Labeling Genetically Modified Foods: Our Right to Know

Labeling of genetically modified foods is required in about 50 countries, but not the United States. It is our right to know which foods are genetically modified so we can make more informed decisions about what we eat.
June/July 2012
http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/labeling-genetically-modified-foods-zm0z12jjzphe.aspx
Some states are tired of waiting for the FDA to label genetically modified foods. Vermont’s legislature is considering a bill to require that genetically modified foods sold in the state be labeled. Monsanto has reportedly said that if Vermont passes the bill, the company will sue the state.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/FIKMIK

Polls have consistently shown that more than 90 percent of respondents want foods that contain genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such. Concern about the health and environmental effects of genetic manipulation continues to grow, but Monsanto and other biotech companies have blocked efforts to require foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled.

In more than 40 other countries, labeling genetically modified foods is required. In the United States, however, the Food and Drug Administration has refused to require labeling, and has even allowed manufacturers to market these foods as “natural” despite the fact that genetic engineering — splicing genes from one organism into another — seems pretty unnatural to most of us.

Criticism of agencies charged to assure our food is safe is growing.

• In 2011, we learned that most hamburger has been adulterated with chemically processed “pink slime,” with no indication on the label that the meat is anything other than plain ground beef. (For readers who are ready to start grinding their own burger, we plan to publish an article about meat grinders later this year.)

• Even when labeling is required, the government allows companies to mislead us. Much of the meat now sold in the United States is labeled as “enhanced with broth.” “Enhanced” means producers have injected a solution of water and salt (that would be the “broth”) into the meat. For every pound you buy, you are paying meat prices for brine — sometimes up to 40 percent! “Enhanced for profit” is what the label really means. Learn more in Shocking News About Meat.

• A new study found that banned antibiotics and arsenic-based medications are still being fed to poultry, indicating the FDA is failing to enforce its own rules. Read more in CLF Researchers Find Evidence of Banned Antibiotics in Poultry Products.

• Then there’s the raw milk battle. Require health warnings on raw milk and other foods deemed risky? Sure. But why do the same officials who routinely condone dangerous industrial practices conduct armed raids to shut down small-scale raw milk sellers? Read about one such raid in Food Safety Chief Defends Raw Milk Raids.

Our right to know and decide what foods to eat would seem pretty basic. Then again, maybe it’s not. In one recent raw milk lawsuit, FDA attorneys argued that “... the plaintiffs did not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.” As long as all foods are accurately labeled, why shouldn’t we have that right? The court ruled for the FDA in that case.

Some states are tired of waiting for the FDA to label genetically modified foods. A ballot initiative in California would force “genetically modified” labeling and prevent manufacturers from labeling genetically modified foods as “natural.” Vermont’s legislature is considering a bill to require that genetically modified foods sold in the state be labeled. Monsanto has reportedly said that if Vermont passes the bill, the company will sue the state.

The Just Label It! campaign has gathered more than 1 million signatures on a petition calling on the FDA to label foods with genetically modified ingredients. Read more at the Just Label It! website.

Our collective voices can create change. Let’s demand the right to know what we are eating.