Editor's Note

Mary Sweeten, Editor, Weavers Way Shuttle

Two months in a row, I find I’m interested in the same subject as Norman. I can’t take my eyes off the GMO labeling bill that Congress passed last month. 

I admit I’m not as cranked up about genetically modified crops as some Co-op members, but that’s mainly because other topics often crowd it out of my rage brain. Maybe the conventions got me all cranked up about government and how it works. Anyway, a couple of thoughts: 

  • Never forget that most corn, soy, canola and sugar beets in the United States are GM, and that GM ingredients are found in most processed foods (80 percent, says the Non-GMO Project). No GM seed has been introduced to commerce to save the planet, just to support the herbicide industry. Which does kind of tweak my rage brain.
  • Any labeling at all means Big Food just wasted millions of dollars opposing GMO labels. And why? Because Vermont was actually going through with it. The jig was up. Or is it possible Big Food is finally getting a little sensitive about being called out for a lack of transparency?
  • Opponents portray the law as hardly better than no labeling at all, and they have some points that Norman talks about in his Suggestions column. The concerns I found particularly interesting were raised by the Food and Drug Administration — yes, the government, not the loony left — about the law’s definition of GM food, to wit: “contains genetic material . . . for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

    The FDA notes that there are plenty of GM traits that can be found in nature, such as the larvae-killing protein spliced into so-called Bt crops. (Bacteria invented it, not Monsanto.) The FDA also said that processed food ingredients — including, potentially, refined beet sugar, soybean oil and even high-fructose corn syrup — often no longer contain detectable amounts of the genetically modified gene. Now there’s a loophole you could drive a hopper truck through.

As of this writing, President Obama had not signed the bill. But even when he does, that just starts the clock on the two years the Department of Agriculture has to write regulations on how this law would actually work in practice. 

The real devil in the DARK Act is in those details. Stay tuned.