Label It Yourself Movement Raises Awareness About GMOs

In the absence of government action, citizens take on GMO labeling themselves.

You know the saying: “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” That’s especially true when change moves at the speed of politics and we need something done now.

Label It Yourself is a decentralized, grassroots movement that lets consumers label foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. It’s an idea that combines elements of DIYculture jamming, and a even a bit of the Occupy movement to basically give a big, fat middle finger to policy makers who refuse to regulate the spread of genetically engineered organisms, and the global corporations that lobby against such regulations.

You can start now. Download the artwork, print up a bunch on label sheets, head out to the grocery store, and slap labels on packaged foods that likely contain GE ingredients.

They won’t be hard to find. It’s estimated that up to 70% of packaged foods contain some GE material.

Tips for identification:

1. Start with any non-certified organic packaged food containing any of the top genetically modified food crops—corn, soy, canola (rapeseed), and sugar beets.

2. Don’t stop there. Read ingredient labels to look for derivatives of those crops commonly found in packaged foods. These include corn flour, corn oil, corn starch, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, and glucose, modified food starch, soy flour, lecithin, soy protein, soy protein isolate, and isoflavone. Also look for cottonseed oil (as much as 93% of US-grown cotton is genetically modified). Vegetable oil and vegetable protein are suspect since they could easily be derived from GE soy, corn, canola, or cotton.

3. Identify sweeteners: After the approval of GE sugar beets, acreage in production exploded, making any non-organic product that lists sugar, but doesn’t designate it as 100% cane sugar, suspect.

Kellogg is already feeling the pain of the Label it Yourself movement. Activists began posting photos of the label on Kellogg’s corn flakes on Kellogg’s Facebook Page, although Kellogg’s keeps taking it down.

For all you rule followers, there’s positive news regarding the various political efforts to label GE foods: The Just Label it Campaign, which is gathering signatures to ask the FDA to initiate Federal labeling has 1 million signatures and counting. California’s Right to Know campaign garnered enough support among voters to qualify for November’s ballot. None of these efforts are mutually exclusive. Polls consistently show that 90% of American consumers want GE food labeled, so they can decide on their own.

Now, if we could just take on global warming ourselves.

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.