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[SANET-MG] Why no label for genetically altered wine?
Napa Sentinel (California)
Volume 22, NO. 1272
June 30, 2006
Why no label for genetically altered wine?
by Erica Martenson, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Part Two in a Series
What do genetically modified (GM) foods have to do with democracy?
According to Frances Moore Lappé, author of the book, Hope’s Edge: The
Next Diet for a Small Planet, “Everything.” He wrote, “Think about it:
None of us called for the genetic manipulation of seeds. Not one of us
said, yes, this new technology will benefit me, my family and my
community...No citizens were asked to weigh the risks of GMOs against
possible gains. Yet today most of us are eating them, while kept
completely in the dark as to the hazards we may be facing-- for
ourselves, our children, and the farming ecosystems on which our lives
Not only have the American people been left out of the decision-making
process with respect to genetically engineered foods and beverages, but
also due to a lack of labeling, Americans are eating them on a regular
basis without their knowledge and without their consent. Polls
consistently show that year after year about 90% of Americans want the
federal government to require the labeling of GM foods, so they can
choose whether or not they wish to consume them. Given that statistic,
why hasn’t the U.S. government already mandated the labeling of GM
products, giving American consumers the same right as people in Europe,
Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, and other countries, all of which
have already passed such legislation?
According to Jeffrey M. Smith, author of the best-selling book on
genetically engineered foods called, Seeds of Deception, in one year
alone, the biotech industry spent $142 million lobbying the government.
It’s not surprising the biotech industry has been lobbying so hard to
prevent labeling laws, since surveys show that 57% of Americans would
prefer to avoid GM food, and studies also show that the more people
learn about GM foods, the less they trust them. The labeling of GM foods
in the United States would likely lead to their demise, if what happened
in other countries is any indication.
In countries that have required GM foods to be labeled, lack of consumer
demand has led food manufacturers to remove GM ingredients from their
products and grocery stores to pull GM foods off store shelves. Up to
this point, here in the U.S., the federal government has protected the
biotech industry by not requiring that GM products be labeled, which
gives rise to a few questions: Will the U.S. government continue that
same policy? Or will it reflect the will of 90% of Americans? Are we
still truly a representative democracy and a capitalist society in which
consumer choice and consumer demand drive the economy? We shall soon see…
On May 2nd, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D, Ohio) introduced six bills
into the House of Representatives to regulate genetically modified
organisms (GMOs), which are currently unregulated and unmonitored by the
Food and Drug Administration, even though the agency’s own scientists
have expressed concerns about possible health risks, including potential
allergies, toxins, antibiotic resistance, and nutritional problems. The
six bills are known collectively as the, “Genetically Engineered
One of the bills Kucinich introduced called, “The Genetically Engineered
Food Right to Know Act” (H.R. 5269) would require food manufacturers to
label any products that have been genetically modified and would also
allow companies to market their products as being “GM-Free.” Another
bill named, “The Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act” (H. R. 5268)
would require the Food and Drug Administration to perform safety tests
on genetically altered foods to make sure they are safe for human
consumption, using the same testing standards they utilize to approve
new food additives. In letters to his constituents on this issue,
Representative Mike Thompson states that he believes that genetically
modified foods should be tested for safety and clearly labeled; however,
according to the current Congressional record, he has not yet
co-sponsored either of these bills. These bills can be seen as a litmus
test. How the House of Representatives eventually votes will give
insight into whom they really represent—the American people or a handful
of biotech corporations.
In his remarks to the House of Representatives when introducing the six
bills, Kucinich stated, “These bills will protect our food, environment,
and health. They are a common-sense precaution to ensure genetically
engineered foods do no harm…Current laws, such as our food safety and
environmental laws, were not written with this technology in mind.
Clearer laws are necessary to ensure that these new scientific
capabilities and associated impacts are closely monitored.”
And how do the issues of safety testing and labeling of GM products
relate to the genetically modified wine yeast the Napa Sentinel reported
on last week? In his research article titled, “Genetically Modified Wine
Now Being Sold,” Dr. Joseph Cummins, Genetics Professor at the
University of Western Ontario, commented on the fact that there was no
evidence that the developer of the GM yeast performed any animal feeding
studies to test for toxicity, even though genetically altering wine
yeasts “can lead to unexpected toxicity in the final product.” In
addition, this GM wine yeast has only been approved in North America,
where GMOs are unregulated, and since American wines using it would not
currently be labeled as such, he says, “It is only prudent to avoid all
U.S. wines,” except perhaps those labeled “organic.”
“This is a current crisis. This is about the food we eat. What are we
willing to risk? On what limited information? Are we willing to run
across railroad tracks blindfolded with our children tied to us with a
train coming down the track?” questioned Lowell Downey, Chair of the
Napa County Green Party.
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