GMO Food Labeling: A Simple Request Denied

GMO labeled food

What are you putting into your body?

It’s a simple question that, it would seem, calls for a simple answer. Unfortunately for Americans, it’s a question that can’t even be addressed without throngs of biotech giants, lobbyists and their lackeys threatening to sue for – what, exactly? – and scaring away the tepid lawmakers who’d just as soon side with the manufacturer of Agent Orange than with concerned citizens.

Today, legislation in Connecticut which would’ve required all food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled as such, was shot down – a local blow to food transparency that has national implications. While all nations in the European Union, as well as Russia, China, Brazil, and many other developed countries, mandate the labeling of foods with GMOs, Americans are left to guess as to where our food is coming from, how it’s made, and whether or not it’s safe to put into our bodies or our children’s bodies.

Scarier still, many foods labeled as “all-natural” and “organic” contain genetically modified ingredients, and while the jury is still out as to how safe (or unsafe) GMOs are for human consumption, it shouldn’t be too much to expect that we not be misled in something as essential and personal as the food we eat – and that the state defend our right to know if and when we’re being misled.

The argument against GMO labeling is twofold, and generally lukewarm. The state claims that the nation’s largest biotech companies and biggest GMO culprits can bring lawsuits on grounds of free-speech, and that food regulations are pre-empted by the FDA. Opponents also claim that requiring these labels will cause food prices to increase due to higher food production costs.

Both arguments are paper-thin. While similar cases in the 90’s ran into similar legal problems, subsequent rulings, including the labeling of genetically modified fish in Alaska, were able to bypass these problems and stand as precedents of success. Meanwhile, claims of food price increases are conveniently coming from the biotech companies themselves – a scare tactic akin to blackmail.

After the bill failed (with 90% CT residents in favor of it!) Rep. Richard Roy put it best, saying “I feel very strongly that someone or some state has to challenge the use of the Bill of Rights, designed to protect we individuals, from using it to thwart the sharing of information and the subjugation of a whole industry. Residents of more than 50 other countries get simple information saying that GMOs are present in a product. The freest society in the world cannot get that simple sentence.”

Last week, at our Forum Our Fragile Earth, renowned food expert Michael Pollan gave one simple piece of advice when asked “What should we eat?”

“Eat real food.”

(see clip here)

Seems simple enough. But how can we “eat real food” when the companies selling it aren’t required to tell us what’s real and what’s not?