(Public News Service) BELLINGHAM, Wash. - On Memorial Day weekend, about 2 million people in more than 50 countries protested crops from genetically modified (GMO) seeds overtaking the food supply for humans and animals. The "March Against Monsanto" took place in 11 Washington cities, including Bellingham. An organic grocery there, Terra Organica, recently became the first in the nation to label GMO products on its shelves. Owner Stephen Trinkaus agreed with customers who said they have the right to know what's in their food - and whether it is created using bio-technology.
"I think the main thing is that we just don't know," Trinkaus said. "There have not been long-term, human studies on the effects of a diet with so much GMO in it."
While there was a March Against Monsanto in Bellingham, Trinkaus said, the same group also marched in the city's annual "Ski to Sea Blossom Time" parade with a positive message about supporting locally grown foods.
Late last year, Terra Organica surveyed its customers, asking if they would rather the store label its GMO products, stop selling them, or make no changes. Ninety percent said "Label them." Trinkaus said events like the weekend protests will at least prompt people to find out more.
"A lot of people don't even know what a 'GMO' is," he said. "A lot of people don't know what Monsanto does. It can't help but bring awareness to the issue."
In November, Washington voters will weigh in on this topic. The outcome of Initiative 522 will determine if foods sold in the state have to be labeled for GMO content.
The GMO process involves inserting genes into common farm seeds to make them hardier or more pest-resistant, and Monsanto has patented its results. In his research, Trinkaus noted, the initial claims of GMOs improving crops have not panned out - so far.
"The promise was, 'Oh, we'll need less herbicides and less pesticides.' That simply has not happened. So, the promise of GMOs has not been fulfilled, and I think it was primarily done for the profits of the large chemical companies," he said.
Those who favor GMO development say its opponents are just trying to prop up the organic food industry. They predict food costs will rise as non-organic products have to be reformulated or relabeled.