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April 13, 2016

Why GMO’s Don’t Matter but What You Eat Does

by Anne Paddock

The recent defeat of the Senate bill that would have created voluntary national standards for food labeling with genetically modified ingredients would have prevented states (including Vermont, the leader whose food labeling laws go into effect July 1, 2016) from mandating labels on food that contain genetically modified ingredients.

Vermont won which means consumers win because there are more than a dozen states right behind Vermont working on food labeling laws. Instead of making labels just for the food products sold in Vermont (whose inhabitants number less than a million), most food companies have decided to label their food products nationally. Why? Because the handwriting is on the wall. Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food and its only a matter of time before the rest of the states adopt the same or similar laws.

So how will this affect farmers? Well, if you’re a farmer rotating your crops between corn and soybeans, there may not be much change. Why? Because 92% of corn and 94% of soybean crops planted in the US are genetically modified and not primarily used for ingredients in food products.

According to the Agriculture Department, more than 10 billion of the nearly 12 billion bushels (or 83%) of corn grown are used to feed poultry and livestock as well as to make ethanol (for gasoline and for distillers dried grains which are used also as animal feeds), and very few people care if the cheeseburger, grilled chicken breast, pork chop, or turkey thigh was from a cow, chicken, hog, or turkey fed genetically modified crops.

The remaining 17% (less than 2 billion bushels) of corn is used to make consumer food products including high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup,  maltodextrin (another sweetener), food, seed and industrial products according to the Agriculture Department.

Meat will not have to be labeled (and neither does cheese or dairy products) in Vermont because the animal itself was not genetically modified. So the farmers growing GMO corn and soybeans in the US will be minimally impacted. As long as Americans continue their insatiable appetite for animal products, farmers will grow crops to feed animals so we can consume them and the dairy products they produce. Simply stated, there are no incentives for farmers to change because they are feeding a cash cow.canstockphoto12380381

Although Vermont’s law is a step in the right direction as is the defeat of the Senate bill calling for voluntary labeling, the only way the industry will change and stop growing so many GMO crops is if we don’t support the industries that use these products. We speak with our pocketbooks. Don’t support the meat and dairy industries. Instead support the farmers that grow food for humans to eat. It’s better for us, the environment, future generations, and the animals.

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