A class photo of the 110th United States Senate.

A class photo of the 110th United States Senate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent Senate rejection of an amendment to the Farm Bill, which would permit states to require labeling of GMOs in food and beverages clearly represents a suppression of consumers’ right to vote.  A vote is defined as a “formal expression of a wish or will”.  Therefore, when we purchase food and beverages, our selection is in essence a vote.  The selection of food and beverages should be a willful choice; however, the withholding of information on food and beverage ingredients suppresses the consumers’ right to make informed choices.

During a debate on this amendment, which includes “generous support for crops like corn and soybeans that are often genetically modified“, senators from farm states overwhelmingly opposed the food labeling amendment.  They feel that the issue of labeling should be left to the federal government.  Also, they voiced concern that food labeling would result in increased costs of food.  The supporters of the food labeling amendment state that a major problem with GMOs is that “the modified seeds “are floating from field to field, contaminating pure crops”. [1]

Upon analysis of the motives of the proponents and opponents of this amendment, is understandable that each side is backed by private interest groups, with the giant seed companies pushing against the amendment and the organic food companies lobbying to pass the food labeling amendment.  It is disturbing, however, that the FDA and USDA have adopted the position that “the engineered foods they have approved are safe– so safe, they do not even need to be labeled as such– and cannot be significantly distinguished from conventional
varieties.[1]  This position is a direct attack on consumers’ right to know and its right to “vote” in the marketplace by making informed choices on food and beverage selections.  Clearly, the Senate is overstepping its boundaries.

As consumers, we have to protect our rights, particularly those that involve our very personal choices, i.e., food purchases.  It is amazing that Congress is spending such an inordinate amount of time and effort to ensure that the American public has access to every detail of the Benghazi attack, the IRS‘ attack on the Tea Party or detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo, while working to deny us access to information that affects our health, survival and “right to vote”.  I imagine that most readers would agree that the ingredients in the food that we feed our families trumps the details of the Benghazi attack.

Now more than ever we have to be extremely careful of protecting our voting rights, starting with the election of “public servants“.  We need individuals in Congress who represent us and who trust us to be able to make informed choices, not those who would willfully suppress our right to information.  The green movement needs your voice now.  Let’s fight to protect our right to choose our food based on complete and accurate information on ingredients.  To do so is to live green, be green.


Sources for this article:

[1]  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/23/senate-gm-food-labeling-farm-bill.
[2] http://www.politicususa.com/bernie-sanders-calls-corporate-controlled-senate-rejecting-gmo-labels.html

Hollywood, FL, March 26, 2011, Rally for the R...

Hollywood, FL, March 26, 2011, Rally for the Right to Know (Photo credit: MillionsAgainstMonsanto)

In reviewing the many battles raging on the food we eat and products we use, it appears that the right to know laws [1] are the sticking points in these controversies.  The current right to know laws are weak and effective in terms of addressing food and product ingredients. [2]   While the majority of consumers presume that consumer protection laws are designed to guard individual rights, the reality is that the purpose of most consumer protection laws is to promote the well-being of the population.  This renders their focus to social concerns, as opposed to legal protection.  This often is in direct conflict with the green movement, which acknowledges the damages to the environment by human action and proposes changes in past behaviors to alter the course of destruction.  The green movement seeks to adopt long-term effective solutions to problems of global warming and climate change and their impact on people and specifically on the food supply, while many other concerns seek immediate and often questionable solutions to problems such as world hunger.

This issue clearly can be seen in the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  In an effort to ensure an adequate food supply, large companies, such as Monsanto and DuPont, design seeds that are resistant to drought, disease and other adverse weather conditions that lead to soil erosion and depletion of nutrients.  The general perception is that research on these projects is undertaken with such a sense of urgency that caution generally is  thrown to the wind, and the quality of food and potentially harmful effects of GMOs have been considered less important than the quantity of food produced.  The consumers’ right to know the hazards of GMOs has been ignored largely through the refusal to even note on packaging that products contain genetically modified ingredients.  The outcry of environmentalists and supporters of the green movement is often criticized, based on the notion that GMOs represent the quickest solution to address the issue of crop failures and the resulting threat to the food supply.  The alternative of organic farming is considered  too costly, unpredictable and incapable of producing enough food to feed large populations.

A second area of concern over the ingredients in food can be found in numerous articles on the Internet denoting the “horrible” ingredients contained in food products.  The bad contents in food run the gamut from insect parts to carcinogens and unlisted animal byproducts.  Many of these ingredients are harmful to the body while others simply represent a violation of choices we are free to make, i.e., vegans and vegetarians have the right to not eat animal byproducts.  Refusal to label the contents of food ingredients violates the public’s right to know the contents of these foods.

The course of action needed to address the issue of labeling is twofold–legal and economic.  The legal solution is to revise the consumers’ right to know the contents contained in food.  Currently, food labeling laws address nutritional content, particularly in terms of calories, fat, cholesterol and other substances, such as sodium and percent of daily requirement of certain predetermined nutrients and vitamins.  The law in this regard desperately needs to be expanded to include other ingredients, which are unproven as to their safety, such as GMOs, or those that may be distasteful to certain people or deemed not in accordance with certain lifestyles.  This really is no different from stating that products contain ingredients that are known allergens, such as milk or peanuts.  The second course of action involves consumers using their buying power to speak for them.  This process starts with each of us educating ourselves on the reputable businesses that insist on selling products that label ingredients.  While these products may be more expensive now, that will change when they become the norm, rather than the exception.

Browsing the Web is a good place to start to learn about unacceptable ingredients in food.   Whole Foods has a great site with a list of unacceptable foods. [3]  Also, contact your legislators and voice your concern over the issue of food labeling and its importance to your family’s health.  We have to fight for our right to know the ingredients in our food and other products of daily living.  To do so is to live green, be green.


1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_know
2.  http://businessethicsblog.com/2010/10/01/consumers-right-to-information/
3.  http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/unacceptable-ingredients-food