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Your Take: Should We Label Genetically Modified Food?

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Petri DishOne of the big issues these days, at least concerning food, has to do with genetically modified food. It gets mentioned a few times in the news from a food safety and consumption perspective but most often it is an financial issue for farmers. For years, farmers have been using genetically modified seed from companies like Monsanto to boost yields. The crops they grow are more resistant to the types of things that kill them. Most people are OK with corn that’s been modified to be heartier. Most people are OK with that corn being fed to cows, which then ultimately become our steaks, meatloafs, and hamburgers. In fact, according to BIO, a trade group, about 90% of corn, cotton, soybeans, and sugar beets grown in the United States is genetically engineered.

So there’s a big fight over labeling, whether we need to label products that are modified, and whether it’s fair to those producers. I think of genetically engineered food in the same way that I see more conventionally “modified” products – it’s OK. We cross pollinate and cross breed crops all the time, genetic engineering is not much different. I’m fine (I think – I haven’t done as much research on it) with lab grown meat too, though I trust that less than GMO corn or soybeans.

My feelings about genetically modified seed is different than my feelings about the business practices of the companies that created them, such as Monsanto. What they’re doing is great from a capitalism perspective (good for shareholders) but I believe it’s less great for humanity as a whole.

That said, I think labeling must be a requirement. Consumers need to know what they’re buying and they need to decide for themselves. If you don’t want GMO’d food, you shouldn’t have to dig and pry to find out if it’s been modified in a way that goes against what you believe to be safe. GMO’d food will prove to be a cheaper option, in the same way “organic” foods are more expensive now. Modification boosts yields, thus driving down costs, and so those who don’t use it will have to charge a premium to compete.

(Credit: kaibara87)

{ 24 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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24 Responses to “Your Take: Should We Label Genetically Modified Food?”

  1. cubiclegeoff says:

    You make a point that many seem to overlook, we’ve been modifying food crops for centuries to become more resistant to pests and adaptable to weather conditions. Now, they just do it a lot faster. I do think they should just label it. I take the cynical view that if they are not being open, then they’re trying to hide something.

  2. Thomas says:

    I think all food should be labeled. Again like you mention people have the right to know whats in the food they might be eating. What is your child is allergic to something. Its just safer.

  3. Glenn Lasher says:

    My sense is that if GE is good, then the proprietors of these technologies shouldn’t need to hide. I wouldn’t mandate that they label, but I would advise them that if they truly believe these technologies are good, then they should make the case and advertise proudly that their product is modified.

    Hiding information from the market only serves to pervert the market.

  4. Great point about farmers doing modifications for years. It really does not bother me much, but I do agree that all food should be labeled. It really should not be a hassle to figure out what is in the food you’re wanting to buy and later consume.

  5. Ben says:

    If the biotech giants are spending millions to avoid labeling their products they are undoubtedly trying to hide something and something very big.
    An important distinction must be made between crops that are modified through selective breeding and crops that are genetically modified to radically change the organism with unnatural characteristics.
    Selective breeding strengthens existing desirable traits naturally within the organism.
    Genetically modifying a crop to withstand ten times as much herbicide exposure is obviously not good. Growing food with huge toxic loads is unavoidably transferred from field to dinner plate.
    The following nations all have banned or applied restrictions on the growing and import of GMO crops.

    • Ben says:

      Switzerland,Norway,Australia,New Zealand,Thailand,Philippines,Saudi Arabia,Egypt,Algeria,Brazil,Paraguay.

  6. Cathie says:

    This is a subject close to my heart. I have a child with food allergies, and I’ve done a fair amount of research in regards to food issues. I agree with Thomas – anything that isn’t EXACTLY what it’s supposed to be should be labeled. As a matter of fact, I find the whole “organic” thing rather infuriating. All food should be organic, and if it isn’t THEN it should be labeled, not vice versa. Farmers shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money to be certified organic, they should have to pay extra for the convenience of using pesticides, etc.

  7. freeby50 says:

    I’m not sure on this topic.

    On one side I think that of course food should be labeled to say what it is. I mean food ingreditents have to list that they have ‘artificial flavors’ versus ‘natural flavors’ so I don’t see how mandating that GM ingredients are used is much differetn. I favor giving people more information as opposed to witholding it.

    But on the other hand I am not aware of any actual evidence that GM food does anything bad at all ever… I mean this really just seems like paranoia to be honest. Is there any scientific study that shows GM food to be any different as far as human consumption? Ever? My thinking then is that if we label food as ‘GM’ it would unnecessarily scare people and theyd’ all go running around demanding non GM food for no good reason without even having a clue about the actual health impacts.

    But then I’d imagine that if they did pass a law requiring food be labeled as GM then 95% of the food out there would be labeled GM and most people wouldn’t care any more than they care that their food has ‘artificial ingredients’, sodium caseinate, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, and artificial colors Yellow 6,Yellow 5 and Red 40. So maybe this will end up like the organic food deal where 2% of the population will actually care and everyone else will just go ahead and eat yummy Doritos without reading the ingredient label.

    So… I don’t know.

  8. freeby50 says:

    I think the reason the companies are resistant to labeling is that they rightfully fear that consumers will unnecessarily ‘freak out’ about it then shun such foods for no good reason.

    People hear ‘genetically modified’ and they probably picture some sort of horrible abomination of franken-food created by a mad scientist. I think its a perception problem based on the name ‘genetically modified’ and the publics lack of understanding of how it works and general fear and cynicsm.

    They just need a better name. What if the stuff was called ‘cross bred foods’? Would people flip out and fear that? Probably not.

    • Ben says:

      Do you believe the Biotech Corp. right to profit is more important than a persons right to choose what they eat? You see nothing wrong with eating GMO so you believe everyone else must be force-fed against their will?

      • Texas Wahoo says:

        No one is being force fed against their will. If you want non-modified food, you can find it.

        • Patrick says:

          This is true, but how is the consumer to know what products have GM foods in them? You may buy a product on the assumption it doesn’t contain GM, but there is no way to know without labeling. The only products that do not contain GM are organic and even those could contain GM. Let me ask you a question. What harm would labeling GM products cause you who doesn’t care? Cost? It can’t cost that much to add one line to a label. Instead of spending millions on attacks against labeling, companies could be passing that money back to consumers.

          • Texas Wahoo says:

            Perhaps you should just assume everything contains at least some genetically modified products unless it states otherwise. That way, the cost can rightly be placed on those people that care (the ones buying the non genetically-modified food).

          • Patrick says:

            Why should we have to make that assumption? Also, why do you assume it’s going to cost that much money? A extra line on a label shouldn’t cost too much. I feel like it is more difficult to determine whether a product has trans fat than GMO. The producer of the corn, soy, beet, etc. Will know whether they used gmo seed or not. The perceived higher cost on products will only come if companies decide to switch to non gmo and even then its not guaranteed to go up. Companies like Trader Joes keeps Gmo out of most of their products yet their cost is comparative to national brands (if not cheaper). Also, if these large companies using gmo products stopped wasting marketing dollars on trying to stop gmo labeling, the could direct those dollars to the cost of the labelling itself.

  9. admiral58 says:

    yea, they should put it in the nutrition

  10. Shirley says:

    I definitely agree with Patrick.

  11. Shafi says:

    Labeling is fine, Jim. But I still don’t have a complete understanding of advantages and disadvantages of genetically modified food items. If it’s not good, what illness do we get from it?

    The number of cancer cases has increased multiple fold during the last 100 years. One big cause we are told is the fallout of nuclear particles as a result of tests done in the atmosphere in the 1950s and 60s. These particles are not going to go away unless their characteristics are “genetically” modified (I just made up this statement.) Does genetically modified food have a similar effect on the increase of cancer or other terminal sickness.

  12. Ray says:

    No unless solid undeniable evidence of side effects can be seen. Even then only on the products that are billed as unhealthy. The products are too intermingled these days. What constituents enough GMO to be labeled?

    If I sell a product where everything is organic minus one small ingredient is the whole dish labeled?

    More companies should label their food as nonGMO/organic instead.

  13. Linda Lee says:

    The people have a right to know what is going on in the world, especially about what they are putting into the food we eat. I object to the comparison between GMO and cross-breeding. Crossbreeding is a natural selection method of improving the species. GMO is hoodoo science fiction crap.

    Also, with the FDA under the thumb of big business, they are not looking out for the American citizen’s welfare. They are looking out for Big Business’s bottom line. They approved Aspertame as save when over 15% of population is allergic to it. Now I can’t go to the store without a magnifying glass and a foot long list of synonyms that can be used for the product. I lose the sight in my left eye for a 24-48 hours span if I take a sip of something with this GMO sugar substitute.

    HFCS is another GMO. FDA says is same as sugar, but I feel bad if I consume it.

    I can’t start a farm to support my self at my age. At least let me know what products not to buy.

  14. freeby50 says:

    Ben, No and No. Not sure why you’d conclude such a silly thing. Nobody is being force fed and nobody is saying Monsanto profits > humanity. But your kind of reply is the exact kind of paranoid over reaction that I was talking about.

  15. Ivanhoe Bell says:

    Food Labeling is essential for Safety reasons. They do label food but you still have to read the fine prints in servings.

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