June 19, 2018
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Let’s avoid Monsanto, identify products with GMOs

By Kenneth Horn, Special to the BDN

A bill to require food producers to label products containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is being offered in the Maine Legislature. This bill, LD 718, has far-reaching implications for making our food supply safe.

Many of us check the labels on the foods we buy because we want to know what is in them. We make choices based on the presence of high fructose corn syrup, level of salt, caloric content and the percent of fiber. So why wouldn’t we want to know if our food contains GMO?

Agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto produces GMO seeds for GMO crops, and they do not want you to know you are consuming them. In order to patent their GMO seeds, they have to show that the product is totally unique — so different from anything else on the market that it deserves the protection of the patent process. When it comes to telling the consumer about the presence of GMO in our foods, however, they rear back and say they don’t have to do that because GMOs are no different than non-GMOs.

So which is it?

This GMO process is not hybridization by way of an exchange of pollen. This is a process by which two different species are combined at the molecular level. The outcome of this gene splicing is unknown. There is no scientific proof that, in the long run, this is a safe process.

Let’s consider the Bt sweet corn GMO. This sweet corn has the genes of bacillus thuringiensis, made a part of its DNA makeup by laboratory manipulation. Bt is a bacteria that will kill some kinds of worms that prey on corn. (It will also kill good insects.) The Bt genes become part of the entire plant, including the seeds that you eat as corn on the cob.

In order for people to plant Bt corn in Maine, they must meet the approval of and be certified by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control. They can then sell you the product, corn on the cob, which contains the Bt gene. Do you knowingly want to consume this insecticide?

Let’s say you like the corn, and you save an ear to use those seeds in your backyard garden. Saving seed is a time-honored method farmers around the world have used.

Here are the problems: You have to be certified by the board to plant the corn; and Monsanto will sue you out of existence for stealing its GMO product.

Monsanto has sued honest, hard-working farmers out of existence simply because those farmers’ non-GMO crops have been contaminated by pollen from nearby GMO crops. Who is actually at fault here?

Here in Maine, there are many organic farmers who fear they may lose their livelihood because they can’t keep GMO pollen away from their crops.

Does that sound like GMOs and non-GMOs are the same?

That’s just one aspect. Consider that GMOs cross pollinate and that GMOs increase herbicide use. Thanks to cross pollination involving weeds, the weeds are developing a tolerance for herbicides and thus require more and more herbicide application.

Our government isn’t very helpful. The Food and Drug Administration official in charge of GMO policy was Michael Taylor who was Monsanto’s former attorney and later its vice president. Politics and profits are forming our food supply more than concerns about food and environmental safety.

Remember, the FDA and companies like Monsanto told us that Agent Orange, the coolant polychlorinated biphenyl ( PCBs) and the insecticide DDT were safe. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are many examples from responsible scientific organizations that point out more and more problems arising from the use of GMO foods. These problems are the reason many countries have outright bans on GMO products, thus putting the safety of their citizens and their environment ahead of the profits of the seed companies.

If we know that a food contains GMO, we can choose to avoid that product. By avoiding GMOs we can contribute to a growing consumer rejection of these products and help to force them out of our food supply.

Let your state legislators know that you support LD 718. Know where your food comes from. Support your local farmers.

Kenneth Horn, of Hermon, is a retired commercial pilot and Vietnam-era veteran.

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