The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

You can help by leaving comments on posts and by becoming a follower. I'd really like to know who you are and what your thoughts are on what I'm doing. To date, more than a quarter million people have viewed the blog and that's great. But every great leader needs followers and if I am ever to achieve my goal of becoming the next great leader of the Italian culinary world :-) I need followers!

Grazie mille!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

GMO Food Labeling – It's Not About Safety, It's About Our Right to Know

Let's hear it for the rabble rousers in Vermont! They have succeeded in sticking it to Big Food.

Vermont's governor, Peter Shumlin, recently signed legislation making his state the first to require identification of genetically modified organisms – GMO – on food labels. The lackeys at the FDA have bowed and scraped at the feet of Monsanto and other “Big Food” producers, as well as the food industry shills at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and have avoided requiring such labeling at the federal level. So, groups of concerned citizens have been pushing the states to step forward and, although industry pressure has cowed a couple of them – looking at you, California and Washington – the movement is gaining ground. Vermont's neighbors in Maine and Connecticut have passed labeling legislation, but are covering their bets by declaring that the laws won't take effect until other states jump on the bandwagon. I don't know if Vermont's action will motivate them or not. But there are still at least 85 bills pending in 29 states regarding GMO labeling.

Of course, you can expect that Big Food will not take this affront to their sovereignty lightly. As sure as night follows day, there will be challenges and lawsuits that will keep Vermont's lawyers busy for months if not years. But it's a step in the right direction.

What's all the fuss, you might ask? After all, GMO foods have been around for a long time and people have not started dropping like flies as a result. As a matter of fact, most scientific evidence points to the mutations being benign. Other than a few red flag wavers – like the European Union, Japan, Australia, and a host of other countries – many people don't seem to have a problem with GMO from a safety standpoint. The promoters say that such technology is essential to feeding a growing world population. They say that their products will someday be more nutritious and the techniques involved in growing them will be better for the environment. Woo-hoo! I hope they're right. That's not really the issue here. The issue is one of clearly labeling the contents of our food packages.

Why is the food industry so dead set against us knowing what they're doing? If I hear one more food industry flak insult my intelligence by spouting off the company line, “Labels will only mislead and confuse consumers,” I think I'll have a conniption. How stupid do they think we all are? (Don't answer that.)

I have a right to know what I'm putting in my mouth, dammit. Don't tell me I'll be confused or mislead or frightened by seeing “Contains Genetically Modified Ingredients” printed on a label. That's what we have labels for; to tell us what's in the package before we decide to buy it. I'm not terrified by the prospect of mutated corn in my corn oil. But I'd still like to know it's in there. Why is that “confusing,” “misleading,” or “frightening?” I know of another word that could solve all the issues: “education.” If the food industry is so all-fired certain that we're nothing but a bunch of ignorant dolts, then I call upon them to educate us rather than to attempt to protect us from ourselves. When it comes to what we're putting in our bodies, ignorance is not bliss. Even if the substance in question is holy water, I want to know it's in there. I have a right to know it's in there. Why shouldn't I know it's in there? Unless there really is something to hide. Is the food industry really concerned that we poor fools will be confused, or do they have a darker agenda they're trying to hide? (Bwah-ha-ha! I love a good conspiracy theory!)

Seriously, c'mon, FDA, Monsanto, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and cowardly and/or corrupt politicians everywhere. Knowing what's in our food supply may not be one of the inalienable rights We the People are guaranteed by the Constitution, but maybe it should be. I'm sure James Madison and his cronies weren't up on genetic engineering, but they were pretty much on the side of an informed populace. And that's all we're asking; to be informed. To be able to make informed decisions. If GMO are safe, then the manufacturers and promoters of the stuff have nothing to hide and nothing to lose by telling us about it. If they're not safe and future generations start sprouting extra fingers and toes, well, at least we were informed and given the option to buy or not to buy.

The labeling issue is in our hands. We're the ones with the need to know and we're the only ones who can demand that we do know. The sight of FDA officials doing cartwheels and handstands at the bidding of their industry handlers is pathetic. They're like monkeys performing for peanuts. Probably genetically modified ones. Big Food has them firmly under control and the only way we'll get anything done that benefits us rather than “the industry” is if we all do what a bunch of rabble rousers in Vermont did. Don't just speak up, shout out! Make your state legislators hear your voice. Let them know that you want to be informed about what you're eating. It's that simple. It's not about safety or science, although that may be part of the bigger picture. And it's not about fear or confusion. With all the additives and preservatives the food industry shovels into our grocery carts, there's already enough questionable crap in there as it is. We just demand the right to know exactly what that questionable crap is and whether or not we really want to buy it.

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