'Evening News' Gives One-Sided Account of Genetically Modified Food

     Is the food industry trying to pull a fast one on you? According to the “CBS Evening News,” they are. The May 11 broadcast featured a segment suggesting there might be a hidden threat grocery stores don’t want the public to know about.

     “Today, more than 90 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is genetically modified – had its DNA altered to increase production and withstand chemical weed killers like Roundup,” CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian said. “Nearly three-quarters of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. Experts say that means if it comes in a can or a box and the label says soybean oil or corn syrup – odds are it contains GMOs [genetically modified organisms].”

     According to Keteyian, about 65 percent of all products in your local grocery store contain DNA-altered ingredients. A recent story written by Live Science’s Clara Moskowitz suggested this technology will help overcome food shortages in the future.

    “Some scientists think the key to truly ending world hunger lies in genetically manipulating crops to provide boons that nature cannot match,” Moskowitz wrote on April 30.

     However, Keteyian’s report was stacked in favor of those who doubted the benefits of GMOs – including Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University who is one of the media’s favorite food policewomen and a MoveOn.org contributor. Nestle expressed distrust in food manufacturers, similar to the way she did when cereal manufacturers agreed to stop using cartoon characters for their marketing in July 2007.

     “The industry that makes genetically modified foods fought so hard to make sure that it wasn’t labeled,” Nestle said.

     Keteyian also served up a softball in an interview with Andy Kimbrell from the Center for Food Safety, which according to the organization’s Web site opposes the use of GMOs and was established for “the purpose of challenging harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives.”

     “Labeling is the only way that health professionals are going to be able to trace if there is a problem," Kimbrell said. “For example, if you’re a mother and you’re giving your child soy formula and that child has a toxic or allergic reaction, the only way you’ll know if that’s a genetically-engineered soy formula is if it’s labeled."

     That interview was a very sharp contrast compared to the one he conducted with Robert Brackett, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America. Keteyian grilled Brackett on food labeling:

Brackett: Well, I think the consumers have that information available to them if they want to go look for that.

Keteyian: Where? Where do I find it?

Brackett: You can find it on Web sites. You can go directly to the manufacturer.

Keteyian: Why isn’t it your responsibility to tell people what it is they are eating?

Brackett: Well, it’s our responsibility to make sure that the foods that are put in the grocery store shelves are safe.

     Even the World Health Organization (WHO) said the foods were “generally safe” and have not presented any widespread health dangers.

     “GM [genetically modified] foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health,”  the WHO site states. “In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

     In fact, an article written by L. Andrew Staehelin, Ph.D., and David A. Christopher, Ph.D., in May 2007 indicated genetically modified crops are safer and healthier.

     “Despite highly publicized attacks by anti-GM [genetically modified] crop activists, GM crops are being grown at an increasing rate,” Staehelin and Christopher wrote for the American Council on Science and Health. “Over 10 million farmers worldwide are now using GM seeds, and the amount of land that has been planted with GM seeds is significantly higher than 1 billion acres. GM crops can produce safer and more nutritious foods, can decrease the use of pesticides and thereby help the environment, and can help farmers around the world lead prosperous and healthier lives.”