Why to Support Labeling GM Foods

Many U.S. states have mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods on their legislative agendas. Survey after survey shows that more than 90 percent of us want GM foods to be labeled. Now is the time to contact your elected representatives and let them know you’re concerned about genetically modified food.

| August/September 2013

  • GM foods should be labeled; there is simply no good argument against telling consumers the whole story.
    Photo By Fotolia/almagami

Genes form the building blocks of all life. Genetic modification — the technological shuffling of those building blocks among unrelated species — has been heralded since the 1990s as a potentially powerful agricultural tool. But pretty much all the genetically modified (GM) foods that have come to market so far have been crop varieties engineered to resist herbicides or produce insecticidal compounds (so farmers could, theoretically, apply fewer chemicals), and milk from dairy cows given a GM growth hormone that forces them to give more milk. Some countries have adopted these products, but others have banned them because the actual benefits of GM varieties remain unclear, especially as pests adapt to the traits upon which the technology relies.

Both benefits and downsides for consumers are controversial. In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled, based on woefully limited data, that GM foods were “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts. That ruling has been under fire ever since, but the government has failed to require new safety testing. Meanwhile, thousands of foods containing GM corn and soy have been introduced into our food supply (see the chart at How to Avoid Genetically Modified Food to learn how to avoid GM foods).

Recent studies have escalated public concern and renewed demands that GM foods be labeled. Studies have linked genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to cancer, deterioration of liver and kidney function, stomach inflammation, and impaired embryonic development.

Whether you’re for or against GM foods, one thing’s for certain: The science is incomplete.

A GMO labeling initiative on the 2012 ballot in California failed by 53 to 47 percent. Proponents of labeling spent $7.3 million; Big Ag and food processors spent $44 million. Labeling GM foods is about much more than just food safety. It’s about our right as consumers to know what we are eating. But labeling is also about how dominant we are going to allow Big Ag to become. Some of us don’t want to eat GM foods or feed them to our livestock. Others push for labeling because we want to make sure our food policy isn’t set by a handful of multinational corporations.

In the United States, we expect food to carry a label that tells us what’s in it. We require that our orange juice reveal if it is made directly from oranges or “from concentrate.” We require labels to tell us if salt, sugar, MSG, artificial flavors or colors, vitamins, or other ingredients have been added. We require meat labels to reveal when it has been pumped with up to a 12 percent saltwater “flavor solution.” And we require milk to indicate whether it is skim, 1 percent fat, 2 percent fat or whole. GM foods should be labeled; there is simply no good argument against telling consumers the whole story.

7/15/2013 5:15:33 PM

Well, this is what Senator Blunt from Missouri told me when I asked him why he voted down the mandatory labeling of GM foods in our state:

Dear Ms. Gates ,

Thank you for contacting me regarding genetically engineered foods.
In overwhelming numbers, public and private-sector scientists alike support the use of biotechnology because of the remarkable consumer benefits, safety, and the ability to produce food in a sustainable manner. Through sound scientific developments subject to rigorous regulatory framework, consumers both in the United States and abroad will continue to benefit from biotechnological advances as scientists find ways to overcome vitamin deficiencies, supply vaccines, and increase production while protecting fragile natural resources. 
To date, foods derived from genetically engineered products have not caused a single adverse health effect, according to the World Health Organization and Food and Drug Administration. The labeling of such a product could falsely indicate a potential health risk to consumers. 
As you know, Senator Sanders introduced an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill regarding labeling of GM crops.  The amendment was not agreed to, and 71 Senators voted against it.  Moving forward, I will continue to promote a science-based debate on how to maintain the necessary safeguards and focus our efforts to maximize safety and usefulness of this technology.  At the same time, I will also continue my support of organics and other methods of production. 
Agai n, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to continuing our conversation on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/SenatorBlunt) and Twitter ( http://www.twitter.com/RoyBlunt) about the important issues f acing Missouri and the country.  I also encourage you to visit my website ( http://blunt.senate.gov/) to learn more about where I stand on the issues and sign-up for my e-newsletter .

Sincere regards,

Roy Blunt
United States Senator

You need to talk to your representatives and let them know they work for you not the other way around.

7/15/2013 2:02:54 PM

The alternative is to have companies that do not have any GMO items in their products to state so on their labels.  In a way this is akin to having a bottle of water with a label it has 0 calories and no cholesterol!  But it would be honest and allow those companies with those labels a foot in the door with customers who don't want GMO products, even if they have to pay a (X amount) premium.  Get it started.  Someone told me that this is illegal but I don't believe it to be true.  A product should be allowed to say it doesn't have any GMO constituents, if it doesn't.


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