GMO Labeling, Anyone?

I am off to the Food Justice Conference in Eugene, Oregon this weekend, where there is sure to be discussion about the recent GMO deregulation spree by the USDA. In the days following these three announcements (deregulation of GMO alfalfa and amylase corn, and partial deregulation of GMO sugar beets), there have been some great articles on the issues of labeling and contamination. Since the authors have already said it better than I would be able to, I will link you to the articles instead of paraphrasing.

First, Mark Bittman of the New York Times recently wrote an article entitled “Why Aren’t G.M.O. Foods Labeled?“.   The main idea of the article is this:

“Even more than questionable approvals, it’s the unwillingness to label these products as such — even the G.E. salmon will be sold without distinction — that is demeaning and undemocratic, and the real reason is clear: producers and producer-friendly agencies correctly suspect that consumers will steer clear of G.E. products if they can identify them. Which may make them unprofitable. Where is the free market when we need it?”

The second article, “Chopping through McWilliams’ weeds on GMO Alfalfa“, by Sam Fromartz, provides multiple examples which refute the idea that GMO crops can be successfully contained, even in supposedly closely monitored situations:

“But how would a historian approach this question?…They might find that in 2006, GMO rice spread to conventional rice farms in Louisiana and Texas. It wasn’t from fully deregulated plantings like GMO alfalfa, but from closely controlled GMO test plots. It led losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Taco shells were pulled from shelves in 2000, because they contained unapproved genetically engineered corn meant for animal feed not humans. Genetically modified pharmaceutical corn crossed to non-pharma corn and also contaminated soybeans in 2002 and the crops were destroyed.”

It is high time to bring back the issue of GMO labeling, which could be force needed to restore regulations on these crops. The USDA may be able to look past over 200,000 worried public comments about deregulating GMO Alfalfa, but would the companies who manufacture GMO crops be able to ignore potentially millions of people not buying their products?

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