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Labeling Genetically Engineered Food and Standing Up for Organic Farmers

Genetic engineering (GE) refers to a set of technologies used to change the genetic make-up of cells to produce novel organisms that exhibit a desired trait, such as plants that are herbicide resistant or able to produce their own pesticides. This technology has found a foot hold in the American food and farming system; more than 90 percent of the "big four" crops grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered. GE crops, also referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are now commonplace on supermarket shelves.

GE crops are typically grown with chemicals that are toxic to our environment and to people. By purchasing GE foods, we inadvertently contribute to a system of farming that is unhealthy for us or the planet. Unfortunately, we have little way of knowing if we are buying GE foods, as grocery manufacturers and biotech firms have successfully lobbied against mandatory GE food labels.

Half of U.S. farmers have weeds resistant to the most commonly used herbicides. In response, biotech companies are working to produce new GE plant varieties that will be resistant to more potent chemicals putting us on an unsustainable chemical treadmill.

Organic and conventional farmers that choose not to grow GE plants are at a distinct disadvantage. Their crops can be contaminated by GE pollen or chemical drift. Farmers often have no recourse for these damages.

As more research emerges on the negative health, societal, and environmental impacts of GE foods, they are coming under increasing scrutiny. Yet, public policy has failed to effectively regulate GE technology or require labeling that protects a consumer's right to know what's in their food.

We can do better. We can ask our policy makers to invest in organic and sustainable systems, to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a complete environmental impact study (including social and economic impacts on organic and non-GE farming systems and markets) prior to deregulation of GE crops, and to require that the burden and cost of GE contamination be shouldered by those using GE technologies. We can ask our policy makers to represent the 87 percent of Ohio voters that are asking for mandatory GE food labeling.

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The success of our policy work relies on OEFFA's dedicated members, who are leading the way to strong and healthy local food systems. For more information about OEFFA's policy work or to get involved, contact policy@oeffa.org or (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.

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