By Sarah Shultz for Diets in Review
As the vote in California over labeling genetically modified food draws nearer (November 6), proponents are keeping the debate going with a new television ad. The 30-second commercial is simple and to the point: the same companies that claimed cigarettes, Agent Orange, and DDT were safe are now telling American consumers that genetically modified organisms are harmless.
The Right to Know campaign, which is in favor of Proposition 37 on California’s ballot in November, would require all food sold in California made with genetically modified ingredients to carry a label stating as much, and prohibits it from being labeled as “natural.”
The ad will air in major California media markets for 10 days between August 27 to September 5. News sources such as CNN, MSNBC, Anderson Cooper, and major cities’ local news stations will air the commercial during their programs. The campaign is asking for individuals to donate so they can keep it airing for as long as possible.
“Californians have a right to know whether or not their baby formula, corn chips or soy milk contains genetically engineered ingredients that have not been proven safe,” said Stacy Malkan, media director for the Right to Know campaign on their website.
The commercial does bring up some good points. Americans have been told in the past that many products were safe only to find out later that they are actually very harmful to humans. Smoking, which kills nearly half a million Americans yearly, used to be thought of as beneficial and was even recommended by physicians.
Additionally, the inventor of the insecticide DDT was given a Nobel prize for his discovery that it killed pests and helped eliminate malaria and typhus, until scientists realized it was also poisoning people and the environment and nearly caused bald eagles to become extinct.
Agent Orange is the most tragic of the three examples used in the commercial. During the Vietnam War, it and other herbicides were used in Vietnam and Laos to destroy crops and forests in an attempt to root out and starve guerrilla fighters. It is now known to be one of the most dangerous substances in the world, causing birth defects, miscarriages, cancer, and many other health problems, as well as decimating the environment it is used in. Thousands of veterans and millions of Vietnamese civilians suffer from the effects and their children will likely continue to be devastatingly affected as well.
What do these chemicals have to do with genetically modified crops? Monsanto, a leading producer of genetically engineered seed, and Dow Chemical are against Proposition 37 because it would hurt their business. However, they are also the entities that manufactured Agent Orange, DDT, and genetically modified tobacco plants. Throw in their production of the now-banned PCBs and the highly controversial Napalm, and their track record does not look so great. They’ve been wrong before, and therefore they could be wrong again, this time about genetically engineered foods and ultimately the safety our nation.