Sunday, December 04, 2016 by Vicki Batts
Last week, the United States’ National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) unanimously voted to amend the current US standards for organic foods. Their update will place a ban on ingredients that are derived from new genetic engineering techniques from being used in certified organic products.
The NOSB vote also serves as a recommendation from the organization to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. The board says it will do its best to ensure that genetically modified ingredients that are produced using new genetic engineering technology will not find their way into certified organic foods and beverages.
Dana Perls, the senior food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth, told TriplePundit, “The NOSB is clear that GMOs do not belong in organic. In the absence of strong federal regulations on the labeling and commercialization of genetic engineering, the organic standard continues to provide consumers with a transparent and clear way to avoid GMOs in the food they eat.”
One of the new methods of genetic engineering that the NOSB is particularly concerned with is called “synthetic biology.” According to Friends of the Earth (FOE), this new technique designs and creates new organisms that can produce something they would not normally produce, or it can also be used to edit DNA and prevent certain traits from being expressed.
Just like “traditional” genetically modified ingredients have managed to infiltrate a number of food and consumer items, synthetic biology ingredients have also been inserting themselves into a number of different products — and of course, labeling of such ingredients is more than lacking. The FOE contends that as a whole, genetically engineered ingredients lack sufficient oversight. Some of these GE products even get labeled as “natural,” which is incredibly misleading to consumers, and rather concerning.
Several states have done their best to pass mandatory GE labeling laws, but federal legislation relating to GMOS and other such ingredients remains lackluster. And in August, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law that preempts the states’ labeling laws for GE products, rendering their efforts futile and replacing them with legislation that many people feel is relatively worthless.
In contrast, 64 nations across the globe have introduced stricter regulations surrounding the labeling of genetically engineered products. And here in the US, we have a process that actually fast-tracks approval for new GE food products. What kind of sense does that make? While the rest of the world is putting on the brakes, for some reason, our country is hitting the accelerator.
The US FDA does not even rely on its own experts to examine the safety of GE food. The agency itself has made this much very clear. Instead, Big Biotech vouches for their own products and produces their own evidence to support their products. Jason Dietz, a policy analyst at FDA explains about genetically engineered food: “It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to insure that the product is safe.” Other spokespersons for the agency have echoed similar sentiments.
Industry-funded studies are not exactly the most trustworthy sources of information. Why is our government failing to conduct their own safety testing? While federal agencies shirk responsibility, they are literally contaminating the food supply with genetically engineered products that have never been studied long-term. All under the premise of “it’s someone else’s job to do that.” What responsible government honestly takes that approach — especially about something as necessary as food?
Synthetic biology ingredients are already being used in things like household cleaning products and cosmetics. There’s even a synthetic biology source of vanilla that’s already made its way onto the market. When are we going to put a stop to this madness and demand real, independent research on GE foods, and stop letting ourselves be the guinea pigs?