The GMO Continues

The Lempert Report
August 02, 2016

As the nation's first GMO labeling law takes effect in Vermont, the U.S. Senate is moving towards passing a "compromise" bill that would void Vermont's historic law as well as put in question other states’ efforts.

Republican chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts, of Kansas, and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan, announced the so-called "compromise" bill—which has less stringent requirements—last month. Food safety advocates have decried the legislation as anti-consumer, inadequate, and "inherently discriminatory." 

The battle over GMOs and to label or not to label has been a long and expensive one filled with emotion, misinformation and scientific debates. As many late nite TV shows have shown, most shoppers have no idea what genetically engineered food is and isn’t. 

So lets set the record straight. Plant domestication generally involves selecting for beneficial traits, such as high yield, size, color or taste. After many crops and generations of selection a plant’s genetic makeup could be substantially altered. It could be done in a hothouse with bees cross pollinating, or a graft. It could take years or centuries to have these plants develop into what we now see in our stores. Corn is one example that looks and tastes nothing like it ancestor. 

Then came the discovery of the genome. Of the human body and of plants. And with it came the technology to identify desirable (and undesirable) traits that could be turned on or off to achieve these same attributes.

Transgenic is what most people think of and refer to when they use the term GMO. Genes being artificially inserted into a different plant. What people say is of concern is that genes could “escape” and jump to other species, or be unfit for human consumption. 

The GMO discussion is about to change. 

You’ve probably heard of citrus greening, an exotic bacterial disease spread by a newly introduced insect (Asian Citrus Psyllid), which has destroyed half the oranges in Florida and has now made its way to Texas and California. Through trials now underway, it looks like the savior of our nation’s citrus crops will be through genetically engineering the DNA of another plant into the citrus tree. END When US shoppers are faced with the data, and the fact that the Ruby Red Texas Grapefruit that is widely loved for 50+ years was actually genetically engineered, much of the fight will be over.