Do Mainers want to know about GMOs?

Something very important is happening in Maine. It’s in its beginning stages still, but that doesn’t lessen its significance one bit.

(Do we ignore toddlers because they’re not full-grown adults yet? Nope.)

An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know

We as Mainers have an opportunity to support a very worthy movement.

We as Mainers can demand that we are allowed to know if our food items and produce are genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered foods.

The thing about our ‘right to know’ is… we’re not refusing GMOs outright. We’re not mandating their removal from our grocery stores. We’re not even claiming that GMOs will turn us all into mutants or genetically-altered freaks.

It’s just that, as Mainers, we like to be in the loop. We support our freedom and right to choose. 

This freedom and choice is supported by communities and a state population that vote and voice their concerns to government officials based on knowledge available at the time (at least, that’s how its supposed to work).

Right now, we as Mainers don’t know which foods in our markets are genetically modified. Organic ears of corn are stacked next to non-organic ears of corn. It’s likely that conventional corn is genetically modified, but what about the organic corn? If it’s labeled 100% organic, it should be GMO-free. But if it doesn’t say 100%, there’s some room for GMOs to squeeze in there. Does the term ‘organic’ automatically lull me into a comfortable food purchase? Should it?

I want to know.

Give me the “gorey deets” on this corn ear and let me decide.

I’m not waging a war against GMOs across the board and I don’t expect everyone to armor up against such a mighty Goliath of technology.

I simply want more information about food items. I can read ingredient lists and nutritional information, but I can’t find out if my cereal is a mash-up of genetically engineered ingredients.

Of course I want to know.

In Maine, we have the Freedom of Access Act. It allows us to follow local government proceedings and access a wide variety of records that are considered public by way of a simple request. It allows us to research our town’s budget and identify where our property tax dollars are injected into community services if we so desire.

A Maine parent has a right to know when pesticides are applied in or near their children’s school and, by golly, schools are required to inform parents of a pesticide application nearby five days prior to its application.

A parent’s right to know about pesticide application doesn’t prohibit pest controllers from applying pesticides. It just brings parents into the loop so they can make personal, informed decisions about their child’s attendance at school that day.

Mainers’ right to know maintains an informed public that can initiate and support real, respectable changes in local and state government.

Last November, a lot of Californians wanted to know if their food was genetically modified. They had pretty good momentum towards passing the bill, until an army of corporations who were invested in maintaining GMO-invisibility stepped up with a big ole bat and struck the bill off the books.

As concerned as we are about our state, our government, our laws, our freedom, it doesn’t surprise me that Maine may just be the first state to say, “Hey, I want to know what’s going on with my food.”

Will everyone stop buying GMO foods once they’re labeled? Maybe. Or perhaps companies that manufacture GMO foods could simply explain why they use those GMO ingredients in the first place – that explanation might be enough to keep some of their customers.

Some GMO corn grows larger kernels, or have internal resistance to troublesome pests. We can ask these manufacturers what the benefits are and make an informed decision.

Personally, I don’t see why we need to create plumper corn kernels through genetic modification, because I’ve done enough research to know we’re growing too much corn anyway (to feed the wrong things, like cows and cars). And I don’t agree with modifying corn genetics with internal repellents to pests, because I know that such large-scaled pest problems are mainly a result of monocultures.

There are other ways to get rid of pests besides frankensteining the corn’s genetics. Somehow, organic farmers get by. It’s difficult to apply organic practices to mega-farms that produce GMO corn for Kellogg, because more human labor is involved and we’ve effectively replaced most of the farming workers with machines. Mega-farms likely consider switching from machinery to human-power as a step backwards. However, smaller farms are more capable of maintaining awareness of biological practices and the ecosystem of their farm and may not have to bow to GMO seeds to produce valuable food.

They may need to hire a few folks to help, but I hear that about one in seven people are looking for a job anyway.

Our right to know doesn’t change the overall weather of our state and national food system.

But labeling GMOs is an act of fairness. If corporations don’t want us to know, there’s something sinister afoot. Perhaps they’re concerned about the questions that will be born by our new knowledge. Maybe they’re afraid of what we’ll think about all those packaged foods that look like a healthy choice but are labeled ‘GMO.’

The thing is, I’m not concerned about their fears. I’m concerned about what they don’t want to admit.

Labeling GMOs may decrease their profits and expose them to scrutiny regarding their buying and selling practices, but that’s not a primal concern of mine either.

American capitalism demands adaptation to the market. Adaptation evolves from knowing what works and what doesn’t.

It’s time for us to know, y’know?

It’s not the time to vote yet – it’s the time for learning and using our voice. 

Learn about GMOs.

Contact legislators – tell them what you think – overcome your skepticism that such outreach to legislation will actually matter and try anyway.

Join the citizens campaign – attend public hearings, etc.

Donate your voice – however you use it. Blow up Facebook and Twitter with your opinion and link your friends and followers to useful info. Talk to your loved ones about our right to know. Contact your local newspaper and ask them to do a story about it. If they reject you, write a letter to the editor.

Various organizations and associations around the state will frequently update the public on the process of this bill – to stay in the loop, subscribe to their newsletters or check back habitually.

Click here for more information on Call Me Old Fashioned’s Jenna Beaulieu.

 

Jenna Beaulieu

About Jenna Beaulieu

Jenna is a writer and fine art photographer who recently moved from the Saint John Valley region to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. She’s a fan of excellent music, homemade gravy, and colored pencils (also, short books and long books, good pens, flannel, and when the June bugs don’t really come out much that year). For more about Jenna and her work, visit her website at www.jennabeaulieu.com