The Threat to Mandatory GMO Labeling

There is no question consumers have become increasingly more attentive when it comes to knowing what is in their food. When i say that, I am referring to consumers wanting to know whether the food they are purchasing has GMO components or not. GMO, or genetically modified organism, is used to describe agricultural products that have been genetically modified (Source). In fact, 90% of Americans want to know what is in their food (Source). So far, only three states have passed mandatory GMO labeling legislation: Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine. These states are pioneers for the future of the food industry with consumers starting to question the quality of their food, thus realizing they are being kept in the dark about whether the food they are eating has GMOs or is GMO-free. Although there is overwhelming evidence the American public wants mandatory labeling of GMOs so they can make educated decisions about the food they are consuming, there are institutions advocating against it immensely.

These institutions mainly consist of food companies, biotech companies that produce GMOs, and a lot of the United States Congress. These three actors benefit materially by making the commonwealth live in ignorance when it comes to their food. Some may ask, how does Congress benefit from the non-regulation of GMO labeling? It is quite simple, the food and biotech companies that have a special interest in this matter lobby Congress, so the legislators can further their interest. However, it is not all bad because there are coalitions made up of  other food companies, consumer advocates, organic farmers, and health care associations such as Just Label It. Just Label It is made up of 700 organizations and advocacy groups that are completely in favor of mandatory GMO labeling (Source). Despite the fact there are groups in favor of mandatory GMO labeling, little progress has been made in requiring mandatory GMO labeling across the country with the exception of the three states mentioned above.

Even though three states passed a mandatory GMO labeling bill, there is legislation being pushed through Congress to redact the small progress that has occurred.The DARK Act, also known as the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act, is reactionary legislation to the three states whom have adopted mandatory GMO labeling. The opposition to this bill coined the “DARK” term (Source). If the bill is implemented, a voluntary USDA labeling standard for GMO products would be established. In other words, under this law, food companies do not have to disclose if they use GMO products in their food. Of course, the companies can do so if they please, but why would they if it is voluntary?

The last sentence of the bill explicitly states: “No state or a political subdivision of a state may directly or indirectly establish … or continue in effect as to any food or seed in interstate commerce any requirement relating to the labeling of whether a food … or seed is genetically engineered,” (Source).

The advocates for this bill suggest mandatory GMO labeling would put a burden on food and biotech businesses resulting in higher costs and lower profits. That statement is simply not true because companies have regularly changed their labels and never experienced a sharp decrease in profits. The belief is Corporate America likely fears mandatory GMO labeling since natural farmers, in theory, could take in much of the market (Source). Whether this is true or not is besides the point. The people deserve to know every ingredient in their food, GMO or not. Yet, our government is failing us.

In 1991, the FDA raised concerns about the dangers to human health by GMO foods and multiple studies on GMO foods, published in peer-reviewed journals backed up these concerns. Looks like the FDA did its job properly, right? Not so fast. Subsequently, in 1992, the FDA issued a statement that it was “not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these methods differ from other foods in a meaningful or uniform way” despite asserting the opposite in 1991 (Source). This is disappointing as an American citizen because the FDA is supposed to regulate the food industry, but instead they lie to the public about the effect GMOs have on human health. Also, Monsanto’s Roundup, the most heavily used agricultural pesticide in the world, has been revealed to be a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization because of its active ingredient glyphosate. A carcinogen is something that causes cancer. Why have the American people not been informed about this? This is something that the government keeps quiet so federal officials can please the lobbyists, whom basically pay them off.

Regardless of the views I have expressed, I encourage any individual to do their own research and come to their own conclusions. What we eat is the most important aspect to our overall health; our body literally makes new cells out of the food we consume. Who knows, maybe there is hope; Campbell’s took action and started labeling their products that contained GMOs (Source).

Contributed by R.A.





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