American Citizens Send Public Warning to Brits about GMOs


by Melissa Diane Smith

On November 12, 2014, millions of Americans sent a warning to the British people about the dangers of growing genetically modified (GM) crops and urged them to reject GM foods. It came in an open letter published in The Times newspaper and promoted through a digital billboard at Waterloo station.

Signatories of “Living with GMOs: A Letter from America” include health, consumer, and farming groups, American celebrities Susan Sarandon, Daryl Hannah and Robert Kennedy Jr., and doctors Joseph Mercola and Andrew Weil. I as a nutritionist and book author also am among the charter letter signers.

The unique citizens-to-citizens letter details the problems and challenges America has experienced in the nearly two decades of growing and eating genetically engineered crops and is a plea for the U.K. and other European countries not to follow the U.S. example when it comes to GM foods, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or “Frankenfoods.” The following is my quote, which is included with my signature:

“GMOs pose risks to our health, the environment, farmers, our food security, and the control of our food. It’s time for all of us to wake up to the disturbing truth that has been hidden from us about GMOs and work together to go against GMOs to protect our food system, our health, and our planet.”

– Melissa Diane Smith, Nutritionist and Author of Going Against GMOs

The letter officially launched on November 12th with a full-page ad in The Times newspaper and a digital billboard across the concourse of Waterloo Station, the U.K.’s busiest railway station. The previous day, on November 11th, the letter was hand-delivered to Number 10 Downing St., the residence of the Prime Minister, by a delegation consisting of U.S. and U.K. citizen campaigners. The full version of the letter, with all the signatories, can now be seen on its own website, U.S. citizens are encouraged to add their signatures to the letter on the website, and U.K. citizens are given easy instructions on how to send the letter to their elected representatives.

The letter is part of a larger campaign to counter the pro-GMO campaign that has been mounted by the government and the biotech industry to open up Britain to GM crops and food. It was coordinated in the U.K. by the new U.K. campaigning group, Beyond GM, and in the U.S. by campaigners Pamm Larry, the instigator of the landmark Proposition 37 labeling initiative in California, and Diana Reeves who founded GMO Free USA.

The written warning, which highlights the problems and challenges that American farmers, consumers and others have faced over nearly two decades of growing and eating GM crops, comes at a critical time. The U.K. and the rest of the E.U. have yet to adopt GM crops in the way that America has, but that all could change quickly. The U.K. is currently under tremendous pressure from governments, biotech lobbyists, large corporations, and international trade negotiations to loosen restrictions on the planting, import, and sale of GM foods. The European Parliament will vote in January whether member states can decide for themselves to grow GM crops or not. If this legislation is passed, the U.K. could see the planting of commercial GM crops within the next six to eighteen months.

Though Europe has held out against the corporate push for GMOs for a long time, many Brits have become complacent about the GMO issue over time. The individuals and groups behind the “Letter from America” say they are hoping to raise awareness and to inspire the British public to get re-educated about this issue and take a vocal stance against the heavy pressure they’re experiencing to accept GMOs and to remove their GMO labeling laws.

The fully referenced letter argues that GM crops have never delivered on their promises to increase yields and profits or to decrease pesticide use. In fact, they have done the opposite: the cost of growing GM crops is now greater than conventional crops in the U.S., and pesticide use is 24 percent higher among GM farmers than non-GM farmers planting the same crops.

In addition, the environmental harm caused by this increased herbicide use has led to the destruction of vital insect and bee populations. The population of the Monarch butterfly, for example, has dropped by over 80 percent in some parts of the U.S. as the herbicide, Roundup, kills milkweed, the Monarch’s key food source. The herbicide also damages soil structure and makes essential micronutrients unavailable to the plant and therefore our food.

The American signatories believe their experience of seeing the United States use what they call a “failing agricultural technology” serves as a warning to other countries about to journey down the same road. They conclude that GM food “has never really been about public good, or feeding the hungry, or supporting farmers. Nor is it about consumer choice. Instead it’s about private, corporate control of the food system.”

Those who signed the letter

The letter has been signed by U.S. non-government organizations, academics, scientists, doctors, anti-GM groups, celebrities, food manufacturers, and others representing around 57 million Americans. These include:

  • Organic Consumers Association – a group that represents more than one million consumers in the US
  • Friends of the Earth, US – representing more than 300,000 members
  • Food and Water Watch, representing some half a million members
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility, with 50,000 members
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
  • The Citizens Trade Campaign a coalition of groups with more than 12 million members
  • The Sierra Club – an environmental organization with 2.5 million members across the U.S .
  • The Rachel Carson Council –internationally recognized experts on pesticides
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps – the internationally recognized organic soap brand
  • Alice Waters – Chef, author and pioneer of the local eating movement in the US
  • Activist and attorney, Robert Kennedy Jr.
  • Actresses Susan Sarandon, Daryl Hannah, and Frances Fisher, and Mariel Hemingway
  • Fashion designer, Tommy Hilfiger
  • Youth non-GMO advocates Rachel Parent, Daniel Bissonnette, and Alicia Serratos
  • Dr. Joseph Mercola and Andrew Weil, M.D.

Read the letter

See the Signatories

See coverage of this story in the Daily Mail

Melissa’s Comments:

I am honored to be among the charter signatories of this unique citizens-to-citizens letter to try to protect the people of the European Union from the dangers of GM foods and agriculture. Few people realize it but the United States has been the primary grower and consumer of genetically modified foods since their beginning and, therefore, has been the first to see and experience the many ways GMOs are not beneficial to everyday people in any way. In the United States, we have: more toxic chemical pesticides in our environments; the development and spread of super weeds and super insects; farmers that are being sued for growing patented GM crops they didn’t want to be growing; kids that are sicker than their parents were at the same age; and a population that is far more unhealthy than most industrialized countries in the world. It’s not a pretty picture.

In the nearly two decades since the first GM crops were planted, a visible public and media campaign has helped keep GM crops from being planted in the E.U. Poll after poll has continued to show that people in the U.K. want the country to remain GM Free. Indeed there are already GM-Free commitments from the Welsh and Scottish governments. And yet, as GMOs have fallen off the public agenda, supermarkets have begun to stock products made with GM ingredients as well as meat, milk and eggs from animals fed GM feed – without labeling. This is too important an issue for Europeans to become complacent and allow biotechnology companies to take control of their food supply as they did in the United States. The “Letter from America” is a first step in re-engaging the public in this vital discussion about our collective food future.

Want to know more about GMOs? Get educated by reading my new book Going Against GMOs (or order here in the U.K.) I wrote it as an easy-to-read guide to help the public grasp all the issues surrounding GM foods and why this topic is so important for all of us to understand.

Copyright 2014 Melissa Diane Smith

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