Thursday, October 8, 2015

The right to know

By Kevin Morley

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.-- In the year 2013, the state of Vermont passed a bill of legislation that would change how people look at their food for years to come. Better known by the people of Vermont as the “Vermont Right to Know GMO’s ” campaign, the organization looks to put an abrupt end to the use of genetically engineered products.

            GMO’s, which stand for genetically modified organisms, have been present in our daily lives for quite some time now. In the year 1982, the FDA approved the first genetically engineered product in the form of Humulin, insulin that is a genetic mutation of E. coli. Roughly a decade later in the year 1994, The U.S Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of genetically modified tomatoes that could remain on store shelves for longer periods of time due to their delayed ripening features.

Dee Morse, a retail sales associate at Harlow Farm, looks past the benefits of genetically modified foods to take a deeper look into how they are bad for a consumer.

“We’ve been selling non-GMO products for over three years now.” Morse said. “It’s important to me because I know the effect that sprays and chemicals can have on the body.”

Although GMO’s are believed to increase both the lifespan as well as the taste of some products, there still is a dramatic price that the customers pay. One of the consequences to having mutation in food is that the product becomes less resistant to dangers such as pesticides and disease. Harlow Farm, one of the farms in support of “Vermont Right to Know GMO’s,” has a constant mission of trying to educate consumers.

“Lately, people have become more fearful of how GMO’s can harm them.” Farm Manager, Jon Slason said. “People always come to me with questions and my answer is always really simple; with organic products, you know what you’re getting.”

Slason along with many other farmers hope to educate more people so they can make the healthier choice. In addition, the fact that companies can patent their genetically modified foods has taken a toll on local farmers.

Once a company patents their seed, they have complete control over that product. In other words, if the seed accidentally enters a farmer’s crop and eventually blossoms, the company that created the seed has rights to that crop rather than the farmer who actually owned it. This is a problem that the people at Wild Carrot Farm have become all too familiar with.

“My neighbor once bought genetically modified seed from a company.” Owner, Jesse Kayan said. “I guess the wind picked up some of that seed and transferred it to my crops and I wasn’t able to sell that crop.”

Through various testing, companies are able to prove in cases such as Kayan’s that it is, in fact, their crop. This poses a financial burden for many farmers due to the fact that they had no intention of stealing the seed.

Even though farmers such as Kayan and Slason fight the battle against GMO’s daily, the people of Plattsburgh are still not fully aware of the harms of genetically modified organisms. New York State has not yet adopted the legislation that is necessary to place GMO labels on food products, and as a result the people of the state are bewildered by the thought.

“We don’t have labels on any of our products.” Jenna Lieberman, Manager of the local smoothie joint, Smooth Moves said. “I can’t recall one customer that has ever asked about GMO’s.”

Although awareness of genetically modified products is indeed less sufficient here in Plattsburgh, there are select individuals making a push for organic products. Caitlin O’Donnell, a member of the Botany Club at SUNY Plattsburgh is passionate about her mission. She hopes to one day have GMO labeling on campus and hopes to educate her peers on the benefits of organic products.

“Most of the time you can’t know for sure what you’re putting in your body.” O’Donnell said. “All the chemicals and other things that are added could be harmful.”

Vermont has proven to be the head of the non-GMO movement and their consumers seem to be supportive of the results. American Flatbread, an organic pizza restaurant, has teamed up with “Vermont Right to Know GMO’s,” as they have rid of GMO products in their menu.

“The food tasted better and appeared to be more fresh than generic restaurants.” Customer, Tilo Moeller said. “If I’m paying for something, especially a service, I have every right to know exactly what is or isn’t in it.”

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