SALT LAKE CITY — Foods that are or contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not currently labeled in the U.S., even though polls have indicated that more than 90 percent of the population would like them labeled.
The momentum for labeling GMOs is on the rise. Reasons for labeling range from safety concerns to religious observances to a general dislike of the companies that produce GMOs. Following is a discussion of some reasons why the public would like labeling.
One main issue is health safety. Most people believe that GMOs are unsafe to eat. Much of this belief comes from the lack of independent research regarding GMOs. People want assurance that this new technique of producing food is safe for them. The issue comes with the development of transgenic practices (genes being transferred between species). An example of this is the insertion of a microorganism’s DNA into soy and corn DNA, which enables the crops to kill larvae that can destroy unmodified soy and corn.
While the FDA finds no health threat with the modified product, some feel that eating this toxic bacterium via corn and soy products will harm them. Since there is a lack of independent research regarding any GMO effects on human health, due somewhat to the patent infringement concerns of genetically modifying companies, the only source indicating the safety of these foods are the genetically modifying companies themselves. The labeling of GMOs would give those who want to avoid them for health reasons the power to do so.
Studies being released indicate that the genetically modified food items do not perform as advertised. In a 30-year study that pits organic farming against conventional farming (including genetically modified (GM) farming starting in 2008), organic practices outperformed conventional practices leading to higher yields and higher net incomes for farmers. This is in direct contrast to the claim that GM foods increase yields and, therefore, profits for farmers.
Last year it was shown that a GM drought-resistant corn performed no better than non-GM corn. The Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) concluded that “classical and other forms of breeding are more cost effective and efficient.” The maker of this corn plans to go ahead and market the corn anyway. The labeling of GMOs would, in this instance, allow consumers to choose to purchase foods produced through more effective and efficient uses of land.
This is further complicated since the uses of some GM crop practices are having an adverse effect on nature. One common GM crop is a Roundup Ready crop that allows a farmer to spray a field with the herbicide Roundup, which will kill all the weeds without affecting the Roundup Ready crop. However, although these GM crops have been available only since 1996, farmers are already being encouraged to treat their crops with more than just Roundup as weeds and plants are becoming resistant to Roundup. This means more herbicide residue on foods meant for human consumption. It also means that the Roundup Ready crops provide no benefit over other crop varieties. By having labels on GM-containing foods, people could avoid supporting the practice of dumping more pesticides into the environment.
Some people avoid animal products for religious and/or ethical reasons, which would include animal DNA. They are unable to do this when transgenic GMO foods containing animal DNA are not labeled as such. GMO-labeling would allow these people to enjoy a wider range of foods and food products that they must currently avoid on the presumption that the foods contain animal DNA.
Another issue that favors labeling is the opportunity labeling would provide to consumers who are currently unable to avoid purchasing GM products when the companies’ social practices are not in line with what the consumer feels they should be. For most consumable brands, if a consumer doesn’t agree with the business practices of a company, the consumer has the power to turn to other sources.
However, for consumers who disagree with the practices of genetically modifying companies, there is no way to avoid supporting them as there is no way to know if a product contains GMOs or is GMO-free. Many people who would like GMO food labeled would like the choice to avoid supporting the GMO-producing companies because of their social practices.
So while there is no widely accepted scientific documentation that GMOs are causing health problems, the argument against labeling that relies solely on the basis that GMOs are safe for human consumption ignores many of the reasons people desire GMO labeling. If you have a different reason for wanting labeling, let us know.