A recent New York Times poll found 93 percent of Americans want GMO food labeled, yet in most places in the U.S., there is no requirement for companies to do so.

A recent New York Times poll found 93 percent of Americans want GMO food labeled, yet in most places in the U.S., there is no requirement for companies to do so.
Local resident Monica Boyce, and the group, Be the change you wish to see in the world, are staunch advocates for a policy change requiring food labeling.
In this Q5, Boyce discusses the issue.

1. Monica, what are genetically modified foods, or GMOs, and can you give us a brief explanation of how they came about? What are concerns among consumers that have motivated the push for labeling?

"A GMO is a genetically modified organism, meaning to manipulate the genetic composition of an organism by adding specific genes from other sources, such as bacteria, viruses and/or other plants and animals. Genes from DNA contain information of character traits. Also, injecting every single gene with weed and bug killer, Round Up, which has been linked to many dangerous after-effects. These combinations do not occur naturally in our world. In fact, most people believe that what they are doing in the labs happens naturally and all they are doing is speeding up the process. That is a misconception.
"The thought process behind GMOs originated in the 1900s, though the 'modern genetic engineering' didn't actually come about until the 1950s, when James Watson and Francis Crick published their discovery of 3D double helix-DNA. That eventually led to splicing genes. In 1986, the first genetically modified plant was born, a tobacco plant. In 1992, it was the tomato plant, which was brought to a halt because the conventional tomato actually did better than the GMO tomato.
“That same year, the FDA concluded GMOs were inherently safe, forgoing any safety precautions and requirements, all done without proper testing. In 1997, Europe demanded labeling of GMO yet the U.S. is making it almost impossible to do so, making the people they are supposed to serve jump through hoops. Only recently, in the 2000s, has GMO food been released to the masses, still without proper testing."

2. About 60 countries have legal requirements to label GMO food, yet in the U.S., only Maine and Connecticut have approved labeling, but have not yet implemented it. Why has labeling not been an issue for most Americans?
"One concern that many people have is if what's inside the plants kills the weed and bugs, then it also enters our own bodies when consumed. In fact, they have found the Bt toxin in breast milk and fetuses. The fact that the Round Up is having to be sprayed at much higher doses than was needed prior to GMO, the weeds and bugs are adapting to the poisons and have needed even more spraying, which we consume. Another issue is the lack of proper testing: 90-day studies are not enough time to see what will lay in our future generations, and the obvious double standard given over to Monsanto's testing.
"The only tests approved were done by the very companies who will benefit from GMOs. No independent studies have been given a chance. That in itself should be cause for concern. The lack of transparency. If GMOs aren't so bad, then why can't we have labeling? Why are they fighting us so hard? Why is it so difficult?
"Europe is demanding labeling and Monsanto is cooperating. Why isn't the U.S? We the people have the right to know, a basic human right to know what we are consuming. Polls have indicated that over 80 percent of people, when asked if they would like to know if their food has been genetically altered, have said yes. Why aren't our representatives responding? The fact that America has thousands of patents on GMOs and roughly 100 million acres of GMO crops, the U.S. would have much to lose if we the people chose not to eat the laboratory food. These are just some of the issues American people are concerned with. I hope to see a change. I think if people were given the choice, they would opt out of GM food. I think that is a major concern for the corporations running the country, and the reason we are having to fight tooth and nail to get labeling. This too should be cause for concern."

3. Why have you joined with other people in the Kansas City area to push for labeling GMO food and why do you think companies are resistant to the idea?
"We believe we have a right to know what's in our food. Plain and simple. And since the U.S. is not willing to give us what is our basic human right, we have to band together and create change.
“We the people hold the power, those who serve us are obligated to our concerns and needs. Yet, we are facing too many obstacles, we are being ignored.
"Our representatives are not for us, and we believe they are fighting for the corporations who line their pockets. And, we are not OK with this. Thus, many groups are emerging to fight against such tactics.
“We cannot make informed choices if manufacturers aren't required to tell the American people what is in their products.
"I think the reason companies are reluctant to label is because most people would buy something that hasn't been altered in a lab. That means a loss of profit."

4. What are the main foods that are sold in the U.S. that are genetically modified and do you think most Americans are unaware they are consuming large amounts of these foods?
"Some of the main GMO crops are soybeans, corn, wheat, canola, alfalfa, many squash varieties, cotton seed oil, and salmon has been introduced to grow faster and larger, but it has not yet been released to the public. These are just a few of the larger crops.
"Many of these are in the processed food people eat today. Without mandatory labeling, it is only voluntary now, and we are blind. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Many organizations have taken up the torch, so to speak, and are giving us what we want — information.
“The Non GMO Project is giving the people lists of verified food that has not been GMO-tainted.
“Also, there are apps on your smart phones to identify if the food has been altered, if it is GMO.
“Also, shop organic, or look for the Non GMO Project label."

5. What are the goals of the people in the area that you work with to bring about change?
"The goals for our group, called Be the change you wish to see in the world, which can be found on Facebook, are first and foremost spreading awareness. That is essential to creating change — people first must have knowledge. We want to empower our viewers with the know hows to procure a better, healthier lifestyle for themselves as well as our world.
"We only have one earth, we have a responsibility to her. We have an obligation to our children to fight for a brighter future and to teach them how to keep earth fresh.
“Recycling, composting, gardening, working together to grow and store our own food. We want Kansas to label its foods. We deserve to know what we are eating, what we are giving our families, our children. People want the choice and we must provide that.
"To create this change, we have to contact our legislators — Rep. Melanie Meier at (913) 296-7650 and Sen. Steve Fitzgerald at (913) 296-7357. The state of Kansas does not allow for petitioning, so our only alternative is to contact these people and ask for them to take our right to know seriously. We are posting flyers for our group to help spread that awareness. Also, we want to advocate for a local health food store, one a bit closer than Johnson County or Lawrence."

— Rimsie McConiga