In a few weeks, we here in Colorado will vote on Proposition 105. This will determine whether food sold in Colorado must be labeled to inform the consumer if they contain GMOs.
What is a GMO?
Genetically modified foods are derived from organisms whose DNA has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, according to the World Health Organization. Most genetically modified crops have been developed to resist plant diseases or better tolerate herbicides. The most important GMO crops are corn, soy, cotton and canola. According to the FDA, most processed foods include some of these ingredients, like cornstarch in soups and sauces and corn syrup as a general purpose sweetener. Sugar is also included, because the sugar Americans consume either comes from cane or genetically engineered sugar beets.
What will we Vote On?
Voters will be asked to vote on whether food that has been genetically modified or treated with genetically modified material should be labeled “Produced with Genetic Engineering” starting July 1, 2016. Foods that would be exempt include food from animals that are not genetically modified but have been fed or injected with genetically modified food or drugs; certain food not packaged for retail sale and intended for immediate human consumption; alcoholic beverages; and medically prescribed foods.
It will be a hot issue for quite a while in this state,” says Katie Abrams, an assistant professor at Colorado State University who researches consumer understanding of food labels. “And it’s going on in more places than just Colorado. Most research on consumer buying shows that people act on taste, price, convenience and other factors. They usually do what’s best for the wallet.”
Whole Foods isn’t waiting to find out. Last year, the company made the decision to label all food products if they contain GMOs, a massive project that should be complete by 2018.
Even Consumer Reports is weighing in on the GMO debate. Their conclusions are:
(2) GMO should be labeled when present in packaged foods, and
(3) the cost of such labeling to manufacturers and consumers would be trivial.
“The use of genetically modified seeds has steadily grown over the last two decades. That has led to about a 10-fold increase in farmers’ use of glyphosate, a weedkiller better known as Roundup, which is made by Monsanto—a company that also produces genetically modified seeds—because the herbicide won’t harm their GMO crops. But that in turn has created a new problem for farmers to battle: a rising number of “superweeds” that have now become immune to glyphosate. This defeats one of the major reasons why GMOs were introduced in the first place.” Read more from Consumer Reports…
While GMOs have been tested by the companies that developed them, as well as third parties, to date no long-term human safety studies have been run. European and Asian governments are requiring labeling of foods that contain GMO ingredients, but there is no such requirement in the US. Due to the high prevalence of corn- and soy-derived ingredients in our food supply, as many as 70-80% of the packaged foods in an average supermarket are likely to contain GMOs.
According to Consumer Reports, over 70% of Americans would like to know if their food contains GMOs, but extensive PR and lobbying by Monsanto and many large food manufacturers have so far squashed legislation attempts on both federal and state levels.
One of the biggest arguments used by industry is that GMO labeling would raise the price of food by hundreds of dollars a year per family. That has been very effective and led to the failure of GMO labeling attempts in California and Washington. However, as Consumer Reports points out, the actual cost is trivial.
Whether GMOs are safe or not is still a hotly debated matter. What should not be debated is the consumers’ (our) right to know what’s in our food.
The time for labeling GMOs has come, hasn’t it? I am no scaremonger, but the facts are interesting. I know how I am voting! “Knowledge is power.”
Here’s the trailer for the film GMO OMG!