You Have the Right to Know
September 17, 2013
One hundred calories per serving, two servings per container, three grams of fiber, product of USA, may contain traces of soy, manufactured in a facility that processes wheat.
We are accustomed to seeing all of these labels on our food. However, there is one label that exists in 64 countries that you won’t find in the United States – a label for genetically modified ingredients (GMOs).
According to the World Health Organization, GMOs are "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally." The process of creating GMOs involves injecting the gene of one species into the DNA of another species.
Currently, there is no scientific consensus on the benefits or risks of GMOs, but a trio of recent studies should give us pause.
In June, Australian researchers published a study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems showing that pigs fed an entirely GMO diet suffered from severe stomach inflammation when compared to pigs given non-GMO feed. Two years ago, a study by Canada’s University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre found the Bt toxin, a pesticide injected in the DNA of genetically modified corn and cottonseed, circulating in the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as non-pregnant women. In addition, earlier this year, Brazilian researchers reported in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases that the Bt toxin can cause blood abnormalities from anemia to leukemia in mammals, “increasing their toxic effects with long-term exposure.”
Many people assume the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal regulatory body for GMOs, would only allow them if they had been proven safe for humans to eat. However, GMOs have never been proven safe for consumption, and even worse, several high-level employees at the FDA have also worked for food-industry corporations vehemently opposed to GMO labeling, most notably Michael Taylor, current deputy commissioner of the Office of Foods, who also worked at Monsanto, one of the biggest biotech companies creating genetically modified seeds.
Since the jury’s still out on the true safety of GMOs, doesn’t it make sense for consumers to decide for themselves if they want to eat GMOs or not? Many companies that sell products without a label in the US that include GMOs sell the same products in Europe – where labeling is the law – either without including GMOs or with a label. If they can do it for their customers in Europe, they can’t they do it for customers in the US?
In fact, their customers want them to. A New York Times poll conducted early this year found that 93 percent of respondents think foods containing genetically modified ingredients should be identified. Almost thirty states have proposed state labeling initiatives. Connecticut and Maine passed labeling laws in June (though both are contingent on neighboring states also adopting labeling laws). Right now there’s a heated battle in Washington State over a GMO-labeling initiative headed for a vote in November.
Food industry leaders opposed to labeling argue that having different labeling laws in different states would be costly and confusing. This provides a great argument for labeling at the federal level – an option recently proposed by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) in the House of Representatives and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate.
“American families shouldn’t have to play a guessing game when it comes to the food they put on their kitchen tables,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said. “Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, and this bill gives them the tools they need to make informed decisions about the foods they choose.”
The bills have bipartisan support from over 50 co-sponsors.
If the bill passes, yes, we’ll see a little more text on our packages of food. We’ll also know what we’re eating. Isn’t that one of our basic rights?
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Genetically Engineered Foods Right-to-Know Act »