Chemical Companies & Our Food: What You Need to Know

By Robyn O’Brien

With the FDA essentially closed for business right now due to the shutdown (they are not doing inspections or enforcements), it’s a bit like the wild wild west out there on the frontlines of our food supply.

In no way is this more obvious than with what is happening in Washington state.

In the last few weeks, chemicals companies have literally saturated the state, not only with the chemicals that they pour on their genetically engineered crops, but also with money to stop an initiative that would give eaters the right to know that this is happening: that our food is now in the hands of a few big chemical companies.

If you had no idea, you’re not alone.  You don’t exactly expect chemical companies to be the ones growing your food.

But it’s something that we should pay attention no matter where we live, because it could happen anywhere.  And it is.

According to the chemical companies that manufacture these genetically engineered ingredients recently introduced into our foods, these foods and ingredients are “substantially equivalent” to their conventional counterparts.  At least that is what they told the FDA which has not conducted the independent studies themselves.

But according to these same chemical companies, they have also told the United States Patent and Trademark Office that the novelty of these foods and ingredients are so unique that they merit unique patents on each one in order to protect the intellectual property rights and their fiduciary duty to shareholders to drive financial return. In other words, they are “substantially different.”

The EPA also considers them to be substantially different enough that some of these products are now regulated by the EPA as a pesticide (as seen here).

So which is it?

Are the chemical companies telling the truth to the FDA, in which case, these ingredients are substantially equivalent enough to not merit a label?  Or are they telling the truth to the US Patent and Trademark Office in which case these ingredients are substantially different enough to merit a patent?

Shareholders in these companies are hoping the latter, as they have bet on the novelty of these ingredients and the technology that produces them the way investors bet on the novelty of other technologies and their applications.

Like Intel Inside, with GMO inside, shouldn’t that be labeled?

In the absence of any federal legislation, a growing number of Americans think it should be.  More than half of the states, from California to Maine, have introduced legislation requiring the chemical companies, and the food companies they sell to, to label these ingredients in our food supply.

It’s a bit like what happened with seat belt laws.  In the absence of any federal legislations around wearing a seat belt and exercising a bit of precaution, states began introducing seat belt laws back in the 1980s.

States are doing the same thing here, wanting to exercise a bit of precaution when it comes to what we eat.

It’s hardly anything new.  Our very own American companies are already labeling these ingredients in the products that they sell in 64 other countries around the world, just not here, at least not yet.

If the infographic in the link below is any indication, the chemical companies don’t want their ingredients labeled here, too.  They are pouring money into Washington state to keep their products off the label.

With a 38% drop in the sales of their genetically engineered soybeans, it is easy to see why they are fighting so hard to keep us in the dark.  It appears that consumers aren’t the only ones beginning to question these products, farmers may be, too, questioning not only the products but also the suite of chemicals being used on them.

In light of the escalating rates of diseases that are making are health care system such a contentious budget issue, do we want chemical companies pumping their ingredients into our food and pouring their chemicals over it without our knowing?

It’s food for thought.

To view the full infographic of the money being poured against a labeling initiative, please click here.

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