Anti-GMO advocates say labeling legislation isn’t enough

Posted at 6:01 PM, Nov 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-21 22:38:10-05

WEST MICHIGAN -- For many Americans, a healthy lifestyle means eating organic, but recent health trends include cutting out genetically modified foods. That health trend has become so common that laws have been passed recently about disclaimers on food labels, but some groups don't think these labels tell the whole story.

Friends Betsey Boss and Shannon Andrus are embracing a new and unique lifestyle.

"I really wanted to raise my son knowing exactly where food was coming from, even though he was still little," said Betsey Boss. "I just wanted to have that ingrained when he was growing up."

Boss refuses to buy foods for her family or herself that don't have a label signaling that it's organic and GMO-free.

GMO, or genetically modified foods, are being researched right here in Michigan. Experts say it's a process that allows crops to adapt and grow in harsh environments. Brad Day, a researcher at Michigan State University says those environments or stresses might be an extreme climate where plants normally do not grow or in some cases, an environment that uses less pesticides.

"This really allows us to protect food as we know it," said Day. "It allows us to protect food in the face of a changing climate and the face of pathogens, or pests, insect pests that are adapting to climate change and therefore becoming more of a problem to our food supply."

But it doesn't come without controversy. Despite research that GMOs don't harm humans, many groups speculate they actually do.

"They can cause infertility problems, they can cause organ damage, they can cause immunity issues, gut issues, a lot of different things," said Boss.

"Are we going to sit back and allow this to take place?" said Dr. Paul Keck. "We are poisoning ourselves and our children and grandchildren."

Dr. Paul Keck is a retired dentist, but he has dedicated the past few years to anti-GMO research and shares a similar opinion with people like Betsey Boss and Shannon Andrus.

"It's unethical to test on humans, but everyone is being tested on," said Shannon Andrus.

Researchers say they shouldn't fear the GMO movement stating GMOs are helping to feed the world's rapidly-growing population in an ever-changing environment.

"There's one study published about three or four years ago in the American Academy for Environmental Medicine that fed lab mice 7,000 times the daily allowance using genetically modified organisms and saw no impact on these animals' health," said Day.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow has pushed for federal oversight. Food companies that make over $1 million now must put either a code on their labels that links you to more information, a website link, or a phone number to get further nutritional information. Anti-GMO advocates say it's not enough.

"We should be trying to make things easier for the person that shops," said Dr. Keck. "To expect anybody that does the shopping to use their smartphone on every single product that they are intending to purchase in a store is absolutely discriminatory and as usual, the people that suffer the most are the poor."

"I still feel like we are left in the dark," said Boss. "The reason being is you have to have a smart phone to use this technology and you have to go and scan a certain food item and the company will then give an explanation."

You won't see these federal changes overnight. Companies have two years to finalize regulations for disclosure, but some companies like Campbell's Soup and General Mills are including this information on their labels already. Certain stores are also making the information readily available for consumers.

"Some of the major chain grocery stores have made the change and are definitely catering to people who are looking for a clean eating food system," said Boss. "Meijer and Harvest Health are terrific at meeting customer demands."

"Whole Foods is actually going to start labeling the foods, the products themselves, everything," said Andrus.

It's a movement with a lot of support. A recent Harris Poll found 75 percent of Americans support labeling legislation.

"There are no long-term human studies done and I don't want my child to be a science experiment, said Boss. "That's why I'm so passionate about my food system today."

This is a very hot topic, especially in Michigan, where we grow 300 different crops and help feed people all over the world. Brad Day invites anyone who might be interested in learning more about GMO research happening in the state to check out the labs at Michigan State University.