Article Review: “Why to Support Labeling GM Foods” (Mother Earth News)

Mother Earth News Cover

Mother Earth News Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished reading my new copy of Aug/Sept 2013 Mother Earth News magazine, not cover-to-cover like I used to, but just the bits and pieces I have grown to particularly enjoy. I don’t homestead, raise livestock, or grow my own wheat to bake my own bread. It used to be fun to read and daydream about those possibilities, but I have become more realistic about what I can and want to put my time and energy into. I am a busy, ordinary person who likes life that way, but am also concerned about our countrymen’s disassociation from nature,  health, and our food supply.

The article that struck me most in this issue was a short letter from the editor, “Why to Support Labeling GM Foods”. The letter is succinct and non-emotional. I appreciated the argument regarding how we expect food labels to tell what what we are eating, from the amount of fat in milk to flavor solutions found in meat.

Sometimes the anti-GMO camp is embarrassingly too emotional for my biology teaching-background brain. The use of the term “frankenfood” is a sure-fire way of causing me to doubt the credibility of some anti-GMO articles I have seen. Nonetheless, I am sympathetic to many of the concerns expressed. Labeling GM foods is one of them.

The article states that “both benefits and downsides for consumers are controversial”. It refers to the 1992 USFDA ruling that GM foods are “substantially equivalent” to non-GM foods, and therefore require no additional safety testing.  (Yikes) The article also refers to studies linking GM food with a host of health difficulties and makes the understated observation that “the science is incomplete”. I agree, although perhaps for more environmental reasons than health. I don’t want GM foods banned as some demand, but I do want transparency in where they are used.

I have long wondered why our food industry is so adamantly opposed to such labeling. I have heard the costs of labeling would be prohibitive, but that doesn’t seem logical to me. Labels change constantly just for marketing reasons. How difficult can it be to insert “GM corn syrup” right in between “dextrose” and “monosodium glutamate”??

I, along with most of the people surveyed in the United States, would like to see GM food labeled. Such labeling will not stop me from eating GM food  anymore than it stops me from eating  artificial flavors and colors. However, I am deeply uncomfortable with the need for our food industry to hide it. What is the issue here? It distresses me that the power behind labeling food resides with powerful corporations.

An incredible amount of money was spent to defeat the GMO-labeling 2012 initiative in California. “Big Ag” (as Mother Earth News calls our food industry) spent $44 million while proponents of the labeling law spent only $7.3 million. Yet the initiative failed by only 6% of the vote.

Lastly, Mother Earth News states that “nearly half of U.S. states now have mandatory GM labeling on their legislative agendas”. Please look into the why of supporting labeling genetically modified foods. This information should be every bit as available as “contains alkalized cocoa” or “BHT added to packaging material to preserve freshness”.

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