Glasnost for GMOs?

Lauren Teixeira

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Despite a recent poll showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans—93 percent—want labels on foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the biotech industry, led by Monsanto, is undertaking a PR campaign to convince us otherwise. GMOs have drawn suspicion and hostility since the 1990s for their increasing ubiquity and their potential health and environmental consequences. While the actual risks posed by GMO's are hotly debated, advocates of labeling say they have a right to know what is in their food.  Accordingly, the theme of this new industry-led campaign is "transparency." The Council for Biotech Information, comprised of Monsanto and other biotech giants such as Dow and Bayer, has funded a new website,, which will theoretically answer any and all questions consumers have about GMOs. Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotech Information, told the New York Times that, “We have not done a very good job communicating about GMOs.” But she denied that the biotech industry has been withholding information: “We have been accused of purposely hiding information. We haven’t done that but now we will open the doors and provide information.” Presumably biotech is hoping that increased “communication” will help slow down a tide of anti-GMO victories.  Connecticut recently enacted a GMO-labeling law, and a similar mandate awaits the governor’s signature in Maine. In Washington state, the grassroots I-522 campaign has been gaining steam. Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association, told the New York Times he was “skeptical” but acknowledged the site could be potentially useful: "Hopefully they’ll make it easier for independent researchers to do research on these crops if they’re interested in being transparent.”

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Lauren Teixeira is a Summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times.
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