Opinion: Labeling genetically modified food not required in Utah

By Leah Garriott | Posted - Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 9:28am



SALT LAKE CITY — There hasn’t been much coverage of genetically modified organisms in Utah. When something has been genetically modified, it means that some organism has been unnaturally — or scientifically — altered at the molecular level.

In a genetically modified plant you could find genetics from similar plants or you could find genetics from fish, bacteria, etc. — anything deemed appropriate to improve the plant.

Some of the most widely used GMOs are the Roundup Ready crops that were created by a large corporation named Monsanto that allows farmers to spray Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup to kill weeds but that won’t kill the crop being grown.

There have been no widely accepted studies confirming that genetically modified foods are harmful when consumed by humans. In fact, some may even turn out to be beneficial. By genetically altering common allergy-inducing foods, the allergens in those foods can be removed so that the foods are consumable by all. On the other hand, many argue that there has not been sufficient testing to ensure that GMOs are, in fact, okay for human consumption.


By genetically altering common allergy-inducing foods, the allergens in those foods can be removed so that the foods are consumable by all. On the other hand, many argue that there has not been sufficient testing to ensure that GMOs are, in fact, okay for human consumption.

We trust that the FDA has our best interest at heart when it tests and okays new food products for us. But this isn’t always possible, as evidenced by the numerous products allowed on the market only to be recalled later. Salmonella spinach, recalled dog food and DDT come to mind. It is reported that about 80 percent of the foods found in local grocery stores contain genetically modified ingredients.

Last year, a proposition appeared on the ballot in California that would have mandated that all foods containing genetically modified ingredients be labeled. Needless to say, companies who use GMOs for profit (such as Monsanto) poured a lot of money into the campaign against the proposition. They want to preserve profits and fear that labeling will cause people to buy non-GMO products. The large pro-GMO companies spent $44 million to keep labeling off of the packaging while those fighting for labeling (among which were small heirloom seed companies and consumer health nonprofits) spent about $7.3 million.

The pro-labeling side worries about the unknown health concerns of GMOs and the predatory practices that the large GMO companies are having on family farms and heirloom foods. Even with this large financial discrepancy, about 47 percent of California’s voters voted in favor of the proposition. It would have been the first state to require labeling.

There are many countries outside of the U.S. that already require labeling, including China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Russia, South Korea, India and Chile*. There is no genetically modified wheat produced commercially in the U.S. because Europe is a large importer of U.S. wheat and Europe won’t buy genetically modified wheat.

Genetic modification is not limited to plant forms. So far no genetically modified animals have been sold for food. However, new genetically modified salmon is due to hit dinner plates soon as the FDA issued its environmental OK in December. And the punch-line? You won’t be able to tell if you’re feeding your family a real fish or a laboratory-made fish since labeling isn’t required.

Missouri may not allow it. The state Senate is working on a bill — SB155 — to require labeling on all genetically modified meat and fish products by Sept. 1, 2015. It isn’t about saying GMOs are bad — it’s about giving the people of Missouri a choice to choose regular meat or genetically modified meat.

Would it be a great thing for Utah to have labeling so you can make an informed choice? If you would like the opportunity to choose between naturally created food or laboratory-engineered food, there must be identification on the packaging. If this is something you would like, the only way to have it happen is to contact your state legislators.

*Here is a complete list of countries that require GMO labeling and the year they started.

1998: Europe. 2001: Japan, Australia, New Zealand. 2002: China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea. 2003: Thailand, Indonesia. 2004: Brazil, Venezuela. 2005: Taiwan. 2006: Russia, India, Chile. 2011: South Africa.

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Leah Garriott

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