Reckling: Washington not looking out for our health | AspenTimes.com

Reckling: Washington not looking out for our health

Margaret Reckling
Commentary

"What's for dinner, Mom?"

"Well sweetie, we're having genetically modified organisms with a side of pesticides and a glass of growth hormones!"

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, don't sound too tasty, nor do they resonate with visions of natural health.

Just what are GMOs, and why have the majority of developed countries placed strict regulations and labeling laws on GMO seeds and crops? Last week, French President Francois Hollande boldly placed a moratorium on transgenic maize due to potential adverse effects on traditional agricultural crops.

Human biology and the impact of food on health are complex subjects, but the idea of tinkering with major food supplies and giving free rein to biotechnology corporations to "design" our diets is disturbing. Frankenfoods, riddled with genetic alterations, do not possess the qualities most seek in their nourishment.

In a country that prides itself on amber waves of grain and superior crop production, it's shocking to discover that 90 percent of our soybean crop and more than 80 percent of America's corn are embedded with Monsanto's genetic engineering. But isn't the U.S. Food and Drug Administration monitoring these "advances" in biodiversity and enforcing long-term testing on the effects such experimental foods might have on people? Could the sharp rise in food allergies and resistance to antibiotics indicate what's ahead?

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Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications, stated, "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job."

But the http://www.fda.gov site, under Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties (GMO Policy)," Federal Register, 1992, reads, "Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety."

So who's accountable for the health impacts of science experiments being served at America's dinner table? How did Monsanto, a chemical company that historically produced pesticides and plastics, strategically gain control of our nation's food supply and almost the entire seed supply?

Equally troublesome, how did House Resolution 933 (the Monsanto Protection Act) sail through the House Appropriations Committee in a recent vote? The bill gives biotech companies carte blanche to plant, harvest and sell seeds. It strips the federal courts' ability to halt production and sales if GMOs are determined hazardous.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., has been accused of orchestrating this backroom deal as a favor to Monsanto. She "turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies." Andrew Kimbrell, president of the Center for Food Safety, declared. Across the political aisle, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.,)is said to have conspired actively with Monsanto (based in his home state) to craft the HR 933 biotech rider.

Many congressional members claim that they were unaware of the bill's contents and didn't even read the 78 pages that constitute HR 933. The disappointment not only lies with the repeated failure of Congress to read the bills it is passing but also in broken campaign promises.

Even President Obama's most devout supporters have denounced the ease with which he endorsed the Monsanto Protection Act. On the campaign trail in 2007, Obama assured farmers that, if elected, he would issue an executive order to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Environmentally, "pollen trespass" from GMO fields threatens organic farmers if their crops become tainted.

There are many powerful federal positions now held by former Monsanto directors, lobbyists and attorneys. As far back as the George H.W. Bush presidency, Monsanto's government ties are evident. But it was during the Clinton administration that Monsanto firmly entrenched itself with appointments to federal positions, attributed to the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton's Rose Law Firm was Monsanto's counsel.

Our FDA, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, domestic policy advisers, Congress, Senate and even Supreme Court all include key players from Monsanto. Suffice it to say, Monsanto has done an excellent job of spreading its influence and implanting supporters throughout all facets of our government. As the Monsanto Inhouse Newsletter proudly stated in 2000, "Agricultural biotechnology will find a supporter occupying the White House, regardless of which candidate wins the election."

Monsanto's monopolistic grip on our nation's food supply, government cronyism and its ability to evade antitrust regulations evoke Soylent Green-like creepiness. The Farmer Assurance Provision — a misleading moniker for the Monsanto Protection Act — removes any legal recourse if GMOs prove injurious. Consumers are left to fend for themselves regarding GMOs and their commonplace, yet unidentifiable, presence in our markets.

"Ultimately, this issue (healthy eating) is on us. We're the ones who make the decisions about what our kids eat," Michelle Obama has stated. The first lady is correct, and her campaign for a healthier America is admirable, but how can we be sure what we are providing our children when food contents are not properly labeled and GMOs have not been deemed safe? If we are what we eat, then this is a recipe for disaster.

Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at margreck880@gmail.com.