Watch: My Personal Account Of How Our Leaders In Washington Are Denying One Of Our Most Fundamental Rights:
As a delegate from North Carolina at the recent Democratic National Convention (DNC), I sought the truth about GMO-labeling from the leaders of our country and was completely appalled at what I discovered. As many people may know, our food is missing a very important label – one that President Obama, the FDA, and the USDA have made a concerted effort to deny us from having.
This label is for foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are in 90% of our processed food. GMOs are foods biologically manufactured in laboratories – injected with new DNA, viruses, herbicides, insecticides and/or other chemicals – to be resistant to synthetic chemicals and are completely different than hybridizing techniques allowed by nature. Furthermore, GMOs receive patents by the U.S. Patent Office because they have been deemed to be unique and different. Over 50 countries around the world require GMOs to be labeled or regulated.The U.S.A. does not.
President Obama promised to label genetically modified foods during his campaign in 2007 but once elected into office, he abandoned this stance. Why? Upsetting Big Ag and the chemical industry was not going to help him get re-elected in 2012. Protecting the rights of American consumers and keeping his campaign pledge were obviously of secondary importance.
Representing North Carolina at the DNC, I believed it was my obligation to hold the leaders I helped put in office accountable for their actions. Below are highlights from the GMO–labeling conversations I had with national democratic leaders, media and celebrities. I now know why a GMO-labeling law has never passed.
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party didn’t know enough about the issue to respond. She has had 7 breast cancer surgeries and didn’t have an opinion about this issue that is directly related to health.
- Senator Kay Hagan from North Carolina said she does not support labeling and we needed to look at “the science” of the issue. I asked her – “What does science have to do with our fundamental human right to know what is in our food?”
- Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio began to answer my question saying states shouldn’t label GMOs independently of the federal government but stopped talking to me after I asked him if he was working on a federal labeling initiative.
- Edward Avalos, Under Secretary of Agriculture stated during a lunch meeting that GMO-labeling laws must be specific for him to support them due to added regulation and enforcement of labels. I was surprised that he thinks the additional regulation would be a burden to our food system, considering all the countries who currently label GMOs. If China can label GMOs for billions of people, why would it be more burdensome for the United States to do the same?
- General Wesley Clark, former Presidential candidate is completely against labeling because he is co-chairman of a lobby group for ethanol, which uses genetically-modified corn.
- Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles looked at me like a deer in headlights and wouldn’t comment on the issue.
- Jesse Jackson, former Presidential Candidate and Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago and former Chief of Staff for President Obama, both said they didn’t know anything about the issue and had me repeat the question twice.
- President Bill Clinton deftly avoided answering the question and instead told me about being vegan. He said he’s mostly vegan, but he eats fish twice a month.
- Chris Matthews, talk show host on MSNBC, rolled his eyes at me and asked “When has that (GMO-labeling) ever been an issue brought up on one of my shows?”
- David Gregory, Donna Brazile, and Savannah Guthrie wouldn’t comment on the issue.
- Chuck Todd, NBC News White House Correspondent responded “Get people talking about GMOs and I will.”
- Celebrities Ashley Judd, James Taylor, Olivia Wilde, Kal Penn, and Jared Leto all agreed that Americans have the right to know what’s in their food and had a better grasp on the issue than all of the politicians I spoke to.
- Will.i.am gave me a “high five” and mouthed off to reporters asking him questions “Now that’s the type of question you guys need to be asking me!” and “that’s the best question ever.”
When Secretary of the USDA Tom Vilsack spoke at the convention, I protested and held up a sign saying “LABEL GMOs”. It was hard to listen to what he had to say because I was besieged by video cameras and photographers in the front row who tried to capture what I was doing. When I re-read Vilsack’s speech, I was reminded that he is bureaucrat, not a man willing to go against his financial ties to protect the rights and health of American citizens. (The Washington Times reported the news story here.)
Despite polls consistently showing that more than 90% of the population want GMOs to be labeled, our leaders in Washington refuse to acknowledge this truth and will not implement mandatory GMO-labeling at the federal level.
Lucky for us, we can take matters into our own hands and we don’t have to wait for Washington. Each individual state has the power to enact labeling on their own and if they do, it will have a ripple effect on the rest of the nation and encourage other states to do the same.
I am not sure how we can move this country “Forward,” as President Obama suggests, if our food policy and the resulting health of our nation continues to go backwards. Labeling GMOs will allow us all to finally understand what we are eating. As American citizens, it is our fundamental right to know what’s in our food.