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Is 'Genetically Modified' the Future of Our Food?

February 13, 2012

PORTLAND, Maine - The rise of genetically modified foods has put agriculture at a crossroads in Maine and around the nation, and some believe it is also putting food safety at risk.

Andrew Kimbrell, founder of the Center for Food Safety, says genetically modified (or "GMO") crops can contaminate organic and conventional crops, hurt other organisms and affect human health. Kimbrell says GMO crops also are becoming more resistant to pests and weeds, leading to greater use of pesticides and herbicides.

"They're ratcheting up the toxic spiral of the herbicides they're using. So, in the future, unless we stop these GMO crops, we're going to see more and more of these more toxic herbicides poured on our crops. That means it's in our air; that means it's in our water; that means it's in our food, and that means it's in our bodies."

Supporters of genetically modified foods say they can solve hunger and help a farmer's bottom line. Opponents counter that the foods could be dangerous, and that there aren't regulations in place to manage them responsibly.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved unrestricted use of genetically engineered alfalfa, the nation's fourth-largest crop. Kimbrell says the decision sends a message that no federal agency is looking out for food safety.

"I think what you are seeing with the FDA, the USDA and even the EPA is, these are agencies that are really working to benefit a handful of major chemical companies, and not really acting on behalf of the American consumer, which is what they are supposed to be doing."

Kimbrell says polls indicate the public wants genetically engineered foods to be clearly labeled. Congress is considering the "Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act," which would require such labeling.

"We need agriculture that's local, appropriate-scale, diverse, humane and socially just. That's the 'beyond organic' vision - and it's not pie in the sky. We're going to have to do this, because the other system is simply unsustainable."

Kimbrell cites GMO crops as one factor contributing to the larger problems of industrial agriculture. In his view, consumers and farmers need to work together and get back to basics to build a lasting food future.

More information is online at

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME