Update: The Emerald has clarified the testing process for GMOs.
Corn and soy are two of the most common genetically modified foods in the market. They are found in salad dressings, sodas and other foods people eat on a daily basis, yet there are no current government requirements to label them. In fact, large corporations are spending millions to insure that labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods is not required. OSPIRG, a student organization on campus, is fighting to stop this proposal.
Lead by Charlotte Baker, OSPIRG’s GMO labeling campaign was established last fall to inform the public that they may not actually know what they’re eating. “We deserve the right to know what’s in our food,” said Hannah Picknell, OSPIRG’s UO chapter chair. “It’s not about whether GMOs are good or bad, but we want to help people get the right to know what they’re eating.”
Developed after Washington’s GMO labeling I-522 measure was shut down, the campaign is backed by several interns working to reach a goal of 1,000 public comments. According to Evan Preston, the policy associate, the $8 million raised to support the labeling of GMOs in Washington was blown out of the park by big manufactures such as Monsanto, Pepsi and Nestle, who spent over 22 million dollars on ads to stop the measure. “In California they spent nearly double that amount to stop GMO labeling,” Preston said regarding a similar campaign.
According to Preston, there is little to no testing on GMOs, so it is difficult to get long term information about how they will affect people.
“What businesses will say is that they don’t need to do independent scientific research on these GMOs,” Preston said. “Because the businesses control the patents, there is currently no safety testing requirement on GMOs in America.”
Due to the restrictions regarding testing of GMOs, it is difficult to argue their effect on people. “When you buy fish it will say farmed or wild, but we don’t know if our food is genetically modified,” Baker said. “You can eat what you want, but our goal is to give people the knowledge so they make an informed decision.”
Hosting a kick-off event on Nov. 21 in the EMU, Baker and Picknell plan on educating the public on places to go to get GMO-free food, what stores label GMOs and common GMO foods. There will be giveaway buttons, candy and a GMO buyer’s guide booklet. “When a lot of people think GMO they think produce,” Baker said, “but corn is in everything, even your soda, so you could be drinking GMO foods.” OSPIRG is even planning on having a photo petition booth where people can take pictures with a giant man in a corn suit.
Aiding the campaign with research, Preston hopes that OSPIRG’s GMO event provides a good example to other universities to show what people can do to control what they put in their bodies. “A really good campaign involves an issue people care about and is profound in that it has real impact on their lives,” Preston said. “That’s the end goal.”