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Genetically Modified Organisms: Should Labeling Be Voluntary Or Mandatory?

Natural Times, July/August/September 2013

By Paul Rutkovsky

Producers of processed foods, packaged or sold as fast food, can volunteer information as to whether their products are genetically modified. Just don’t hold your breath—you won’t find them at your grocery store in the United States. Many countries, including most of Western Europe, are banning GMOs (genetically modified organisms). GMOs have become so widespread in the U.S. that unless a packaged food is certified organic or labeled non-GMO, chances are it contains modified ingredients. Not just processed foods are genetically modified. Hawaiian papaya, certain varieties of summer squash, and, as recently as last December, drought-resistant corn on the cob have also joined the list of crops that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed for genetic modification in the United States. A super fast-growing salmon may soon be the next approved GMO.

The day before a worldwide protest against Monsanto (May 24, 2013), 71 U.S. senators voted against an amendment to the Senate version of the 2013 Farm Bill that would have guaranteed states the right to enact mandatory GMO labeling laws. These senators voted against our states’ Constitutional Tenth Amendment right to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens and local businesses. Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically engineered seed and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand. The company also formerly manufactured products such as the insecticide DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, and recombinant bovine somatotropin, found in non-organic milk. 

A poll conducted by Thompson Reuters and National Public Radio in 2010 found 93% of Americans believe all genetically engineered (GE) foods should be labeled as such; only 35% were willing to eat GE fish. Many polls have been taken where a majority—80 to 90%—believes that genetically engineered foods should be labeled. However, with that kind of polling, no sane food manufacturer that uses genetically engineered additives will voluntarily put the GMO label on their product. It’s clear and simple, once consumers know what food products use GMOs, many will choose not to buy.

You should know this. What is the Monsanto Protection Act? Anonymously added to a recent budget bill, the controversial rider would protect U.S. biotech companies from litigation and essentially grants Monsanto immunity from legal challenges to the safety of its seeds. Also, last November Proposition 37 in California, which would have required labeling of GE products, was defeated by the pro-GMO industry. Fact: Pro-GMOs contributed $44 million to defeat Prop 37. Advocates for labeling GMO products raised $7 million. We do have the right to know what’s in our food. Buy organic. For the present, organic labeling is relatively trustworthy.

All information for this article came from the following sources:

Organic Consumers Association

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration

LAist

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