Last Update: Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Protesters Push for GMO Labeling of Foods PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia | Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 29 May 2014 01:34

Chris Chavarin takes part in a protest asking for GMO food labeling in Van Nuys.

Sylmar resident Chris Chavarin, 23, says he often suffered from intestinal problems that landed him in the hospital.

“I was going to the ER for a lot of stomach issues. It was almost an everyday thing," he recalled.

He suffered from irritable bowel syndrome until he became a vegetarian a year ago. Two months ago he went completely vegan, a more extreme form of vegetarianism, meaning a person also doesn’t consume eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients.

Chavarin blamed his stomach issues on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other harmful agro-chemicals that are found in food products from baby’s powdered milk to bread and cereal, but are not required to be listed on those products. GMOs are plants or animals that have been genetically modified using DNA material from other plants, animals, bacteria or viruses.

“I know that’s what was making me sick,” Chavarin said.

That's why he joined 50 other protesters who held a rally at the Van Nuys Civic Center on Saturday, May 24, and later marched in support of SB 1381, a bill to require food labels to state if the food is genetically modified. Similar events were held in more than 400 other cities across 50 countries and six continents.

The state Senate Appropriations Committee has approved SB 1381, and the bill will go for a full Senate vote by May 30. If approved, California would join Vermont which on May 9 became the first state in the nation to require such labeling.

While protesters said if it’s unlikely people will stop eating all GMO food all together, even if the bill passes, the public should at least know all the ingredients in their food.

“I would hope that people would stop eating things if they knew what was in it,” Chavarin said. “But it’s about being more truthful, more honest, with what they’re selling us.”

This is not the first time California has tried labeling food products more accurately. In 2012, voters rejected Prop. 37, a similar bill, after companies like Monsanto Corp., the world's largest seed maker lobbied against its passage. Despite early support for Prop. 37, Monsanto Corp. spent millions of dollars in opposition if the measure. The ads created enough confusion among voters that the measure lost by a slim margin.

Much of the protesters’ anger on May 24 was directed toward Monsanto, a chemical, and agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Missouri which is a leading producer of genetically-engineered seeds and of the herbicide glyphosate. It markets many of its agricultural herbicide products under the Roundup brand, according to a 2012 Wall Street Journal article.

The Monsanto website states GMOs have been tested and found to be safe, adding that GMOs have been “OK’ed” by public health oversight organizations.

“In recent years, people have become increasingly interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced. And unfortunately, despite a 20-year record of safety and almost 2,500 independent, global scientific reviews and approvals of GMO crops, there is still conflicting and confusing information about GMOs,” the company website said.

Some scientists, however, warn that GMOs may harm beneficial insects (including bees, which have been dying in record numbers in recent years), increase toxic pesticide use, create super-pests, super weeds and new plant viruses, increase cancer risks, set off allergies and produce antibioticresistant pathogens.

Eunice Cuevas of North Hollywood, who also participated in the May 24 protest, said all the food is tainted “because of the company behind it (Monsanto).” She wants to make sure "we wake people up,” and they call the state senator who represents them to support SB 1381.

“Nobody wants their chemicals, but they don’t know they’re eating it," she said.

Cuevas said she has three small nephews and wants them to be free of these chemicals.

“It's up to us to plant the seeds of change and hope,” Cuevas said. “If people know what’s in their food, at least they’ll do some research to see what they're eating.”

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Last Updated on Thursday, 29 May 2014 04:37