Genetically Modified Foods (GMFs) are foods that have been modified to be more resilient, resist spoiling, and be free of common defects. Some commonly GMFs include tomatoes, potatoes, and rice. The concerns about GMFs are many and include health effects and environmental effects. Some people argue that these “Frankenfoods” may have consequences of which we are not yet aware, including cancer. They also argue that consumers ought to know whether the food they buy has been genetically modified. Currently, no such labeling requirement exists. Should GMFs be labeled as such?
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In short, yes. There are already labeling requirements for product ingredients and nutritional information, so adding GMF labeling would not be unduly burdensome to food producers, and it would give consumers more information when making choices of what food they buy and consume. I can't think of an example where providing more information to people was a bad thing.
GMF producers might fear a backlash or a boycott against GMF products, which would be made easier if stricter labeling requirements were applied, but national laws with regards to food production should, in my opinion, be made with a heavy tilt towards the consumer over business profitability.
I would argue that GMO foods should not have to be labeled. This is because I do not believe that there is any scientific evidence that such foods are actually harmful to people. We tend to look at the words "genetically modified" and think that something nefarious is going on. But the truth is that all of our foods are genetically modified. The foods we eat are the product of milennia of selection by farmers that have utterly changed the nature of the plants in question. The fact that the current modifications are done in a different way does not make them inherently different.
I am somewhat on the fence on this issue. I personally don't want to eat a great deal of genetically altered food; however, it is very possible that I am eating quite a bit now and don't realize it. I guess the perfect scenario to me would be for experts to determine a "safe" degree of modification. I am not a horticulturalist or a genetic engineer so I won't suppose to say what that would be. For the sake of argument, let's say fifteen percent.
I don't mind a degree of genetic altering to make a food more drought or pest resistant. I am, however, bothered by corporate greed driving the altering foods to a great degree for the sole purpose of turning a better profit. Foods that are modified beyond the predetermined limit are labeled as such, while there is still some room for giving mother nature a little bit of help.
Of course an argument could be made that if you don't want genetically altered food you can always choose organic foods. They are labeled and that would limit the intrusion of government into an area that isn't necessarily a dire need during the current economic climate.
Hopefully, we won't get to the point of eating "Soylent Green"--that is TOO genetically altered. With all joking aside, while there are benefits to the advancements made in Agriscience in which larger crops that produce more yield and save acreage, some alterations such as chickens that are fully grown in six weeks are detrimental to the health of consumers. It is curious--is it not?--that several chicken farmers in Northern Alabama have stated that they never eat any of the meat from their chickens or from the company to whom they sell them.
Foods should most definitely be labeled: the country from which the food comes, whether there are nitrates, etc. or it is organic food, etc. With global trade, anything can be in the food nowadays. There have, indeed, done "nefarious things" done to foods from the other side of the world, and these things have been reported on national news programs. [see 10/31/2008 edition of New York Times]
The persuasive element in this discussion, for me, is the demand for this information. Regardless of the science, the manufacturing process, or the potential side-effects of consuming genetically modified foods, people want this information. People are even, I think, willing to demand this information. For this reason, if for no others, the food's status as organic, genetically modified, or traditionally farmed (with pesiticides) should be printed on the label.
This is not an unfair expectation if it is applied to all food products.
In response to an above post mentioning the similarity between GMO food and traditional trait selection, an eNotes page on the subject has this information, which makes a different argument:
Genetically engineered crops, therefore, are different from traditional plant varieties. While they do offer many benefits, they may also be more likely to have unpredictable physiological and biochemical effects.
For this reason, if for no others, the food's status as organic, genetically modified, or traditionally farmed (with pesticides) should be printed on the label. This is not an unfair expectation if it is applied to all food products.
I agree with this sentiment. I don't have a problem labeling foods as GM/GE if they have been modified; more information allows for informed choices. However, there is no scientific evidence that I've ever seen that shows danger from GMF, and the advances in disease-resistance, crop distribution worldwide, and overall output outweigh propaganda fear. I believe that labels and information are important for people to make their own decisions -- based in fact, emotion, or prejudice -- without undue influence from others. There is a difference between being informed and being coerced; I want to make my own decisions about what I eat, regardless of the potential damage to my body. My body, my decision.
On the other hand, if scientific research ever actually shows danger from GMF, that should be reported honestly and foods labeled as such.
The fear about GMF is that the foods will become "chemically wrong" for our bodies to process. At this time, the science does not support this fear.
There is a proposition in California that we are about to vote on this issue with. It seems to me that there is no nutritional difference between genetically modified foods and ones that aren't, but people have a right to know what they are eating.
Considering that some developing countries, like Nairobi, who are in need of food supplementation for their people, have absolutely refused to accept delivery of GMO food, corn specifically, and outright turned away free food rather than try the experiment that GMO foods are, it would behoove us in the US to insist upon labeling to identify GMO produce and products. While "nutrition" may (or may not) be the "same" as in non-GMO foods, biological/chemical composition is not the same. This is the whole concept behind GMO foods, isn't it. With GMO foods, whilst eating corn, you may also be eating anti-fungal or pesticide proteins from material genetically spliced into the corn DNA.
For example, by transferring specific genetic material from a bacterium to a plant, scientists can create plants that produce pesticidal proteins or other chemicals that the plant could not previously produce.
Genetically modified microbial pesticides are either bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, or algae, whose DNA has been modified to express pesticidal properties. (EPA)
It seems to me that with such dramatic modifications made to food, it is a moral, ethical and health-related must that full-disclosure labeling be legally required. Now--food is about far more than nutrients.
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