Enter by the wooden gate, you’ll find a lush vegetable garden with red veined chard, green cabbages, spicy arugula, bright orange pumpkins, and even a few merry xenias and cosmos. Golden squash blossoms draw bees from the busy garden hive. Watered by drip irrigation, nourished by homegrown chicken fertilizer and compost, and protected by marigolds and other non-chemical insect deterrents, my garden is a model of organic horticulture.
This fall, as I reap the produce of my organic garden, I will be voting “no” on Proposition 105, the genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling initiative on the ballot in Colorado. I have researched ways to produce food with fewer chemicals and less water, and have determined that GMOs are the answer for sustainable food production. Requiring food to be labeled “Produced With Genetic Engineering” will unfairly stigmatize GM crops and food processed from GM ingredients.
All domesticated plants and animals are genetically modified from their wild counterparts. Thousands of years of selective breeding have produced significant changes in the size, shape, color, nutritional content, and yield of plants. Most commercially grown vegetables and cereal grains differ as much from their wild progenitors as Chihuahuas do from ancestral wolves.
The time it takes to create desirable traits in plants was drastically reduced beginning in the 1980s when scientists began to insert beneficial genes directly into plant species. After being introduced to commercial agriculture in the 1990s, farmers have been increasingly switching to GM products because they require fewer “inputs” such as water, herbicides or pesticides while generating greater harvests. GM sweet corn, for example, protects itself from insect predation and thus does not need to be sprayed with insecticides. GM herbicide-tolerant sugar beets allow farmers to more easily eradicate weeds thus preserving water and nutrients for crops.
Golden rice was specially created to address vitamin A deficiency, which affects 250 million people worldwide. Without sufficient vitamin A, people, particularly children, can go blind or even die. Golden rice contains genes from the daffodil and a soil bacterium. The plant produces beta-carotene, which the human body converts to vitamin A.
GM crops are rigorously tested and piloted before becoming commercialized. Today, most soy and corn harvested come from GM crops. Top scientists, the Food and Drug Administration, and even The New York Times’ editorial board have declared GMOs to be safe for human consumption. Bill Gates has concluded that we will not be able to feed the expected 9 billion humans alive in 2030 without the efficiencies created by this biotechnology.
Even though GM technology is helping mankind grow more nutritional food on smaller acreage, with less water, and fewer chemicals, no one should be forced to eat such food. They can buy organic. Also, companies that produce goods that do not use GM crops are free to label their products thusly. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s is in the process of sourcing all of its ingredients from non-GM crops. This voluntary business decision will no doubt boost sales among those for whom genetic modification is a concern.
The forced labeling approach of Proposition 105 is not about providing information but provoking fear and ultimately stopping scientific progress.