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Are we just too dumb to know what’s in our food?

Say it ain’t so, G.K.!

Our very own — and relatively new to us — congressman is one sponsor of a bill that he and a co-sponsor are hoping to shepherd through Congress this fall.

The bill’s sole intent, as far as I can tell, is to treat us all like mushrooms. You know, keep us in the dark and feed us ... well, whatever it is they feed mushrooms.

Butterfield, whose Eastern North Carolina district includes a wide swath of farmland, is backing a bill that will stop all states from requiring that genetically modified foods be labeled as such.

As you know, genetically modified organisms, better known as GMOs, are popular with some farmers, especially the big industrial farmers, because companies like Monsanto and others have fiddled around with the genetics of the seeds so that the crops are resistant to herbicides like the incredibly profitable Roundup.

The idea is that crops, especially soybeans and corn, can be kept weed free by over spraying them with Roundup or its equivalent which, if the crop has been bred to be resistant, will not be damaged by the herbicide.

Debate is raging around the world about the safety of GMO crops — and the wisdom of tinkering with essential food crops before we really know what the long-term effects may be.

Truthfully, it may already be too late to protect some crops from manipulation, but we at least ought to know what has been done in the name of production and profit.

Some folks in the agriculture and chemical industries say GMOs are safe and are necessary to feed the world’s growing population.

Others — including something like 40 nations around the world — have completely banned GMO crops as unsafe.

What we know for sure is that GMOs have drastically increased the use of herbicides and other chemicals in our food; so much so that a recent study found traces of Roundup chemicals in the breast milk of women.

Now, that’s scary stuff.

But regardless of which side of this debate you may fall on, doesn’t it make sense to require that foods be labeled so we know what they are and what we are eating?

Not so, according to Butterfield and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas.

Their bill will even allow genetically engineered food to be labelled as “100 percent natural.”


A GMO crop is about as “natural” as a congressman actually representing the interests of those who sent him or her to Washington.

Treated like idiots

I suspect that you, like me, are tired of being treated like idiots by those in power.

Just recently the Agriculture Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives declared — out loud! — that we Americans are too stupid to be given some information.

Again the issue was genetically modified organisms and members of that committee — and the four experts they called — decided that we are too dumb to make up our own minds about GMOs.

They said, again out loud, that those who oppose GMOs or just want them labeled so consumers know that they’re eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance.

Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears and harm a beneficial development, so it should not be allowed, they said.

Oh, and it got worse.

Too dumb to know?

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) asked: “What is the biggest drawback? Is it the ignorance of what the product is, just from a lack of education?”

“It is ignorance of the product, and it’s a general skepticism of anything they eat that is too processed or treated in some way that they don’t quite understand,” said David Just, a professor at Cornell University and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

“Even using long scientific-sounding words make it sound like it’s been grown in a test tube, and people get scared of it,” said Just.

Well ... maybe. But how many times have common sense and innate caution been the wrong approach to some of this technology?

I’m old enough to remember when DDT was said to be safe and kind to the environment — and look at what we now know. In case you’ve forgotten, maybe it’s time to read the 1962 book Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson!

I’m certainly no expert, but missing from the Agriculture Committee’s debate was any discussion about the impact of genetically engineered food, such as the growth of pesticide-resistant “super weeds,” over-reliance on single-crop factory farming, decreased biodiversity, and a lack of a consistent approval process.

From what I’ve read, as these “super weeds” develop a resistance to Roundup and other chemicals, it’s inevitable that we’ll soon be dousing our crops with ever-more powerful weed killers and insecticides.

It’s like running on a treadmill; we develop new chemicals and engineer new crops and the weeds and bugs evolve to resist them, sparking a new round of chemical baths.

Since we’re already seeing the effects of these chemicals in our water, on amphibians, fish and even humans, it’s hard to argue that tinkering around with the environment ought to be done in secret.

Certainly, G.K. Butterfield, who came late to the fight against a proposed Navy Outlying Landing Field in Washington and Beaufort counties that was mostly about preserving precious natural resources, has to be pushed a bit to protect the environment.

But allowing his constituents to know what’s been done to their food is an essential, basic right.

If we allow big agriculture, big business or the government to hide what they are doing to our food, air and water, we’re as dumb as the Agriculture Committee thinks we are.

Frankly, I don’t think we are dumb, just distracted.

Time to speak out

And I hope we’re not so badly distracted that we don’t let Butterfield know that his bill is a very, very bad idea.

I can’t help but wonder what’s behind Butterfield’s position on this issue. From the time he was a young lawyer, he’s been a strong proponent of Civil Rights of individuals — and I can’t think of many civil rights more basic than knowing what you’re eating, breathing or drinking.

I hope you’ll contact Butterfield and express your opposition to his planned legislation.

Here’s how to get up with him and his office:

Congressman G. K.
2305 Rayburn House
Office Building
Washington, DC. 20515

Phone: 202-225-3101

Please, let him know we’re not stupid — and we have a basic, essential right to know what we are eating and drinking!

Oh, and don’t forget about fracking and coal ash pollution right here in good old North Carolina.

While you’re poking G.K., it wouldn’t be a bad idea to remind our state officials about our basic rights and the value of clean water and air.

Don’t look now, but we’ve now passed the middle of July and it’s just over a month until the public schools on their regular calendar get cranked back up.

If you’ve been planning to do “something” special this summer, better get to it. Before you know it, we’ll be planning Halloween parties for the kids and worrying about Christmas.

Where does the time go?

Enjoy your weekend!

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Members Opinions:
July 17, 2014 at 10:39am
Well said! The last thing we need is more herbicides in our foods.
Look what herbicides done to Vietnam veterans? They called that herbicide Agent Orange...and told GI's it was harmless.
Imagine what would have happened if they had put that poison in their food?
This is the equivalent, only this time they plan to feed it to the world.

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