(This is the third installment of a three-part series about the potential risks of foods containing genetically modified ingredients)
As consumers, we value the basic right to choose from a wide variety of foods in the marketplace, to make informed choices as to what to eat and what we feed our families. Presently this right is being denied to consumers around the world who want to know whether a food contains genetically modified organisms (GMO).
A GMO is the result of a laboratory process where genes are taken from one species and inserted into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic. GMOs are also known as genetically engineered-, bio-engineered-, biotech crops, or transgenic organisms. Down to Earth is opposed to the development of products containing GMOs because, as I've outlined in previous blogs on this topics, we believe they may pose health, safety, and other potential risks that far outweigh the purported benefits.
This is a major problem because a 94-fold increase in GMO hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 160 million hectares in 2011 makes biotech crops the fastest-adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture. More than half the world’s population, 60% or 4 billion people, live in the 29 countries that are currently planting biotech crops. These numbers are expected to grow. In some countries, GMO crops count as the majority of all soy, corn, cotton, and canola grown. Other GMO crops include sugar beets, squash, alfalfa and papaya. Everything including bread, cereal, frozen pizza, soup, soda—all sorts of processed foods—now contain GMOs. One concern is that we do not know whether GMOs are safe for humans to eat because the studies have not been done.
In 1998, a loud outcry among consumers in the European Union resulted in mandatory labeling of foods containing GM ingredients. Over the past 15 years the list of countries that require some form of labeling has grown to include Russia, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Venezuela, India, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Australia and New Zealand.
But in the United States and Canada, powerful lobbying by biotech companies has so far prevented labeling laws from being enacted.
Polls show that 92% of American citizens want genetically modified foods to be labeled, and many are fighting to enact labeling laws. In the state of California, for example, this November consumers will be voting on a GMO labeling bill known as Proposition 37. It is emerging as one of the most high-stakes showdowns in the GMO labeling movement in the USA to date. If Proposition 37 passes, California would become the first state in the USA to require new labels on a host of food products commonly found on grocery store shelves—from breakfast cereals to sodas to tofu.
Few choices in our daily lives are as important as the food choices we make for ourselves and our families. We should be the ones in control, not government. It's wrong for governments to deny us our right to know. Our right to know what is in the food we are buying and our right to choose our preferred food should not be usurped for any reason.
Most people want GMO labeling and many are not convinced that GMOs are safe. Some oppose them based on scientific studies which show health and safety concerns; others oppose them on the basis of religious, spiritual, philosophical, or ethical beliefs. While we have different reasons for wanting to know what is in our food, the one thing no one should deny is our right to know.
For consumers to make informed decisions, the public deserves an open and truthful marketplace. We join consumers around the world in calling for GMO labeling so that, if we want, we can choose not to eat GMOs. The simple truth is that most people want the right to choose what they eat and what they feed their families.
Down to Earth calls for the labeling of foods that contain GMOs everywhere in the world.