Creamery pushes for tougher GMO rules

March 31, 2008 9:16:00 AM PDT
A Bay Area creamery is about to become the first in the United States to certify its products to be free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. It may give organic consumers peace of mind, but there's no chance it will end the fierce battle over the safety of food containing GMOs.

The Straus family creamery in West Marin went organic in 1995 and wants to keep that certification. That's why it was so disturbing to find genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, contaminating its organic ingredients.

"GMOs are not natural, they are not allowed by organic law and it's a huge issue for us," said Albert Straus, Straus Creamery owner.

Pollen from genetically modified plants has been contaminating organic crops. It had been turning up in milk and eggs used at the Straus Creamery and feed used at the Straus Dairy. About 75 percent of America's corn and soy are genetically modified. That means scientists have transferred genetic information from one plant to another. Making the recipient plant more like the donor plant; more drought resistant for example, or more tolerant to herbicide. But Straus doesn't think anyone knows what GMOs do to humans.

"I feel that not only am I a guinea pig for their research but all consumers are that we're supplying food for," said Albert Straus.

Which is why, in the next month, you will begin to see a 'No-GMO' certification on Straus yogurt and by September, on the side of all Straus products.

"All organic ingredients and products have a paper trail and a certification that goes along with them. We get a copy of all that, we get a copy of their tests as well as we do verification on our end," said Albert Straus.

Although it's a case of Straus certifying its own products and suppliers, it is still approved by the West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety, Rebecca Spector.

"At least Straus is taking the effort through the rigorous process to actually go to levels to make sure feed has been tested for GMOs. And what they are saying is that they won't accept shipments that are above a certain threshold," said Rebecca Spector, Center for Food Safety.

Peggy Lemaux is with the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at U.C. Berkeley. She says, yes, GMOs have only been in the human food chain for 13 years, but they were tested on animals for years before that.

"I've looked at all the safety tests that have been done on the products, that are in the commercial marketplace now, and there is nothing that has been confirmed as being an adverse effect in any of these animal tests that have been done," said Peggy Lemaux, U.C. Berkeley biologist.

Back at the Straus Creamery and Dairy, they're not convinced.

"We're encouraging the rest of the industry to step up and move forward as quickly as possible to get a verification program in place," said Albert Straus.

The GMO controversy in the United States pales in comparison with what's going on in Europe. Thousands of municipalities and tens of thousands of farmers and food producers in Europe have declared themselves GMO free and refuse to allow the use of genetically modified organisms in the agriculture and food in their territories.


Load Comments