Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to be a Bad-Ass Anti-GMO Activist

Rally for the Right to Know, October 16, 2011, Westwood, California

So you've heard about those creepy Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that are infiltrating our food supply? You know, the ones that are irreversibly altering some of the world's staple crops? Okay. Now what? You gonna bury your head in the soil or get off your comfy GMO cotton couch and do something? Well, before you embark on the road to bad-ass, here are 10 things you need to know about genetically modified foods. Because when you hit the anti-GMO trail, you'll be up against the big boys like Monsanto. Oh, and when you make your protest sign, be sure to spell "genetically" right. Typos, like GMOs, are just plain wrong.

Wilshire Boulevard—the road to bad-ass

1. KNOW YOUR GMO. Flounder genes in tomatoes? Cattle genes in fish? OMG! Yup, those are GMOs—when genes from one organism are inserted into the DNA of another to create traits like pest or drought resistance. They can come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. You've probably eaten a handful of them already today, and it's not even lunchtime yet. They're mostly in soy, corn, canola, cotton and sugar beets. Big agribusiness continues to spread these experimental seeds across the land, claiming we need them to feed an overpopulated world. Yet independent studies over the past decade show that GMOs can pose serious risks to humans, animals and the environment—from allergies and infertility to organ damage and cancer. Hungry for lunch?

Stuck in greedlock

2. KNOW YOUR FOOD. You wouldn't put arsenic in your gas tank, so why fill your bowl up with Corn Flakes? About 80% of packaged foods contain GMOs, from cooking oils, sodas, and cereals to dairy and soy products, but most people don't know they're eating them because they're not labeled. A survey showed that 93% of Americans want to know if their food has GMOs in it, but the biotech and processed-food behemoths don't want us to know because then we won't buy them. That means the onus is on us to know what all those scary-sounding ingredients actually mean. I don't know about you, but I have better things to do on a Saturday night than to wiki "maltodextrin." That's more of a Tuesday night thing.

3. KNOW YOUR ENEMY. GMO seeds brought to you by the maker of Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs and artificial bovine growth hormones. Monsanto is the huge chemical company that makes about 90% of the GMO seeds on the market. The seeds are genetically altered to tolerate high doses of their Roundup herbicide weed killer. Not only do Monsanto seeds require Monsanto pesticides (cha-ching!), Monsanto owns the patent and intellectual property rights to the seeds. That means it's illegal for farmers to save "their" seeds and are then forced to buy new ones every year. Using bully tactics, Monsanto has planted itself in every corner of the globe, putting small farmers out to pasture. You think the financial crisis was bad? What'll happen if one corporate hog owns the world's food supply?

4. KNOW YOUR GOVERNMENT. How come the FDA approved GMOs without proper testing? Because Monsanto said they were safe. Even though FDA scientists repeatedly warned of possible health risks, the FDA official in charge was Monsanto’s former attorney, later their vice president, and now the US Food Safety Czar, Michael Taylor. Between 1999 and 2009, the top food and ag biotech firms spent over half a billion dollars lobbying Congress to deregulate GMOs and prevent labeling. Stories of strong-arm tactics, bribes and threats are rampant throughout the history of the GMO approval process and promotion of them around the world. And the head of the USDA, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, has approved three new GMO crops since he's been in office. Go, USA!

5. KNOW YOUR GEOGRAPHY. GMOs are now grown in 29 countries? Congratulations, Monsanto! Lobbying foreign governments and buying up seed companies really paid off! But 20 international food and conservation groups reported that GMOs have not only failed to increase the yield of any food crop, they've created the growth of "superweeds," forcing farmers to use more chemicals (cha-ching!). Tragically, over the last decade, 250,000 farmers in India have committed suicide over failed crops and insurmountable debt—the vast majority, growers of Monsanto’s Bt cotton. On the upside, over 50 countries now have GMO labeling, including Europe, China and Russia, and many are banning GMOs. After Haiti's devastating earthquake, the Haitian people unanimously rejected 475,000 tons of free Monsanto seed. Go, rest of the world!

Sign translation: "I am corn and I don't want to be genetically modified."

Doing a corn dance before they're forced to dance to the corn god, Monsanto

6. KNOW YOUR HISTORY. Uprooting civilizations. Though the Mexican people oppose GMOs, Monsanto has still managed to spread its seed, wiping out many of the country's native corn strains that have adapted to local soils over thousands of years. The Mesoamerican civilization was built on corn, and it has deep religious and spiritual importance to their identity as well as their diet. Much of the heritage varieties now have GMO contamination from pollen or seed that has blown onto farms from GMO crops, forcing small indigenous farmers to leave their land since the crops won't grow without Monsanto's expensive, toxic chemicals. If the Aztecs and Mayans had subsisted on GMO corn, I'd hate to think what their pyramids would have looked like. Especially the food pyramid.

7. KNOW YOUR OPTIONS. WTF! Is anything safe to eat? If it's certified organic, it's not allowed to contain any GMOs. In addition to buying organic, look for voluntary non-GMO labels and avoid products made from corn, soybeans, canola and cottonseed (unless they're organic). The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization that tests for GMO content and has created an industry-wide set of standards through a third-party verification process. You can look for their label on products and find the non-GMO-approved brands on their site. You can also download PDFs and free apps for the Institute for Responsible Technology's Non-GMO Shopping Guide and the Center for Food Safety's True Food Shopper's Guide. Are we a bad-ass yet?

Bad-asses in training

8. KNOW YOUR POLITICS. The seeds of change in California. We have a chance to get mandatory labeling of GMO food on the California ballot for the first time in 2012. But getting an initiative on the ballot is a time-sensitive, carefully orchestrated endeavor. Starting in January, we'll have about 150 days to gather up to 800,000 signatures. Meanwhile, the GMO industry is gearing up to crush us, so we have to be poised to fight their deep pockets with our bad-ass, grass-roots offensive. Just think. If GMO labeling is passed in California, it's only a matter of time 'til the other states follow. What happens in California won't stay in California.

Total bad-asses

9. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES. A pesticide in every bite. This is the first generation that will grow up on foods spliced with genes that produce risky, untested insecticides. GMO soy, corn and cotton are grown with the Bt toxin—a built-in pesticide thousands of times more concentrated than sprays. But where does it say that on your infant formula? We don't tell corporations and lobbyists who they can buy. Why should they decide what we can eat?

10. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Buh bye, lazy ass. Hello, bad-ass. Still sitting on your Bt cotton couch? Well, did you know that if just 5% of the population rejects GMOs, then the food makers will stop putting them in their products? It happened in Europe. Why not here? But first we have to get them labeled so people know what GMOs are. So be a bad-ass and demand the right to know.

Sign up to volunteer in California.

Sign the petition to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods asking them to support the campaign.

Sign the FDA petition demanding labeling.

Sources + Resources:

Institute for Responsible Technology

Center for Food Safety

Food and Water Watch

Organic Consumers Association


Just Label It

Non-GMO Project

Non-GMO Shopping Guide

True Food Shopper’s Guide

The Guardian: GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides, say NGOs

The World According to Monsanto

The Future of Food


  1. Bravo!! Thanks for your hard work to keep us all informed.

  2. Hi Adair!

    Truly appreciate your passion for this issue... my only question is this though - since you oppose GMO's what exactly do you eat since about 90% of the food we eat today has been genetically modified. For thousands of years humans have "modified" both crops and livestock to improve yields, eliminate or reduce inferior characteristics and improve desirable ones. From your perspective, where are you drawing the line and what criteria do you use for determining what genetic modifications are acceptable and which ones aren't?

  3. Prompt: "This may be like the line that separates erotic art from pornography. As the Justice said, 'it's hard to define, but I knows it when I sees it.'"

  4. Nancy: I don't eat a lot of processed food, so I'm not eating as many GMOs as the average person, and it's not in too much produce—yet. Traditional breeding is not the same as a GMO, so you can't really compare them. I don't approve of anything that requires toxic chemicals either in the seed or sprayed on the crop to grow.

  5. Also you can visit the Institute for Responsible Technology and download the Consumer’s Guide. This resource will help you to avoid GMO Brands.

  6. Good article although you should also point out that MEAT, unless organic, is also GMO since the livestock (including farmed fish) has been fed GMO corn and soy and soon alfalfa. Buy only 100% grass-fed meat. Same goes for all dairy....ONLY buy organic. It costs a little bit more, but your healthcare wallet will thank you for it later.

  7. I read things that indicate that this is no joke. This is a killing machine and it wants us all dead. Cardboard won't stop this

  8. Nancy, GMO is the result of DNA from a foreign species being forced into the cells of our food crops and would never occur in nature. In fact because the receiving cell will reject an unknown DNA it has to be added to something the receiving cell will accept like a virus. It is not the same as selective breeding. The vast majority of real food is currently not gmo. You must cook from scratch and avoid ingredients with corn, soy, cottonseed oil, beet sugar, canola. Prepackaged food is where there is trouble.

  9. Learn to make your own food again. It really isn't as hard or as time consuming as we have convinced ourselves! Buy only organic ingredients. Grow anything you can. Don't buy anything (non-certified organic) in a box, a can, through a window or served at a table not in your own home (or a fellow health enthusiast). It takes me less time to prepare a nutritious meal of grass-fed beef burgers and organically raised salad ingredients than it does to drive down the road and buy GMO through a window or at a table. And it costs less! You are 100% in control of whether you eat GMO food, and I choose not to.

  10. Most Americans are in a fog concerning the issue of GMOs. Introducing the subject in a conversation often brings a reply of "Huh?" or "What?" Even when the issue is explained to them, some people will say, "I don't feel any different after eating processed food with GMOs or GMO produce." They can't comprehend the insidious nature of GMO actions on the body." Most civilized nations in the world require GMO foods to be labeled for their content or they simply ban GMO crops from being allowed into their national agricultural system. Not so here in the U.S. Monsanto owns all three branches of our national government. Check out their PAC donations. GMOs are like cigarettes in their introduction to the populace without any regard for human health. To expand on a past call to action--"Just say 'NO' to GMO."

  11. All ten points you made are so relevant. In a related vein, you mentioned Bt cotton in the last item, and I've thought about that a lot in the past few months. I became aware of the Indian farmers problems with Bt cotton. First, when their cattle ate the finished cotton plants as forage...and died from it. Too much Round-up. Then the subsistence farmer is devastated from the financial loss of his cattle and loses his land; or they have a drought and lose a crop...Disaster--land gone. And now it seems the suicide numbers have climbed off the charts. Desperate farmers who are shackled to Monsanto and about to lose their land. And a common method I've read is to drink pesticide. Imagine, drinking a bottle of Round-up. In the emotion of it all, a known and proven toxic liquid is close at hand and... What a terrible thing. How could anyone seriously believe that the maker of Agent Orange now wants to make nutritious food for us? Unless we change that thinking, we're doomed.

  12. Thanks for the information. A lot of good dialogue going on here.

  13. Thank you for this excellent post. I shared it with readers of my blog today. I'm writing about GMOs again tomorrow. Bloggers need to spread the word. I wrote about GMOs for Blog Action Day: http://chezsven.blogspot.com/2011/10/do-you-eat-foods-containing-gmos.html

    The only thing I can think of that you didn't mention was the strong-arm tactics the United States government used with Europe regarding GMOs, according to Wikileaks: http://www.naturalnews.com/030828_GMOs_Wikileaks.html

    Here on Cape Cod, we are trying to stop the utility company from spraying four herbicides under the power lines, including glyphosate, which is sold retail as Roundup. NStar and Monsanto are threatening our drinking water. If we were not obliged to wage this local battle, all our signs and banners would say No to GMOs, too.

  14. Alexandra: thanks for the link and for putting this on your blog!

  15. I love Nancy. But she is coming at this from a partisan point of view. Our health should be separate from the powers that be. GREG

  16. you are so awesome! looking forward to seeing you soon-

  17. you cannot possibly have a bad day or be in a bad mood when you have something that glitters on. Craft glitter bulk

  18. Of particular interest in the Budapest property market right now is the 9th district of the city. ingatlan budapest