Yes on 37 activists decry pro-GMO booklet targeting schoolchildren
Effort to label modified foods up against big bucks
Do you know what your kids are reading?
I was recently given a copy of the colorful Look Closer at Biotechnology Activity Book, which was put out by the Council for Biotechnology Information and offered as a no-cost “activity book for kids.” This is according to the organization’s website www.whybiotech.com. Amanda Bosschart, a Northern California-based leader of Yes on 37: Right to Know, a genetically modified-organism-labeling campaign for Proposition 37, is the woman I have to thank for bringing this booklet to my attention.
Why do I mention this? For starters, the book is filled with a lot of disconcerting information about biotechnology, which largely has to do with genetically modified food. Yet, nowhere in the book does the term “GMO” appear. Nor are any similar terms even mentioned. Instead, the friendlier-sounding “biotechnology” is the word of choice throughout the book.
Which, by the way, is a book for children.
“Hi Kids,” the book begins. “Welcome to the Biotechnology Basics Activity Book. This is an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology—a really neat topic.”
The introduction goes on to explain that biotechnology is “such a neat topic” because it is “helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home.”
Keep reading: “You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health.”
The book, which is sprinkled with happy drawings of people discovering the joys of bioengineered foods, goes on to say that biotechnology lets scientists more closely study genes and “make improvements on them.”
For instance, “scientists can now insert a specific gene into a plant that will help it adapt to its environment, make it more pest resistant, or even make it more nutritious.”
And, from the section titled “How can biotechnology help the environment?”: “Thanks to biotechnology, a farmer can manage the weeds without having to plow. This saves energy as well as the soil!”
Tell that to those genetically modified-food-crop farmers in the Midwest and the Southeast United States, who are battling 6-foot and taller superweeds, which have developed a resistance to the Monsanto herbicide Roundup after having planted genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” seeds. (Don’t believe it? Go to www.tinyurl.com/weedattack for more information on the relationship between superweeds and GMO crops.)
But these are the least frightening excerpts from Look Closer at Biotechnology.
Even more scary: “In the future, bananas could be grown with medicines inside them. This means people could grow their own banana trees to provide the essential medicines to protect against illness and disease.”
I know I’m not alone when I write that I do not want to eat bananas that have medicine inside. As researchers have noted, when you engineer pharmaceuticals into the food supply, there’s the possibility of cross contamination, such as the mixing of GMO crops and non-GMO organic crops, which could lead to no longer having a clean food supply.
“This book is just more propaganda. And now they are trying to get it to the youth and brainwashing them,” said Yes on 37’s Bosschart. “This is going to target children and teachers … through public education.”
There’s even a curriculum section at the back outlining other “agricultural biotechnology educational materials” available for schoolchildren of all ages, all the way through the 12th grade. A downloadable version of the book is available at www.whybiotech.com.
It’s worth noting that the Council for Biotechnology Information is made up of the following members: BASF Plant Science, a biotech firm based in Germany; Bayer CropScience; Dow AgroSciences LLC; DuPont; Syngenta; and, no surprise, Monsanto.
If you want to learn more about Proposition 37 and the labeling of GMO foods, visit www.carighttoknow.org.