Tuesday, March 11, 2014

GUEST POST: A Maryland Farmer Makes the Case for Legislation to Require GMO Labeling // By Michael Tabor

MARYLAND JUICE: Activists are urging Maryland lawmakers to pass legislation (SB778 & HB1191) that would require foods from genetically modified organisms (aka GMO's) to be labeled. The push for GMO labeling has been a huge political battle in numerous states and around the world, with public interest advocates taking on well-funded opponents from the ag industry like Monsanto. There are many nuances to the fight, including numerous public health arguments and claims that corporations often sell or license patented GMO seeds to poor farmers who would be better off using traditional methods of seed harvesting & reuse. Today the State Senate is holding a hearing on the GMO labeling bill, and we have a guest post from MoCo farmer Michael Tabor about the effort:
MICHAEL TABOR: Regarding the March 11th hearings on GMO labeling legislation, Marylanders should contact their legislators to support bills SB778 and HB1191.  As a farmer and consumer, I believe we should have the right to know if genetically modified organisms are in our food -- just as we do with the amount of calories, preservatives and food coloring consumers fought to have on food labels.  We're intelligent enough to read, research and choose -- if we have the information; thus the need to have GMO foods labeled.

Regarding the FDA’S role in protection of the public, the FDA does no independent testing of GMOs.  They rely on short term tests conducted by the bio-tech industry! And FDA's Chief of Food Safety, Michael Taylor, has been a Monsanto Vice President. Are these tests and individuals impartial?  You can't blame the public for being skeptical.

On the argument of selective breeding of seeds, I do want the most disease and pest resistant varieties of seeds when I farm.  But, genetic engineering is a hit or miss new and risky process of splicing genes from one species (usually animal) into the DNA of another (vegetable).  This is not "natural" and not what is meant by the age old practice of "selective breeding" within the same species.  GMOs are not an extension of "natural breeding", but rather ultimately meant for company profit because bio-tech companies have received patents on these new life forms.

Monsanto, Syngenta and other bio-tech companies want control of what seeds farmers use.  They have bought up the majority of the smaller seed companies in this country.  The purchase of their GMO seeds mandates the use of their exclusive chemicals such as Roundup (glyphosate) and Atrazine, which have created superweeds that their chemicals can no longer kill.  These chemicals flow into our drinking water.  Syngenta recently lost a $100 million class action suit against many states and municipalities to clean the Atrazine out of the drinking water. Maryland has one of the nation's highest amounts of Atrazine in its drinking water, but for some unknown reason it was not part of the suit and did not receive any money for the cleanup.

The issues of GMO health dangers have raised enough questions that 64 countries, including the European Union, require labeling.  The bio-tech industry cannot prove to them that GM foods are safe. In fact, we, the American public, never had that choice - and in the end we are really the bio-tech industries' guinea pigs. 

I am always saddened by the fact our Governor, our Senate President, and most members of the General Assembly turn to the MD Dept of Agriculture for guidance on these issues. Its head, Buddy Hance, was the former president of the MD Farm Bureau. The farming sector, which represents only 2% of the Maryland GNP, controls public policy when it comes to the health and safety of 98% of its citizenry, the environment, and health of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Farm Bureau, although composed of family farmers like myself, mostly represents the interests of large corporate farming including the multi-billion dollar profits of the biotechnology chemical companies.  They pour millions of dollars into state campaigns against the labeling of GMO foods because they believe it will cut down on company profits.  Our health and well-being are not a concern of theirs.

So, we, the citizens of Maryland, have the right to know, so we can make informed choices, which is the backbone of a democratic society.  We need to pass a GMO labeling law for ourselves, our children and the future.  Call your state delegates and let them know that!

Michael Tabor
Farmer, Consumer and Maryland resident

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