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‘Sharing’ misinformation, the downside of social media

August 25, 2012 Areawide, Business 5 Comments

Users of social media often don’t question the statements made in posts such as this one posted on Facebook.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the development and federal approval of genetically-modified foods (or organisms), also known as GMOs.

Currently, California is getting ready to vote on Proposition 37 in November, which would require foods (i.e. spaghetti sauce, cereal, breads and most recently, a “non-browning” apple) that contain GMOs (transgenic) to state as much on their labels so that consumers can choose whether to buy these items, or not.

Not surprisingly, companies that produce GMOs are opposed to labeling because it could lead to consumers avoiding these foods.

There also are groups, worldwide, calling for a ban on genetically-modified foods (in some countries, they are already banned) because opponents feel not enough research has been done on long-term effects on the human body after consuming these foods (i.e. corn).

For example, a Monsanto-brand of corn is genetically engineered to release its own insecticide.

Opponents say that the insecticide also kills beneficial insects – such as honey bees, which are necessary for pollinating plants so that the plants can form new seeds.

Just Label It video

Other opponents are concerned about the impact on the natural world.

Video about connection between bees and GMOs (full-length video can be viewed on YouTube at http://youtu.be/UCqwQmS1KXw )

Bees are also of concern today because of “bee die-off.”  Without bees, human beings will not have vegetable foods to eat, and the animals we eat will not have food to eat (grain, corn, etc.) either.

Beneficial insects also are necessary to control the populations of non-beneficial insects.

Proponents of GMOs say they will help produce more food, particularly in countries where there is danger of famine because, for example, they are less susceptible to disease or are drought tolerant. There is disagreement, however, about the success of these new plants or the cost-benefit balance.

Other concerns center around companies such as Monsanto and their actions toward farmers. You can find news stories online that document Monsanto successfully suing farmers whose fields were “contaminated” by drifting GMO/patented seed, as well as farmers who (until now) were in the habit of saving seed from their crops in order to lower their costs.

Monsanto promo video

The photo posted with this story represents another side of the problem – misinformation – and the hazards of automatically “sharing” photos and posters and the like in social media without checking the facts.

In this case, the photo depicts a list of organic food companies that people have come to rely on for safe, wholesome foods and states that they are in fact opposed to labeling GMO-containing foods and are also “funneling” funds to stop labeling.

In the comments that accompany the photo, a reader shares that he wrote to these companies and two responses, to date, paint a very different picture.

As for other examples of information-sharing in social media, caution should also be exercised when passing along alerts about missing children, health scares, crime scares, computer virus scares, etc.  One good source for verifying these announcements is Snopes.com and for computer-related issues, McAfee.com

One of the most powerful aspects of social media, such as Facebook, is that it can be used to educate others, and gather support for civic and social action… but it is also all too easy to pass along misinformation by hitting that “share” button.

Social media continues to evolve in many areas of our lives and like most “tools” can be used for benefit or to do harm – so it is up to us to exercise good judgment.

For the record, I support labeling foods containing genetically-modified ingredients.

And so, this is what Gordon Könyāhû Hayes wrote in Facebook about the GMO photo posted by NaturalNews:

I wrote to all of these companies the other day and have so far received 2 responses. This information is F A L S E! Neither Kashi or Silk have donated a red cent to defeat Prop 37. And Silk is supporting a NATIONAL effort to require labeling.

Gordon Könyāhû Hayes – I have written NaturalNews and complained about their lie tactic as well as reporting them to the companies they are falsely accusing.

SeedsNow.com ‎@ Gordon – would you mind sharing their responses with us? It’s good to hear the other side of the story. Please share.

Gordon Könyāhû Hayes – Not a problem.

Gordon Könyāhû Hayes – I have also called for a boycott of NaturalNews until they can quit using deceptive practices.

Gordon Könyāhû Hayes – [from Silk® ]

Thank you for your recent e-mail to Silk®. We appreciate your interest in our products.

At WhiteWave, we believe consumers have the right to make informed choices about the foods they eat, and support labeling foods that are made with non-genetically modified ingredients.

• We support labeling foods that are made with non-genetically modified ingredients.

• While we support the underlying principles of Prop 37, we choose to support national initiatives, such as Just Label It and the Non-GMO Project that will not impede the availability of our products.

Just look at two of our national brands – Silk and Horizon Organic. They are both produced without the use of genetically modified ingredients and the package clearly indicates this.

Our entire Silk plant-based beverage portfolio is verified by the Non-GMO Project, and proudly carries the Non-GMO Verified logo.

All of our Horizon Organic products carry the USDA Organic Seal, and have since 2001. Consumers have come to know and trust that the certified organic label means their food is produced without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, added growth hormones, and GMOs.

Today at WhiteWave Foods, 85 percent of our products are non-GMO, and we are working to move additional ingredients in our portfolio to non-GMO.

We are proud of the national initiatives in which Silk and Horizon Organic engage.

The Just Label It! initiative is supported by a broad coalition of consumers and businesses interested in how their food is produced, including Silk and Horizon Organic. The campaign involves a petition with the FDA seeking mandatory labeling of GM foods.

Consumers can make a public comment in support of the petition on the campaign’s website at www.justlabelit.org

Thanks again for contacting the Consumer Affairs Department.

Gabriel Gonzalez

Consumer Response Representative

Gordon Könyāhû Hayes – [From Kashi]

Hello Gordon, Thanks for reaching out to us about the recent media coverage supporting proposition 37. We appreciate the opportunity to respond.

While Kellogg is our parent company, Kashi operates as an independent business in La Jolla, CA and has not made any contributions to oppose GMO labeling. We are committed to significantly increasing the number of USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified foods we offer over the next few years.

Today, we purchase over 35 million pounds of organic ingredients annually and are proud to have Non-GMO Project Verification of seven Kashi cereals, including Kashi® Autumn Wheat®, Cinnamon Harvest®, Island Vanilla®, Strawberry Fields®, 7 Whole Grain Flakes, and 7 Whole Grain Puffs cereals, and Kashi® 7 Whole Grain Pilaf.

In addition, two cereals, Kashi® Simply Maize and Kashi® Indigo Morning™ are currently in the process of becoming Non-GMO Project Verified. To learn more, please visit http://www.kashi.com/ourcommitment. We understand your concern about GMO ingredients. This issue is larger than just Kashi and positive change requires time and collaboration across many partners within the food system.

We appreciate hearing your voice. Thanks again for contacting us.

Valerie G.

Consumer Specialist

Consumer Affairs

Posted August 25, 2012

Related links:

Bans and regulations on GMOs in other countries http://www.ehow.com/info_8527757_countries-banned-gmo-foods.html

Just Label It http://justlabelit.org

Monsanto http://www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx

About who is making financial contributions to the No on Prop 37 side http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/22/business/la-fi-gmo-campaign-funds-20120822

Note: If you are interested in this issue, there is a GMO Free Farmers Market and Education Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bushnell Park in Hartford, CT on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. It is hosted by GMO Free Hartford.

Have a news item, event or Letter to the Editor you’d like posted on this news site? Simply send your information to editor@htnp.com and include your town in the subject line of your email. Please also include a phone number where you can be reached if there are questions. For daily updates on local and Connecticut news, “like” us on Facebook at HTNP News. https://www.facebook.com/HTNPnews and find us on our NEW Twitter page at HTNP News (@HTNPNews )

Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Marc_Hutton says:

    Well after reading this carefully, and being an administer on a page dedicated to Prop 37 and stopping GMOs, I standby the original picture you used from NaturalNews. We posted it on our page and I have no intention of removing it after reading this article. There was a lot of slick PR speech in their e-mails but it is clear that the do not support Prop 37 and their choice of voluntary programs,while nice on the surface, means there is no force of law behind it. If they decide to lie, so what. Now let me add this, I am a PhD scientist who has worked in graphic arts and food packaging for years. Since I have had a hand in producing labels and/or packaging for every major brand out there, the simple fact is that the cost that would be incurred by them to label GMOs is extremly small and could be accomplished in less than a day in reality due to current digital to plate technology. That is the truth. The misinformation has and continues to come from Big Argiculture and Big Food. Let me end by saying this, I am glad you did take the time to write the article Brenda and you did a good job. I just think you need to analyze their PR responces a little more closely.

    • Speaking of “no force of law,” why is organic food exempt from the law? If transparency is what your goal is, why not labeling across the board. Organic food can be unintentionally contaminated, right?

      And if you want to talk misinformation, your campaign has it in spades. Bad science, flawed science and outright lies. Your main contributor is a snake oil salesman who peddles questionable supplements and is against a proposed law that would require him to label his supplements

      As to labeling, you are being disingenuous when you claim it’s a simple process and of little cost. It’s more complex than that and I think you know that. Both gmo and non-gmo grains are harvested, stored, transported, etc by the same trucks, silos, elevators, etc. To 100% insure that there is no contamination, there would need to be separate, well separate everything that I mentioned above.

      The law says that the producer has 30 days to correct any problem. Mercola, your biggest donor feels that a 30- requirement is onerous when it comes to labeling his supplements. He claims it will bankrupt supplement sellers.

      Also, why are restaurants exempt? Is the gmo food that might possibly be served different than the gmo food you buy in the supermarket?

      And can you answer this? This is relating to the definition of natural which you want to redefine. If you take organic apples and make apple sauce without adding or adulterating it in any way, would the resulting product be allowed to be touted as “natural?”

      • Marc_Hutton says:

        Uh no bernie changing the label is as easy as editing a .pdf file and then running it through a laser printer that makes the printing plate, litho or flexo. Changing it takes just as long as that. As for the rest of your comments Bernie, unless you are a PhD chemist like myself or a PhD biologist, you are not even remotely qualified enough to speak to those other issues and I have no interest in discussing them with you. I am not a college instructor any more and I don’t need to waste my time on talking to someone who doesn’t have the basic education to even understand the issues involved.

        • Okay. You can’t or won’t answer my questions. Fair enough. None of the questions I raised have anything to do with chemistry or biology. They had to do with the transportation, storage and the co-mingling of different grains. I asked why organic and restaurants were exempt. And I asked about the applesauce. What about my right to know? Are you guys all about that?

          • Marc_Hutton says:

            Everything you asked is specifically related to biochemistry and biology. If you actually knew anything about it you would know that. Any GMO contamination would be, as it is in Europe, unacceptable in any food trying to pass as a GMO. Yes, the whole purpose of this is to make GMOs such a problem that the will be uneconomic to raise or bring in the 9th largest economy in the world. That is not a secret.

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