Anti-GMO activists would make more of an impact if they focused on the root of the issue rather than the symptoms, says Frederick Kaufman on Slate. A whopping 70% of the processed foods already sold at our grocery stores and supermarkets contain genetically modified ingredients.

While we argue vociferously with one another about the possible side effects of genetically modified foods, we have evidence of its real threat. According to Kaufman, we need to look into the patents that catalyzed and continue to feed the growth of GMOs. Quite simply, “the driving force behind the development of new genetic crop modifications is the fact that they possess the potential to be enormously profitable.”

The passing of the 1930 Plant Patent Act provided protection of genetically modified food as intellectual property. From then on, protection has only been expanded, and “the creation of new foods has become a reliable way to ensure profit streams for whoever patented them first.” Decades later, these are the same patents that protect corporations like Monsanto in their development of genetically modified crops and insecticide technology.

On Cali’s Prop 37 Kaufman says, “If the goal of the American food movement is to offer an alternative to Big Food, if the goal is to foster small farmers worldwide, to develop better connections between rural and urban environments, and to support sustainable farming techniques—then labeling GM foods, as California’s Proposition 37 would have done, will not come anywhere close to doing the job.”

He continues, “The time has come for the food movement to take on patent laws. Instead of tilting at the windmill of food labels, food nonprofits should hire a fleet of I.P. lawyers and send them to Washington to demand reform of the Plant Patent Act. When there’s less profit in genetic modification, things will get better for consumers, farmers, and scientists—pretty much everyone except corporate executives.”

[via Slate]