While some people are still wondering, 'What's a GMO?' others are urging politicians to support a bill that would make Connecticut the first state to require that Genetically Modified Organisms be listed on fool labels.
The prevailing point of view among hundreds who trekked through the rain to the ballroom at the on Sunday for an event billed "Don't be Fooled by GMOs," was that citizens have the right to know what is in their food.
Surprise panelist US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Greenwich) joined state representatives , , Jonathan Steinberg, Dick Roy, and , who all spoke in favor of the GMO labeling bill, HB 5117.
"This is an issue where the recurring quality is the consumer's right to know," said Blumenthal.
The forum, sponsored by , WakemanTown Farm and Right to Know CT, drew attention to the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require GMO testing. According to Right to Know CT's website, genetically engineered foods are in 80% of packaged foods. Genetically Engineered foods, which are derived from GMOs, have never been proven safe for human consumption but have been on the market for the last two decades.
Forum host and , owner of Café recently explained in his blog that "GMOs are genetically modified organisms that are produced by taking the genes from one species (i.e. animals, plants, bacteria or viruses) and literally forcing those genes into the DNA of a food crop or an animal to introduce a new trait."
GMOs have grown enormously in the United States, though every panelist contrasted that news with the fact that 50 countries have already severely limited or banned GMOs.
When 'Natural' Means Nothing
Guest speaker Analiese Peik of the Fairfield Green Food Guide pointed out that rules on food labeling fall short, and, for example, the claim "100 percent Natural" is meaningless.
Steinberg added, "We have been asleep at the switch. We didn't know any better. We've heard many people say that we expected the FDA to be looking out for our interests. The FDA doesn't get that yet."
Appealing to the next generation
Former New York City prosecutor turned Holistic Health Counselor, Tara Cook-Littman, shared stories of children's reactions to learning about GMOs for the first time. At Saturday's at , Cook-Littman said, "These children looked at me and they said, 'Well, that's weird,' and a lot of them said said, 'Ewwww!' and I have to say these are children, without filters, who are just speaking the truth."
The high number of high school students at the forum was hard to miss, though the presence of Michael Aitkenhead, Program Director at Wakeman Town Farm(WTF) who doubles as an AP Environmental Science teacher at , may not have been a coincidence. According to Liz Beller, chair of WTF committee, "Mike has taken farming and made it cool for kids."
Give Me Organic
Cook-Littman shared some advice. "If you eat organic then, in theory you are okay. You are not eating GMOs," she said. Breaking out in a smile she spoke of a chef friend of hers named Daniel Lanzilotta, who recently suggested that GMO should instead stand for "Give Me Organic."
Fawcett recalled a time not long ago when when she first learned about GMOs from a colleague. "She struck all the right chords with me when she said, 'You're a mom, Kim. You need to care about this. Do you know what you're feeding your children?'" Fawcett went on to say she always assumed the FDA would not let the food chain become dangerous. "There is this notion, that we trust our federal government."
Panelists Cook-Littman and Colello, both certified health counselors who organize educational events on health and wellness topics, both suggested that if just 5 percent of people voiced their opposition to GMOs, the movement would reach a tipping point.
Hwang encouraged said "You are ambassadors. You are advocates. This is a simple concept of 'Right to Know.' You can make a with your peers."
Ten-term state representative Dick Roy, who drafted the GMO labeling bill, HB 5117, said the language of the bill should be finalized this week. Roy urged the hundreds in attendance to write to their legislators. "Bad things happen when good people fail to act," warned Roy.
Anyone wishing to contact their Connecticut state representatives to lend their support to the GMO labeling bill can find links on Right To Know CT.
For a list of hidden GMO ingredients and tips for avoiding GMOs, go to www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com