What Does The World Know That America Doesn’t Know When It Comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in our Food Supply?

BY NICK LASKY (Ellwood Thompson’s Food Advocate, Jr.)

What Does The World Know That America Doesn’t Know When It Comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in our Food Supply?

Since President Obama signed legislation dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or the “DARK Act” (U.S. Senate Bill 764), our right as Americans to know what is in our food — especially when it comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) — has become a lot less secure.  On the other hand, this misguided law has brought an increased awareness of how dire a situation we, as Americans, are in when it comes to knowing what’s in our food. To put things into perspective, the DARK Act provides for:

  • No Penalties For Food Manufacturers Who Break the Law.
  • No Recall of Mislabeled Food.
  • Exemptions for refined sugars, oils, starches, refined oil and milled corn (all big sources of GMO).
  • Exemptions for genetic engineering by synthetic biology, CRISPR/cas9, gene editing and gene cassettes.
  • Loopholes that could exclude herbicide tolerant crops and many Bt toxin insecticide producing crops.
  • Allows QR codes, toll free phone numbers or an undetermined symbol to replace simple words on the package.
  • An Undefined Tolerance Threshold for allowable level of GMO contamination.
  • Immediately prevents states from implementing their own state GMO labeling laws.

For those who are unsure of the scientific basis for legitimate public concern about GMO in our food supply, GMO Free USA has a good and well-cited summary of the evidence for such concerns. However, just to be clear,  the Food Advocates at Ellwood Thompson’s believe this issue is also about American’s Right To Know what they are eating and that Americans should be able to make conscious food choices for themselves.

As a result of federal preemption, the DARK Act now prevents states like Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and Connecticut from implementing their own GMO food labeling laws.  As  such, the right of American citizens to know what they are eating has taken several steps backward. That is not the case in other countries.

According to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), currently 64 countries around the world require labeling of genetically modified foods. The CFS has an interactive map indicating those countries.  As such, more countries in the world ban the growth of GMOs than actually allow GMOs to be cultivated in their country.

As you can see from the interactive map, in Europe, many countries have take strong action regarding GMO in the food supply over the past few years.  


Just last year Greece and Latvia jumped on the bandwagon and joined many other European countries by banning the growing of GMO crops.  Now 19 out of the 28 nations in the European Union have officially opted out of allowing the cultivation of genetically modified maize, or MON810, which is the only GMO variety grown in Europe. 

The current list of countries that ban the cultivation of GMOs includes: Algeria, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Wales, Wallonian Region (Belgium)

Even Russia has also recently banned the cultivation and breeding of GMO crops.  Ironically, the Russian government also banned all GMO corn and soy imports from the USA in February of this year.

So as many other countries move forward, why do we appear to be going in the opposite direction?

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association’s (OSGATA) recently withdrew its membership in the Organic Trade Association (OTA) citing the OTA’s “betrayal over Monsanto-backed GMO labeling bill.”  The “betrayal” refers to a  few members of the OTA board decided to act unilaterally, endorsed the bill, and pushed for it to be passed in the Senate.

“It’s important for the world to understand that it was the Organic Trade Association that killed our state GMO labeling laws by backing Monsanto’s Stabenow-Roberts bill” (aka the DARK ACT), said Maine organic seed farmer and longtime OSGATA President, Jim Gerritsen.  “It’s clear that Organic Trade Association has come under the control of a small group of lobbyists controlled by giant-food corporations that also own organic brands.  In an effort to protect their own bottom lines and those of their parent companies, the reckless actions of these large parent-owned organic companies threaten the survival of organic farmers and the organic community we have all worked so hard for decades to build.  The Organic Trade Association can no longer be trusted and it’s clear that organic farmers can no longer condone this dubious trade association’s troubling behavior.” 

As such, the OTA and several other groups and companies backing the bill have left many of the other organic organization and coalitions confused about the integrity of their supposed allies.

This is a small glimpse into the lobbying and industry-based power that Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, and others have at controlling the outcome of these bills, which ultimately become our reality. It appears that they have infiltrated into the OTA and other organic organizations.  Here is a list of the major financial supporters of the DARK Act.

If we do not have the unity of those supposedly working together to promote GMO labeling and organic foods, how can we as a nation defeat those who are compromising our food supply?

I hope this blog can help create a conversation and ultimately lead to greater awareness of the reality and the importance of what we as a collective in this country decide to allow moving forward. Our decisions, actions, and non-actions will affect not only us, but our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and on down the line…


ellwood thompson's, food advocate, kirk schroder, richmond virginiaOctober has been “Non-GMO Month” at Ellwoods and the store has had various activities to increase customers’ awareness about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and their impact on our food supply. A highlight of the month was a panel discussion on “The Pros & Cons of GMO Labellng” in our popular community room. It was a passionate and intense evening as representatives from both viewpoints argued their case FOR labeling food products with GMOs and AGAINST such labeling.

Our Panel Discussion On October 1st on "The Pros & Cons of GMO Labeling was a huge success. From left to right, Theodora Evadne, Community Activist and John Lewis of Renew Richmond argued for GMO labeling. From right to left, Katie Hellebush of The Alliance Group and Lindsay Reames of the Virginia Farm Bureau pointed out the problems with GMO labeling.
Our Panel Discussion On October 1st on “The Pros & Cons of GMO Labeling” was a huge success. From left to right, Theodora Evadne, Community Activist and John Lewis of Renew Richmond argued for GMO labeling. From right to left, Katie Hellebush of The Alliance Group and Lindsay Reames of the Virginia Farm Bureau pointed out the problems with GMO labeling.
As its Food Advocate, I worked closely with the management of Ellwood Thompon’s to create a policy to eliminate products and produce containing GMO from our shelves, as part of Ellwood Thompson’s standards for its customers.  Take a moment to review our standards. We always welcome customer input.
In my opinion, the best concise summary of both sides of the GMO issue was done by Bill Nye “The Science Guy”  in November of last year.  If you have less than 30 minutes, Bill does a great job in explaining the major arguments on both sides, as well as his conclusions on the subject. You can see his video piece on the GMO controversy on YouTube.
Finally, are you uncertain if you are buying products containing GMO or supporting GMO manufacturers with your product purchases? There is a smartphone app for the iPhone and Android phones call Buycott.  Among its many social causes, Buycott has an app that will let you scan products to determine if it contains GMO or is owned by a GMO manufacturer.
If you have not done so yet, please sign up here to receive email notices of new ET’s Food Advocate blogs when they are posted.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcomed. KS

Back to Blogging: Michelle Obama/Monsanto Hoax & Other News

Hello everyone,

You may have noticed I’ve taken a blogging hiatus while the new store website was being designed. I used that time to receive input on how to improve the blog. Thanks to many of you who shared your ideas with me.

The FOOD ADVOCATE blog is back up. As always, please email me whenever you have blog topics, thoughts and suggestions. Also, please be sure to sign up to get email notices when a new blog is posted. Thanks for your support. Let’s get back to blogging!

Michelle Obama and the GMO Hoax: Some of you may have seen the faux announcement last week that First Lady Michelle Obama had endorsed a public campaign to promote genetically modified foods as being healthy for children. There was quite an outcry in social media and in natural food related blogs. It turns out it was a hoax that caused many well respected sites and bloggers to issue apologies to the First Lady. Although President Obama campaigned that he would push for labeling for foods containing GMO, he has not done so and many claim he has helped GMO food manufacturers, like Monsanto, in various ways. So the groundwork was set for this hoax. I admit when I read it, I thought it was plausible. Here is the full explanation and an apology from Natural News (one of many in the blogsphere).

New Federal Rules For Poultry Inspection: For those of you who eat chicken and turkey, please take note. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new rules last week, based on its proposed regulation from January 2012 and subsequent public comments. The official USDA press release is here. Consumer groups view the new rules as industry deregulation, to allow faster line speeds which are claimed to be unsafe to workers and for inspection purposes. The rules also shift the responsibility to plant employees for inspection, as the USDA has phased out a large number of its own inspectors. For two varying perspectives on these new rules see The Hill and The Wall Street Journal.

USDA Organic

Organic Food is Healthier: Back in 2012, researchers at Stanford University made the claim that organic food is not healthier than conventional food. See this article on the Huffington Post. However, last month the British Journal of Nutrition published a research article that reviewed 343 studies on this topic and (as you may have guessed) concluded that organic food is healthier than conventional food. According to the research article, organic food has higher concentrations of antioxidants and conventional food has higher level of toxins. For a summary of this article see the recent LA Times article here.

Kirk Schroder / Food Advocate / foodadvocate@ellwoodthompsons.com


GM Salmon Safe to Eat?

The new Genetically Modified Salmon is safe to eat? According to the FDA, the answer is yes. With their announcement last month, the US FDA is yet to officially approve the fish for sale. Although this approval could take years, it’s not that likely unless the administration decides that the altered fish could pose a significant environmental impact.

In the meantime, activists and legislators are working together to get the so-called frankenfish banned. Eleven U.S. senators, mostly from coastal states, have signed a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting that the approval process be halted.

A similar letter was signed by 29 members of the House of Representatives. Another 53 environmental groups and food businesses endorsed both letters, and a Food & Water Watch poll found that 78 percent of Americans believe the salmon should not be approved for human consumption.

So why is genetically engineered fish even on the table, so to speak?

AquaBounty, the makers of the fish, say that their GM salmon–dubbed AquAdvantage–eat 10 percent less food than a traditional salmon, grow twice as quickly, and are safe and sustainable. And so far, the FDA appears to agree with AquaBounty: an advisory committee said in a September 20 hearing that the fish seems to be safe. To read the rest of this article from National Geographic, click here.