[Marxism] Are You Eating Frankenfish?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 15 17:13:21 MST 2015

NY Times Op-Ed, Dec. 15 2015
Are You Eating Frankenfish?

THIS month, Congress may decide whether consumers are smart enough to be 
trusted with their own food choices. Some lawmakers are trying to insert 
language into must-pass spending legislation that would block states 
from giving consumers the right to know whether their food contains 
genetically modified ingredients.

They must be stopped.

Nine out of 10 Americans want G.M.O. disclosure on food packages, 
according to a 2013 New York Times poll, just like consumers in 64 other 
nations. But powerful members of the agriculture and appropriations 
committees, along with their allies in agribusiness corporations like 
Monsanto, want to keep consumers in the dark. That’s why opponents of 
this effort have called it the DARK Act — or the Deny Americans the 
Right to Know Act.

As a chef, I’m proud of the food I serve. The idea that I would try to 
hide what’s in my food from my customers offends everything I believe 
in. It’s also really bad for business.

Why, then, have companies like Kellogg and groups like the Grocery 
Manufacturers Association spent millions in recent years to lobby 
against transparency? They say, in effect: “Trust us, folks. We looked 
into it. G.M.O. ingredients are safe.” But what they’re missing is that 
consumers want to make their own judgments. Consumers are saying: “Trust 
me. Let me do my own homework and make my own choices.”

In fact, some of us have done our homework, and here’s what we found: 
The use of G.M.O.s has led to unintended consequences. For instance, 
most G.M.O. crops are engineered to withstand blasts of a powerful weed 
killer that the World Health Organization has decided probably causes 
cancer. New “superweeds” are appearing that require even more lethal 
formulations. Since the introduction of G.M.O. crops, use of these 
chemicals has increased 16-fold.

G.M.O. advocates like to label anyone who objects “anti-science.” It’s 
true that genetic technology has had an amazing impact on the 
development of medicine and the eradication of infectious diseases. If 
G.M.O. foods were actually providing a clear benefit to the public, like 
improved nutrition, lower costs or better taste, without creating a 
spiral of ever-increasing toxicity in our environment, I’d be all for 
them. And if G.M.O.s ever deliver on their promise to improve food 
security, which they have yet to do in the more than 20 years since they 
were introduced, I’d be over the moon.

Vermont recently passed a law requiring the labeling of these foods. 
Other states are considering doing the same. That’s the impetus behind 
this backdoor effort: Opponents want Congress to pre-empt Vermont and 
other like-minded states from implementing these rules.

The federal government already requires labeling of ingredients and 
basic nutritional information and regulates against marketing that 
misleads the public. In this context, labeling G.M.O.s makes sense.

But that’s not what is happening. Consider the situation of genetically 
engineered salmon.

Last month the Food and Drug Administration approved for sale to the 
public the first genetically engineered animal approved for human 
consumption — a fish they are calling the AquAdvantage salmon.

This “super” salmon was conceived by combining genes from Chinook salmon 
that produce extra growth hormone with an “antifreeze” gene from a 
bottom-feeder, the non-Kosher ocean pout. The result is a fish that 
grows far faster and larger than non-engineered salmon.

The F.D.A. insists the transgenic fish is safe for humans, but many 
experts believe they have yet to prove AquAdvantage will be safe for the 
environment or other fish. Factory fish farms depend on the use of 
antibiotics and pesticides to control disease and parasites that 
flourish in high-density environments. The waste they release can 
decimate other marine life and contaminate the water supply. Farmed fish 
often escape into larger waters, endangering native species. While these 
new salmon will be sterile, mistakes can happen.

Fine, you say. Enough already. If you don’t like the Frankenfish, don’t 
buy it.

But there’s the rub. This new engineered fish could be marketed as … 
Atlantic salmon. There might be no way for consumers to identify it as 
genetically engineered.

Consumers have a right to seek out food produced in accordance with 
their values, and not be misled by an industry’s strenuous efforts to 
keep them in the dark. When G.M.O. ingredients are clearly labeled, 
consumers can exercise those rights.

Blocking the labeling of G.M.O. foods would be a step in the wrong 
direction, away from greater accountability and responsibility. Congress 
should reject these efforts to block our right to know.

Tom Colicchio is a chef, owner of Crafted Hospitality and co-founder of 
Food Policy Action.

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