GMOs and the Food Industry: Part III of a Trilogy
Written by guest blogger Ana Arena, student at Simmons College.
Genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are defined as those in which “the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such as way that does not occur naturally.” Where does the food industry stand on the question: Should genetically engineered foods carry a GMO label?
In the past three years there has been a lot of buzz from the restaurant and grocery industries asserting that GMO labeling would increase the price of food. But many consumers want GMO labeling and are frustrated the information is not available. Who wins: the industry groups that oppose GMO labeling—or the consumers who keep the food industry in business?
In response to the consumers’ belief they have a “right to know,” the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is tasked to oversee food safety, is beginning to outline standards for GMO labeling that a company can voluntarily choose to use. Why the FDA you may ask? Well, do you remember the lack of support given to GMOs by Washington State and California voters? They failed to approve the ballot item that would have required the food industry to label GMOs. The ballot items were shot down largely in part by the generous anti-GMO-labeling campaign donations from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other interested parties in the food industry. They convinced consumers that GMO labeling would make their food too pricey. Having FDA regulated guidelines could curtail a ballot initiative in other states or on a national level.
The GMA has recruited the American Baker’s Association and the National Corn Growers Association (and other big food industry names) to support the FDA bill. The bill would require FDA approval of the safety of GMO ingredients (which the FDA prefers to call genetically engineered ingredients) and then grant authority to a company to label their food products GMO free—but only if they so desire. This means:
–companies that oppose GMO labeling will never have to do so,
–there will be no ballot initiatives that would push for mandatory labeling.
–GMO ingredients could be included in foods that meet the definition “all natural.”
Although no real data proves that labeling would increase food prices, the GMA continues to warn customers they will be the ones paying the price.
As consumers, we drive the market. We are part of a collective society that is supplied with the quality of commodities that we demand. We all need to educate ourselves on these important matters and voice our opinions to our legislators. Knowledge is power.
For more information: http://www.fda.gov/food/foodscienceresearch/biotechnology/ucm346030.htm