GMO’s: Our Right to Know

I’ll tell you right now that I loathe Monsanto. Just hearing the name of the company makes me cringe. But don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against corporations – or Big Government, for that matter – in general, EXCEPT when they do more harm than good. Then my stomach rolls.

If you don’t know Monsanto’s involvement in GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), you probably know one of their most successful products, Roundup, which uses the herbicide glyphosate to kill those pesky weeds. It’s easy to use and it works. But I’ll repeat, it does more harm than good. The World Health Organization has classified glyphosate, as a “probable human carcinogen.”

Agent Orange also once seemed like a good idea. So did DDT, PCB’s and saccharin. All Monsanto creations.

But mostly I just don’t like bullies … and people who say they are doing something “for my own good.” I know of too many cases where self-proclaimed tough guys torment, just for laughs, vulnerable gays and lesbians. Fortunately there are now laws against this behavior. A few republicans come to mind next. But my biggest bully? Monsanto. Since the 80’s, they have taken advantage of their enormous resources, and specifically their legal team, to bully farmers into giving up their own seeds and becoming part of the Roundup Ready worldwide network of farmers. Today Roundup Ready crops are more than 90% of the soybeans planted (used mainly as a food crop for animals) and 70% of the corn. My problem with that, beside a loss of a variety of crops and the loss of generations of small farmers, is how these same pesticide-laden, subsidized crops end up on our tables. I am sure you already know there are hundreds of products developed from corn alone (sweeteners, cornstarch, yogurt, crayons, medications, ethanol, batteries, etc).

But my real, real problem is the genetic tampering with Nature “for our own good.” Genetically engineered plants are those that have been changed by taking genes from one species and inserting them into another, altering its DNA. This is beyond natural cross-breeding or anything nature has done since the beginning of time. The safety tests that are done for the new crops are done by the corporations that create the crops. Right now federal regulators, under the “generally recognized as safe” provision, approve anything that looks and acts like a non-GMO version of the original product.

nongmoproject image

The manufacturers and the folks who sell us these products do not want us to know that they contain GMO’s. Yet look in every aisle of the grocery store and at home, these products are part of our daily lives. The companies would have us believe these products are “good for us” and “healthy”: General Mills cereals (Chex, Lucky Charms, yikes, the Cheerios I just found in my own kitchen), Similac, Canola Oil (another yikes for me), Campbell soups, Nature Valley, Kashi, Gerber, Doritos, Tostitos, MorningStar Turk’y Burger (advertised as 100% vegetarian, cholesterol free, etc., i.e. “good for you”) and dozens more. Don’t we have a right to know what’s in all these foods? It is my strong belief that the increase chemical intake from pesticides as well as the increase in our diets of all these GMO’s is behind the majority of major health and behavioral problems.

I am compelled to write this post (instead of something fun!!!) because there is now a bill in Massachusetts to mandate the labeling of GMO’s. It is H.3242. Please take a look at and talk to your representatives and senators about it. CT and ME are already onboard. But bigger and worse is a federal bill which its detractors are calling “Monsanto’s Dream Bill.” How this got so quickly filed on the federal level is another subject. This bill would PROHIBIT states from requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods. This bill, pushed by Monsanto’s team of lobbyists, of course, and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association is all about making money for the companies and keeping us from knowing what’s in our food. It is being referred to as the Deny Americans the Right to Know (or DARK) Act. The House version has already passed and now it will go to the Senate. Fortunately for us, both Senators Warren and Markley have already spoken against it, but I am sure they would love your support. If you are talking to them, urge them also to support Senate Bill 511 witch would require mandatory labeling for GMO’s!!

That’s it for my preaching and politics. The good news is that the power for change truly rests in our pocketbooks (i.e., the food we buy). The fact that Walmart now sells more organic products than Whole Foods tells us the tide is changing. Just yesterday I saw in my local grocery store a brand new “natural and organic” aisle. (Beware of the “natural” label, however. That’s more often a sham because the FDA has not defined this word, allowing manufacturers to use it to deceive people into thinking this product is not only better but does not contain GMO’s. Not true). Consumers really do have the first and last word.

Knowledge is power. Watch the documentaries, “Food, Inc”  and “The Future of Food.” For more information and to easily contact your US senator, go to It takes more time but I can’t help but plug eating as much whole and unprocessed food as possible. Those GMO’s in the long run are deadly. Monsanto’s headquarters, by the way, are in Creve Coeur, Missouri. The French verb “crever” means to work to death. In slang, it means to kick the bucket, die. Either way, it translates as lethal.

The Real Culprit

I used to think that sitting down to a meal was to satisfy my hunger or, as is often the case, to celebrate an occasion with friends. Now I know it to be a political act as well.

In the abstract entitled A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System discussed on, it is noted: “How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on American’s well-being than any other human activity. The food industry is the largest sector of our economy: food touches everything from our heath to the environment, climate change, economic inequality, and the federal budget.”

So much for just sitting down to lunch. Two things have happened since my last blog entry. One, my brother and sister-in-law from California came to visit and we had lots of conversations about the hot weather and water restrictions there. And two, I finally received a copy of my favorite magazine, VegNews. In an article entitled Truth or Drought, Mark Hawthorne asked why we aren’t talking more about the largest contributor to the water crisis in California: animal agriculture and specifically the meat, dairy and egg industries? There has been a lot of media attention in California about the amount of water used to produce almonds – almonds!? – and about reducing residential and commercial lawn water use. I think this is a smokescreen. Nobody wants to talk about the real culprit.

My money is on politics. And behind politics, of course, is money.

I have other family out in California: cousins, a nephew, a very dear aunt. They are all very socially conscious and, I am sure, watch their water consumption. Most of us now know it takes less water to shower than to take a bath (42 gallons of water for a ten minute shower vs 70 gallons for a bath) and most of us are careful about our water use while brushing our teeth and doing the dishes. It makes us feel like we are doing something, right? In an article entitled Drought by the Numbers: Where does California Water Go?, D.J. Waldie wrote that “about 14% [of water] is poured into bathtubs, toilets, and washing machines or sprayed over residential lawns.” But home water consumption is not the real problem.

I’ve spent days reading statistics. From #imagreenmonster, I learned that on average a family of four uses about 450 gallons of water doing such things as showering, dishes and laundry, watering their plants. But if they were to go out to eat and buy four cheeseburgers, they would up their water consumption to 7,000 gallons! Yes, that’s “virtual” water, meaning the amount of water scientists and statisticians have figured out it takes to grow the food to feed the animals, hydrate them and keep the factory farming facilities and slaughterhouses clean.

Ninety-nine (99) percent of all farmed animals are now raised in a factory farm situation. Very few picturesque, old-fashioned farms where animals roam outside, exist anymore.

In California, alone, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the total water use for all agriculture is 80%, of which animal agriculture is more than half at 47%. The beef, dairy and egg business is huge – HUGE- and very politically savvy. They want us to think that almonds are the culprit.

Look at these comparisons, again from VegNews:
It takes about:
14 gallons of water to produce a pound of carrots
36 gallons of water to produce a pound of kale
But 47 gallons of water to produce just 2 large eggs
145 gallons of water to produce a pound of avocados
And, yes, 304 gallons of water to produce a pound of almonds
But 660 gallons of water to produce a pound of pig flesh
And 1,062 gallons of water to produce one 10-ounce steak

California is experiencing a formidable drought but the drought is not just in California. It’s in Australia, China, India, Iran, Brazil, Thailand, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. We now live in a global world. We already learned that what we do in the US, affects others (the global financial crisis of 2007-08, for example). The same is true about what we eat. According to Mark Hawthorne, Californians use more water to grow alfalfa than any other crop (even my personal favorite, grapes!) and “alfalfa is grown to feed farmed animals worldwide.” That means Californians are using up a lot of its water to export grain worldwide.

California is not the only state using its precious water supplies to feed animals. John Robbins wrote in The Food Revolution that “half of the water used in all of the US goes to raising animals for food.”

It’s unsustainable. California is now resorting to using the water from their aquifers. It takes thousands of years to fill these aquifers. Without the snowmelt and rain, they cannot even be replenished. Todd C. Frankel wrote in The Washington Post that “twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced.”

We have to start talking about the real culprit. The use of land and water for animal agriculture is a worldwide problem. It makes a lot of money for a lot of people. We won’t change their minds but we can reduce or eliminate our consumption of meat and other animal products. I think that is the solution. And it may just save our planet.

When I see steaks wrapped neatly in plastic wrap in the grocery stores or look at all the ice cream for sale in the dairy aisles, I thank every vegan and vegetarian for their personal and political choice not to support these industries. Who knew a plant-based meal could be such a radical act?