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The Case For Reading Your Labels

Posted by Jason Walter on

Choosing food at the supermarket is now much more than picking what’s good for dinner.

It’s common practice to read the nutritional values – calorie counts, fat content, sodium. Possibly skimming the ingredients for stuff like gluten or corn. That’s all good, but what about what labels aren’t telling us? What’s in our food unfortunately goes deeper than what most labels will show.

UNDERSTANDING GMOs

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Different than the hybridization of plants or selective breeding of animals that occurs in nature, or at the hand of humans, and depends upon the natural reproductive process, this genetic modification takes place in a laboratory. Scientists alter the DNA of plants or animals by modifying or deleting genes, or even adding genes from from a virus, bacteria or a different species. Genetic modification is often used in plants to create a resistance to disease or herbicides, or in animals to make them grow faster or bigger. These are sometimes referred to as Genetically Engineered (GE) animals and plants.

While there is an argument as to whether we as humans should be fooling with Mother Nature at all, splicing fish genes into tomatoes to create some kind of Frankenstein-like food, there may be legitimate advances in food production, medicine or other significant discovery achieved through this process.

At this time, there is little data to support either the safety or harmful effects of eating GMO foods. But common sense tells me that someday our genetically modified chickens will come home to roost and we will discover that it is really us who have been altered.

The real issue is the public's right to know. We as consumers have a right to know if a food we buy contains GMOs so we can make our own decision about the safety, or risk acceptance, of consuming food that would never have occurred in nature. So why is labeling GMO food packaging so controversial and resisted by the food industry here in the United States when according to justlabelit.org, it is standard practice in 64 countries around the world?

THE CASE AGAINST MANUFACTURERS

It’s not that difficult to implement a common sense labeling policy. Manufacturers should be required to list GMO use on the back of the package. Some debated issues by the Grocery Manufacturers Industry are whether it should be on the front or back, and what the actual verbiage used should say. They have suggested the info could be available online or perhaps by using some type of smartphone app, limiting access only to those tech savvy and financially able to possess a computer or device and connection plan.

We don’t think so.

Big manufacturing resists the requirement to make the statement on the labels claiming it will cause consumer confusion and increased costs. In past cases, the FDA has allowed appropriate time for implementation. Eventually, all package labels must be resupplied and the only costs incurred for the change is the cost of printing plates, a few hundred dollars.

You may remember the debate over California's Prop 37, back in 2012. The proposition was defeated by a slight majority, but only after the big manufacturers pumped in an overwhelming amount of money in form of half-truth ads against the proposition. Monsanto, Dupont, Pepsi, Grocery MFG Association and Kraft rounded out the top 5 opponents with a combined total of over $20M in funding against the proposition.

INDUSTRY GAME CHANGERS

Since the Prop 37 debate, several large corps heard the masses and implemented their own voluntary labeling measures. Whole Foods Market began the voluntary movement, Chipotle became the first national chain restaurant to advertise that all ingredients are non-GMO.

Most recently, the New York Times reported Jan. 7, 2016 that Campbell Soup Company will disclose GMOs in all of it brands. These include: the soups, Pepperidge Farms, Prego, Plum Organics and V8. This is a huge opportunity for those of us who would like to see transparency in our food ingredient supplies. We have one of the largest food manufacturers committing to GMO transparency. This give us the opportunity to see a real change.

How can we make a difference? We can force other companies to follow suit by voting with our dollars.

Let me say that I have no opinion on Campbell Soup or its other brands. I don’t normally consume their products and can’t say that I have looked at their labels. However, once implemented I do plan to purchase some of their products. My prediction is that if Campbell's sees an increase in sales due to this change, other manufacturers will follow suit. This is how we can get things done. Congress has done what it will on this issue. If we rely on the government, the result will be decades away and will most certainly be skewed by lobbyists.

We don’t have to settle for that. Instead, we can make a change. I urge you to support the companies that are leading the movement. The mighty dollar rules.

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