Why Genetically Modified Foods Should Be Labeled

Genetically Modified FoodsGenetically Modified Foods

Did you know that you have been enrolled in the largest research study ever conducted in the United States but you never signed a consent form or agreed to participate? That’s because since 1996 you—and basically everyone you know—have been eating genetically modified foods.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), also known as genetically modified or engineered foods, are created by forcing a piece of DNA from a totally different species, such as bacteria or viruses, into the DNA of a plant or animal. For example, genetically engineered soybeans have DNA from bacteria and viruses spliced into their DNA to help them tolerate weed killers such as Roundup.

This genetic feat creates a whole new species of plant that would have never occurred in nature. Most soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and yellow squash, and alfalfa are genetically modified. Products such as oil, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar are created from these crops and added to processed foods. This explains why nearly 80 percent of processed and most fast foods contain GMOs. Genetically Modified Foods

The question is, are GMOs safe for us and the environment? Actually, the answers are not clear. When I decided to write an article on GMOs, I quickly realized that there is no evidence that GMOs are safe for humans. I also found that the Food and Drug Administration did not do its own safety testing of GMOs before they were put into our food supply. The “studies” done by the companies that created the seeds compared genetically modified corn to regular corn and found that they were similar and thus thought to be safe.

However, there are animal studies with negative findings, including organ damage, infertility, and immune system changes. It is clear that we need more research in this area. The environment is another issue. What are the implications when a genetically modified plant cross breeds with other plants? The monarch butterflies are declining due to the destruction of milkweed. What other consequences are possible? Super bugs and super weeds are already showing up. Do we really want to irreversibly change the face of plant life with unknown consequences for the monetary benefit of a few large corporations and their investors?

The bottom line is that we have a product in our food supply with unknown health and environmental implications. At the very least, we should have these foods labeled. However, try as we might, we cannot make that happen in the U.S. Even though 9 out of 10 people want them labeled, the biotech companies and food manufacturers do not. What I don’t get is that if their products are beneficial and safe, why not label them? Why not be proud of your product? Nearly 50 countries, including China, label GMOs and some countries ban them. Why can’t we have transparency in our food supply?

Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, will be on the November ballot. Companies such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta will probably have ads telling us that labeling will cost us money, and isn’t necessary because GMOs are safe. However, we know if a food has high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, or is irradiated. Why can’t we know if it’s genetically engineered? The biggest fear of these companies is that once GMOs are labeled, we won’t want to eat them anymore. And that may happen, just like it did when we found out there was pink slime in our hamburgers!

Our country is based on a free market economy. If you are supplying a product and we don’t want it, then the market dictates it will go away. This is why the biotech companies and food manufacturers will probably spend 50 to 100 million dollars to prevent the labeling of GMOs.

carole bartolottoI don’t know about you, but I always loved a good David and Goliath story. If Proposition 37 passes and genetically modified foods are labeled, that is exactly what we will have. And, we just might change the face of American agriculture forever.

Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD
Healthy Eating Rocks! 

Posted: Friday, 7 September 2012


  1. alex says

    As a person who has lived on/around farms for my entire life, i can tell you the wonders that GM have done for the residents of rural communities. Without genetically modified crops, we would have lower yields, be using HIGHER amounts of chemicals on our crops, and not have the diversity we have today. On the other hand, many of the ‘organic’ farms i encounter use illegal labour and weed/pesticide killers that are toted as ‘natural’ but not regulated. Many of the farms are in a state of disarray and if you talk to the farmers they know full well that the only reason they switched to organic farming was to lower their operating costs and raise their prices by pretty ridiculous margins. And these are the people you see in the farmer’s market, preaching the benefits of a natural, organic diet. In the many critical articles about the effects of GM foods on the consumer, I haven’t seen one mention of how negatively prohibiting genetically modified foods would affect the farmer.

    • says

      Actually Alex, GMO soybeans have a lower yield and pesticide use has skyrocketed. A farmer is free to grow whatever they want, but like all capitalist societies, which utilize the concept of supply and demand, we should have the choice not to buy them. Right now most people don’t even know what they are and since they are not labeled, can’t opt out. Personally I avoid them and tell others to do the same.

  2. JoeWeinstein says

    Common sense suggests that even if most GMOs are bad, maybe some are good. However, that’s not how Monsanto et al are behaving. Many of their GMOs have been patented – with the implication that these GMOs have intrinsic value. You would think that Monsanto et al would want every product to list their various GMO patents, both from pride and as a warning not to infringe . However, by objecting to listing not only the specific GMOs present but even the fact that there is one or more (not identified) present, Monsanto et al are de facto telling us that – in their own judgment – NONE of their products are really safe or have intrinsic value or truly merit patent protection. I take their de facto message at face value. I try to avoid all GMOs and therefore I buy organic as much as possible.

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