What You Should Know About Labeling Genetically Modified Food

My job at Diets In  Review keeps me, a slacker, on her toes. This week, I had to pay attention to petitions to label genetically modified foods.  For that, I turned to the eloquent public health nutrition scholar, Marion Nestle, who examined the issue in her blog, Food Politics.

The Condensed Version

The Committee for the Right to Know is a grassroots coalition of groups in California that is trying to get the issue of labeling of genetically modified foods on the California ballot. Last year, 14 states introduced bills to require GM foods to be labeled, but none passed because the bills were fought by multinational agribusinesses. Now, the campaign has now gone national. Marion says, and I agree, that consumers have a right to know.

Man has been manipulating the genetic material of plants ever since Mendel first hybridized pea plants in the 1850s. It’s just that today’s methods of bombarding seeds with radiation and chemicals seem so unnatural. Modern day GM techniques began in a big way in 1996, and now, close to 90 percent of corn, soybeans and sugar beets grown in the United States are GM varieties. At time point, GM crops have not produced any noticeable health problems, but there are no long-term epidemiological studies that might find subtle effects. The FDA thinks GM foods are safe, but the fact is that no one knows for sure.

My gripe has more to do with the business argument. I dislike giving Monsanto (the company that dominates the GM market) any more control over the American food supply. Monsanto’s strict intellectual property-regulations are unfair to farmers and they divert energy away from research on organic farming. This clip from the movie, Food, Inc., shows just how powerful Monsanto is in the food industry, which leaves the average person no other choice but to eat their genetically engineered soy beans. Watch Monsanto bully the poor farmers. It’s pathetic.

The Bottom Line

Marion writes, “Intelligent people can argue about whether GM crops are good, bad or indifferent for agriculture, the environment and market economies, or whether the products are safe. But one point is clear. The absence of labeling cannot be good in the long run for business or American democracy.”  Ultimately, it’s more important to eat wholesome foods in the correct amounts, than it is to worry about whether or not they are GM. Still, Monsanto needs a punch In the nose.

Your thoughts: Will you sign the petition to label genetically modified foods?