Essay: Labeling GMO

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Labeling GMOs

The use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the food supply is one of the most controversial aspects of modern agriculture. The European Union has banned the sale of products with GMOs. However, in America, GMOs are incorporated into a wide variety of products. Unless a product is specifically labeled as lacking GMOs, American consumers may buy foods and other items that contain these ingredients without being made aware of this fact. Proponents of the products tout their benefits to consumers, and view labeling as a kind of fear-mongering. It is unfair, they say, to lump GMOs along with other labeled products such as cigarettes and fast food, implying that GMOs will have a negative impact upon human health. Positive labeling, or labeling all products with GMOs "implies risk while inaccurately reflecting health consequences of consuming GMO products" (Runge & Jackson 2009). The products have been approved as safe by the necessary regulatory bodies. Proponents add that GMOs can help feed the world by making more disease-resistant crops, expand the available food supply to feed a burgeoning world population, and that labeling of the products will make consumers needlessly suspicious.

Opponents of the lack of labeling cite the benefits of consumer choice and the fact that GMOs are often relatively untested, suggesting that the pace of agricultural reform is getting ahead of the ability to regulate these products. They argue that just as consumers have the right to know the calorie counts of the products they buy packaged in the supermarkets, they should have the right NOT to consume GMOs. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is moving in the direction of not labeling GMOs. Recently, it approved three new kinds GMOs: alfalfa hay used to produce ethanol, sugar beets, and a fast-growing genetically modified breed of salmon. These products will not even have to be labeled as containing GMOs. The salmon is advertised as an "environmentally sustainable alternative to current farmed salmon," which is grown in a more sterile environment than wild fish (AquaAdvantage Fish, 2011, Aqua Bounty). GMO opponents state that if these genetically-modified fish escape and breed with wild salmon, that the entire population of the fish could become tainted. As seen in the documentary The future of food, it is virtually impossible to prevent species from cross-contaminating one another. Mexico has already lost the integrity of its indigenous corn varietals because of cross-pollination from GMO plants nearby.

The American public, however, may consume products with GMOs (very few consumers can claim to even try to eat only non-GMO products) but is profoundly uncomfortable with this fact. The "majority of Americans believe that GMOs are hazardous to their health" and in one recent CBS/NYT poll 87% stated that they wanted the products to be labeled (Bittman 2011). Advocates of choice stress that consumers should at least have the ability to choose what foods enter their bodies. However, the FDA counters with its response that because GMOs are considered to be the same as conventional products in terms of their effects on the body, they are not labeled because this "does not constitute material information" earning a virtual rubber-stamp for all GMO products (Philpott 2010).

When GMOs were first approved, there was a heated and divisive debate within the FDA regarding their impact upon human health and the environment In a 1992 memo, a scientist… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Labeling GMO.  (2011, October 18).  Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/labeling-gmo/76974

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/labeling-gmo/76974.