If GMO Foods Are Safe, Put a Label On It

Companies that Oppose GMO Labelling

I expected that the supposed benefits of GMO foods would be heatly debated, but why is there such fierce opposition to GMO labeling laws.  If it is in fact safe, then, companies should put a label on it.  Stand by your product, and educate consumers on its benefits.

Statistics show that Americans overwhelming support labeling foods, with 93% of respondents polled by the New York Times stating such ingredients should be identified.  Despite such an overwhelming support for labeling among consumers, and constituents, why is Connecticut the first state, and one of two now, to pass a labeling law.  Maine also passed a similar labeling law.  Even then, it is a conditional passage, because it requires four other states to pass similar legislation, and one that most borders them.  For Connecticut, that puts some pressure in New York.  Why are our legislators acting like bullied teens in high school and pass laws that read like, “I’ll do it, if you do it.”  Maybe they read my earlier piece, on how biotech companies like Monsanto are legal bullies. http://bit.ly/15gfVMt  In fairness,  Connecticut legislators are not sitting pretty, they are encouraging other states to pass GMO labeling laws.

In New York, New York assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal sponsored a GMO labeling bill.  Although the bill seemed to be defeated for this session, due to lobbying by biotech companies, a public hearing was scheduled for July 30, 2013.

Monsanto opposes such labeling efforts because it reasons gmo foods are safe.  In a statement, they write: “We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks. Such mandatory labeling could imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts.”

But, labeling isn’t about whether the ingredients are safe, it is about consumers knowing what is in their food and to make a choice.  Consumer choice and the right to know are fundamental to our notions of democracy.  It is the bare minimum of legal protections.

If fairness and democracy don’t persuade you then, outside of the legal context, gmo labelling laws is good business. Whole Foods makes a persuasive case for transparency, and has committed to voluntary gmo labeling by 2018 based on the consumer’s right to know.

For a recent family movie night, my husband bought popcorn, with the packaging indicating it was “Homestyle.”  Seemed appropriate.  Upon closer review, the ingredients listed included saturated and trans fat.  He had bought it anyway.  I am not sure if he looked at the label.  Studies show that in fact women favor mandatory labelling than men.  Although we know that transfat is the fat you want to avoid, but it didn’t mean knowing this, he didn’t buy it.  But a discerning popcorn eater may decide they do not want to purchase a product with transfat.  Labelling does not prevent consumers from purchasing a product, it gives consumers a choice in what they buy.  This is where retailers like Whole Foods and other companies that support labeling get it right – transparency builds consumer confidence and credibility.

Aggressive lobbying against such laws raises the question – is gmo food really safe?  What are biotech companies and companies that use gmo ingredients really afraid of? And if labeling deterred consumers from buying a product, then the fast food industry would long have been out of business. Honestly, when you are buying a scone at Starbucks, I doubt you are checking the calories.

Biotech companies must not be so confident in their ability to assure that gmo food is safe.  Like a non-committal boy friend,  a parody of Beyonce’s song seems fitting, If its Safe, Put a Label On It.

For information on Right to Know GMO campaign in New York, check out the websites of Food Democracy and GMO Free NY.


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