GMO labeling victory in Senate may be short-lived, but sheds light on successful pushback against corporate interests

March 27, 2016
Zoe Lister-Jones for The Huffington Post
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Last week, a bill to pre-empt states’ rights to label GMOs was overturned in the Senate. With over 90% of Americans in favor of labeling foods containing Genetically Modified ingredients, this outcome lends hope at a time in which many of us might feel the weight of corporate interest too often impacting legislation.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont echoed this sentiment. “Today’s vote was a victory for the American people over corporate interests,” he said in a statement last Wednesday.
But the fight is far from over. After what many have deemed The DARK Act (Deny Consumers the Right to Know) failed to pass the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) flipped his vote from “yes” to “no.” This is potentially cause for concern, as it most likely is a strategic move which would allow the Senate to bring an amended version of this bill back into the fray before Vermont’s labeling law goes into effect July 1st.
GMOs are found in nearly 80% of processed food in the United States. Currently up to 92% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered, as are 94% of soybeans and 94% of cotton. In short, they are everywhere. As consumers, we feel we have a fundamental right to know when Genetically Modified ingredients are present, so that we can make the choice whether or not we feed them to our families.
64 countries around the world label GMOs. We, a bastion of democracy, are the only developed nation to not label them. We, as consumers, must ask ourselves... why not?
There is a lot of misinformation circulated around the negative potential of labeling GMOs: most prominently, a rise in food prices. This is patently false. The fact is, food manufacturers change their labels all the time. Whether it’s the Superbowl, or a new Star Wars franchise, we see additions to our packaging constantly, with no impact on price.
Another concern is from the food manufacturers themselves: that labeling GMOs will dissuade consumers from purchasing their products. In a recent study by economists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the conclusion after studying the behavior of consumers in countries that require GMO labeling was that most consumers make “hasty” choices in the grocery store and look only for one or two attributes on the packaging - like price or calories.
In my latest film, Consumed, I play a single mother facing these very issues; what to feed one’s child in the face of so much conflicting information. Consumed is the first narrative thriller (not a documentary) to tackle the world of GMOs. Because there are so many factors when considering the potential impacts of GMOs on our health and environment, we wanted to make a film that could unpack complex subject matter, while taking the audience on an entertaining ride. With starring turns from Danny Glover, Taylor Kinney, and Victor Garber, our hope is to spark a conversation around these all too relevant issues, at a time when we as consumers must educate ourselves about the food we are feeding ourselves and our children.
What we learned over the course of making this film, is that while there is a common misperception that there is a consensus amongst the scientific community on the safety of GMOs, the issue is much more complex. In fact, some of the most respected scientific bodies in the world including Codex Alimentarius (jointly run by the World Health Organization and the Food And Agricultural organization of the United Nations), The American Medical Association, The British Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association, have stated that, through premarket safety assessments, more research needs to be done on GMOs before we can truthfully determine their safety.
The recent defeat of the DARK Act in the Senate was a small victory in corporate transparency and consumer rights in this country. But it’s just the beginning. This issue is bigger than just labeling. It impacts every single one of us, regardless of race, class, or gender. It is about the future of our food supply. And it requires our immediate attention.”
To learn more about these issues, please visit Consumed is now available for rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, Google Play, and TV VOD Platforms. Follow on twitter/Instagram @consumedmovie.