While in Montpelier, Vermont, recently, I spotted an anti-GMO (genetically-modified organism) protest outside City Hall. I thought the small rally was just a local event until I heard about the nationwide effort that brought similar rallies to 20 locations across the U.S. on Saturday, March 26. The rallies were organized by the Organic Consumers Association, a non-profit that seeks to increase the prevalence of organic and sustainable agriculture. Millions Against Monsanto, a subset of the OCA, staged these anti-GMO protests.
So what did these protesters want?
The primary outcry is for labeling of products that contain genetically-engineered crops. USDA standards do not allow for organic products to contain GMOs, but there is no regulation requiring GMO labeling on non-organic items. Protesters at these Rallies for the Right to Know want consumers to be more informed about what ingredients are in the foods they're buying and eating every day.
There have been no significant scientific findings that prove that genetically-modified foods result in negative health effects for humans but many worry that it's too soon to know how GMO consumption will affect us down the road.
Corn, soybeans, and multiple other pervasive crops have been manipulated for higher yields, pesticide resistance, and faster growth. It's estimated that more than 75% of non-organic items purchased at supermarkets contain some sort of GMO.
Monsanto, an enormously powerful agricultural and biotechnology corporation, has produced nearly 90% of all GMO seeds now on the market and in our fields. They are known for controlling this market and committing farmers to buying only their seeds each season. Many of the company's past and present executives hold positions in the USDA, Congress, and the Supreme Court. Millions Against Monsanto is pushing back against Monsanto's unparalleled influence, and not without support from the top.
At the D.C. rally on Saturday, a letter from congressman Dennis Kucinich was read. Kucinich has introduced several anti-GMO bills in Congress, and intends to continue calling for labeling reform at the federal level.
While the science on GMOs is nowhere near conclusive, there is a heated debate about labeling genetically-modified foods. A recent and oft-cited poll on MSNBC.com revealed that 96% of respondents believe that GMOs should be labeled, so that consumers can make an informed choice about what they eat. The rallies this past weekend received little media attention, but this debate is happening even at the highest levels of Congress.
Should we label GMOs on non-organic foods? Would labeling influence your purchasing decisions?
About the author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work is also featured in Rhode Island Monthly magazine.