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Students push non-GMO food bill

Ron Flemming and Lanae Hernandez, graduate students in public administration, present “The Future of Food” to an audience in the Campus Center Ballroom. The video sought to raise awareness about the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.” After the film viewers were asked to sign a petition to get the act on the November ballot. / photo by Zachary Horton

Alex Forbess
Staff Writer

Five graduate students raised awareness about genetically modified organisms to approximately 40 spectators along with a showing of “The Future of Food” Feb. 23 in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Gabriela De La Cruz, a public administration graduate student, and her classmates were on a mission to both alert people of genetically modified organisms and gain 850,000 signatures for the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.

If done by April 22, this bill will be on the ballot in the general election in November.

“The statistics are shocking,” MPA graduate student Lanae Hernandez said. “75 percent of food sold in grocery stores has GMOs.”

If passed, this bill will make it mandatory to label those foods saying they have GMOs.

“I am the type of person who reads the food labels,” MPA graduate student Aylin Aleksandryan said. “If they are not labeling if GMOs are in the product, I feel they are lying to the customer.”

“The Future of Food” starts by reminding viewers how the U.S. was once a nation of farmers who naturally grew their own seeds and stock.

Today, major companies are altering the DNA of plants and meat products by injecting foreign compounds from other plants, animals and bacteria.

The audience shriveled in disgust to see the various methods used to alter the DNA, from extracting flounder DNA and injecting it in tomatoes to using a gene gun.

“It does not allow the plant to grow naturally,” Aleksandryan said. “I am eating something that is fake.”

These companies claim they alter the DNA so their products can be resistant to harsh environments, like a patient getting a flu shot.

However, this can lead to serious side-effects if consumed.

During a movie, a lab rat fed only GMO tomatoes died from lesions, which were caused by this foreign substance. This item, along with other products, is sold in stores.

These companies, which shall remain anonymous, say it is not their liability to notify the public of GMOs. It is not that they cannot release this information; it is that they do not want to.

“We just want to know what we are buying,” Aleksandryan said.

Hernandez said there is money involved using GMOs, especially when GMO plants cross-pollinate with other plants. If GMO plants were to cross-pollinate with a farmer’s stock, the company can say it is legally their property.

These companies have gained patents in order to gain control of their industry; patenting nature was allowed by a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court vote.

This was made possible with former company representatives taking various government positions, the lecturers said.

MPA graduate student Angelina Diaz said it is unfortunate to know how much power is bestowed on these companies. She also said it makes it tough on the farmers and their lively hood.

Spectators were motivated to place their signature on the petition and every group member is confident they will get this bill on the ballot.

“Whether you buy a GMO product is up to you, but we just want people to be informed,” Aleksandryan said.

Alex Forbess can be reached at alex.forbess@laverne.edu.

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