraph tucked into a new spending bill would give the green light for a government propaganda campaign on behalf of GMO giants.
$3,000,000 shall be used by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, in coordination with the Secretary of Agriculture, for consumer outreach to promote understanding and acceptance of agricultural biotechnology and biotechnology-derived food products and animal feed, including through publication and distribution of science-based educational information on the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian benefits of such biotechnology, food products, and feed.
Regardless of your stance on genetically modified foods, government has no place using taxpayer dollars to convince the public that everything about GMOs is perfectly safe. Monsanto spends millions to get lawmakers in its pocket, and the results are obvious here. The biotech industry has managed to put its own into high-level government positions, such as Obama’s choice of a former Monsanto vice president to run the FDA.
The assumption in the spending bill that GMOs provide “environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian benefits” is not supported by the facts.
The widespread use of genetically modified RoundUp Ready crops has led to a vast increase in the use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in RoundUp) and other herbicides, contrary to industry claims that GMOs would reduce chemical use. These herbicides are a threat to the environment, such as milkweed plants that sustain monarch butterflies.
The practice of GMO monoculture with heavy herbicide and chemical applications is antithetical to environmental health, as it creates a biological desert. The soil is dead, there are no beneficial organisms and there is no thriving microbial community to support plant health. It kills biodiversity, thus reducing environmental quality.
Glyphosate is also a threat to human health. It is a probable carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization, and will be labeled as such in California. While the FDA announced it will begin testing foods for glyphosate, studies are already finding this herbicide to be present in many foods—even organic ones. More than 2.6 billion pounds of glyphosate have been sprayed on U.S. agricultural lands since 1992.
Last year a former GMO scientist revealed how the biotech industry uses junk science to produce misleading risk assessments, which are used by regulators to allow GMO foods on the market. They use purposely flawed, outdated procedures to get the desired results.
Is this the kind of “science-based information” the government wants to give us?
The “humanitarian benefits” of GMOs mentioned in the spending bill likely refer to the idea that GMO crops produce more food. This too is false.
The U.S. government is no stranger to acting as a lobbyist for the biotech industry. In 2013, leaked diplomatic cables revealed that the State Department was busily working to propagandize other countries.
The…WikiLeaks revelations showed that American diplomats had requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in “target countries” in areas like Africa and Latin America, where genetically-modified crops were not yet a mainstay, as well as some European countries that have resisted the controversial agricultural practice.
The biotech industry may have lost its bid to have federal government ban the labeling of GMO foods, but it seeks to use the power of the state in other ways. By exposing the corrupt partnership between federal agencies and corporate titans, we can work to prevent the kind of propaganda campaign that is proposed in the spending bill.