GMO food labeling: Resistance is futile

03/22/2012 11:50:00 AM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstSomething you will not hear any large retailer or produce marketer say: Government mandated labeling of genetically modified fruits and vegetables is not needed.

Not when the group “Just Label it” has a reported 990,000 signatures in its petition to FDA calling on the agency to label genetically-engineered foods. Organizers, who also enlisted the support of 500 organizations in favor of the petition, wonder how many people it will take for the FDA to take notice and act on this “right to know” issue.

March 27 is the 180th day of the FDA’s review period of the petition, the day that the agency is required to respond to the petition. The petition asks the FDA to issue new regulations requiring labeling of all foods produced using genetic engineering, to change the way it defines “material” change in a food.

In my opinion, the agency will probably issue a nebulous statement in response to the petition, suggesting the issue needs more evaluation and study.

A new poll will be issued by “Just Label It” campaign on March 27, and will show support for labeling of genetically engineered food across party lines.

Polls cited by the campaign point to overwhelming support for labeling genetically engineered food, with more than 90% of Americans apparently in favor the idea. In California, a separate campaign is working to collect enough signatures to put the issue of GMO food labeling on the ballot in November.

This is the type of issue that no retailer or trade group wants to stand in the way of. It is out of the question for any large retailer or food manufacturer to loudly oppose labeling of genetically engineered food. Many will simply stand on the sideline and hope the “Just Label It” passion subsides.

Don’t get me wrong. I was fairly strident in support of country of origin labeling for fruits and vegetables.  But for some reason, the Utopian idea that consumer should know everything about the food they eat is beginning to seem like piling on. How many more mandates must the food industry absorb?

Think of all the permutations of a particular product sold at retail. First of all, obviously, is the cucumber local or brought in from Mexico? Is the packaging biodegradable and recyclable? Did the grower use sustainable irrigation practices in growing his potatoes? How were the workers treated down on the farm? What pesticides were used by the grower?


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Thomas P. Redick    
St. Louis MO  |  March, 22, 2012 at 06:00 PM

The public's "right to know" is being met by nonGMO labeling and stores that sell nothing but NonGM food (Whole Foods, Trader Joes etc.). Activists who want to ban any use of GM in food realize that such a warning label would drive food companies to seek out higher-priced nonGM inputs (mainly corn in snacks-tortillas and soy lecithin). It would reduce consumer choice by raising the cost of food. See this NPR link for my appearance on Diane Rehm. HTTP://THEDIANEREHMSHOW.ORG/AUDIO-PLAYER?NID=15369

steve    
Boise  |  March, 22, 2012 at 06:19 PM

Reduce consumer choice??? As I see it, you currently have fiew to no choice, cause you really don't know. Until the label says it specifically, you are shooting blind. GMO foods that are raised organically,ares okay to carry the organic label. this is clearly out of step with the intent of the label in the first place. I will not buy GMO if I know it is and the GMO oligarchs know it!

Sam Vance    
Cincinnati  |  March, 22, 2012 at 07:33 PM

The ONLY reason that activists want GMO labeling is so they can scare people to avoid those foods through misinformation & fear.

Reggie Corpus    
Williamsburg  |  March, 23, 2012 at 08:47 AM

"My hunch is that labeling of GM food among many proponents is more about stopping the technology than giving consumers the “right to know.” Registrar Corp helps companies comply with U.S. FDA's extensive food labeling requirements by cross referencing your food labeling against thousands of pages within the Code of Federal Regulations as well as the Federal Register, EAFUS Database, GRAS Notices, Guidance Documents, Labeling Guides, and Warning Letters issued by U.S. FDA. For more information visit http://www.registrarcorp.com/fda-food/labeling/regulations.jsp?lang=en

algernon    
iowa  |  March, 23, 2012 at 09:03 AM

Although some believe that America has become a Corporatocracy, I am not one of those people. We are a Republic that exists Of, By, and For the People. We are that Republic because we believe that the prevailing Will of the People will most often lead us in the right direction. Russia, China and 40+ other countries require mandatory labeling for GMO foods, so it is understandable that Americans also want this simple freedom of choice. The pro-biotech Rockefeller Foundation understands the importance of being straightforward with the consumer regarding a new and infant technology like genetic engineering. Here is what Gordon Conway of the Rockefeller Foundation said to Monsanto in 1999: “Consumers have a right to choose whether to eat GM foods or not. There are certainly logistic problems in separating crops all the way from field to retail sale but this technology will not be accepted unless consumers feel they have a choice. If consumers wish to be informed whether they are eating GM foods, they have a right to know. Monsanto should come out immediately and strongly in favor of labeling”. Be fair with the People. If the overwhelming consensus is to label GMO foods, then label them. And science is not flawless; perhaps, years down the road, we'll discover how smart it was to label GMO foods.

Cmon Now    
Florida  |  March, 23, 2012 at 10:27 AM

Cmon now, I believe we eat millions of tons of GMOs every year. If its better for the environment (you use less pesticide), if its better tasting, if its cost effective .... what´s the problem ? You´ve got to be kidding me! You know, while we are at it, lets just throw our Ipads and cellphones away and go back to the 19th century ?? Sounds just as good!!

derek    
seattle  |  March, 24, 2012 at 01:51 PM

GM foods are increasing the price of produce. soybeans have tripled in price since they were genetically modified. GM farmers are forced to use MORE expensive pesticides over time, and forced to buy expensive seeds. In addition, there are many known serious health effects of consuming glycophosphates and other chemical agents used in GM food production. Who knows how much this costs our society. Obesity, cancer, liver problems, just to name a few issues linked to these toxic chemicals, which also end up in our water supply, degrade our soil, and destroy soil organisms that are essential in the uptake of nutrients into the food we eat. There is a reson GM crops are banned in much of the EU, Japan etc. The vast majority of us want GM foods labelled, and this nation is supposed to be of the people by the people for the people, not run by corporations to maximize their profits. We deserve to at least have transparency as to what are food contains and where it comes from so we can make informed decisions.

Ken Roseboro    
Iowa  |  March, 23, 2012 at 10:43 AM

This is what Monsanto said in a series of ads that ran in the UK and France in 1998 when Europe established its first GM fool labeling laws. “You have a right to know what you eat, especially when it’s better…After several months of debate, Europe has just adopted a new law for the labeling of food that comes from genetically engineered plants…We believe that products that come from biotechnology are better and that they should be labeled.” If they supported labeling in Europe why not in the US?

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