GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS AREN’T LABELED

ABSTRACT: Federal regulators are allowing a growing number of genetically modified (GM) agricultural products into our food. What is surprising is that these foods are not labeled. This is the result of a powerful and concerted effort by big corporations in the GM business. Over 90% of the American public in multiple polls supports GM labeling and forty-nine countries, including Russia and even China, require labeling. From a public health perspective, labeling is the only way to track unintended health effects.

FULL POST: Federal regulators are allowing a growing number of genetically modified (GM) agricultural products into our food [1]. What is surprising is that these foods are not labeled as being or containing GM products. In general, foods are required to be labeled with their ingredients so consumers can know what they are eating. The lack of GM labeling is the result of a powerful and concerted effort by big corporations who make significant profits from the raising and selling of GM products.

This lack of labeling flies in the face of the economic theory of free markets, which requires consumers to have full information and make knowledgeable decisions when purchasing goods and services. It also contradicts a basic premise of democracy – that citizens are informed.

Over 90% of the American public in multiple polls supports labeling of food to indicate GM content. Forty-nine countries, including Russia and even China, require the labeling of food that contains GM ingredients. The United Nations (UN) food safety organization supports labeling. Furthermore, the US is the only developed country that does not require safety testing of GM plants, which also is supported by the UN. The lack of testing and labeling creates the risk that other countries will block the importation of US agricultural products.

The US Senate in June 2012 voted 73 – 26 against an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would have allowed states to require GM labeling of food. At least 19 states have introduced legislation on GM labeling of food. A bill in Vermont died this year after Monsanto, a dominant player in the GM field, threatened to sue the state if the bill passed.

From a public health perspective, labeling is the only way to track unintended effects. Neither you as an individual nor public health officials can know that a GM food triggers allergic reactions or other health problems if you don’t know the food that’s being eaten contains GM content. [2] For these reasons, the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association, among others, have called for labeling GM foods. [3]

In California, there will be a ballot question this November known as the California Right to Know if Your Food has Been Genetically Engineered Act (Proposition 37). It would require food manufacturers and retailers to label GM foods. Over 1 million people signed the petition to get this measure on the ballot. The opposition includes the big agro-biotech and herbicide / pesticide corporations such as Monsanto, BASF, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, and Dow Chemical, as well as big food manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Kellogg, which are some of the biggest users of high-fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, and sugar beets, commonly used GM ingredients. [4]

The next two posts will also be on GM foods. The next one will examine the reasons for GM organisms and foods along with the risks they present. The subsequent post will look at what’s behind the lack of GM food labeling in the US.


[1]       GM foods are also referred to as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), Genetically Engineered (GE) foods, and biotech foods.

[2]       Silver, C., 6/26/12, “How Monsanto is sabotaging efforts to label genetically modified food,” Inter Press Service

[3]       Sanders, B., 6/19/12, “Label genetically engineered food,” The Huffington Post

[4]       Sauve, C., retrieved 8/16/12, “This is the food fight California cannot afford to lose,” San Jose Mercury News

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