Tag Archives: GMO labeling

GMO Labeling – Advantages & Disadvantages – final words

So, just what are the advantages and disadvantages of GMO labeling?

To recap, we know that GMOs themselves have advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • potential less use of pesticides
  • increased food production in poor countries
  • perhaps lower food prices
  • potential for increased vitamins & minerals
  • increased disease resistance
  • increased shelf life
  • removal of certain allergens
  • less need for water

Disadvantages:

  • no long term studies, so potential for food safety issues & unknown health risks
  • the ability for large corporations to patent food source
  • potential for new allergens
  • risk of antibiotic resistance
  • potential increase in use of pesticides (because of the resistance)
  • potential for unknown toxins
  • unknown potential harm to the environment and animal/insect species
  • potential for toxicity with an over ingestion of certain vitamins and minerals

Given these issues, labeling seems the natural thing to do.  And polls show that a large majority of the public wants to see labeling.  And yet, states are having a hard time passing labeling laws.

Most countries that have labeling laws are national with a national standard.  The US is trying to pass laws regionally because the FDA states that GMO foods are, in essence, the same as non-GMO foods and therefore, need not be regulated separately.   This dictate leaves states no choice but to act on their own.

From (http://wakeup-world.com/2012/02/10/vermont-introduces-monumental-gmo-labeling-legislation/).
Photo from http://wakeup-world.com/2012/02/10/vermont-introduces-monumental-gmo-labeling-legislation/

Enter the problems.  Below are the advantages and disadvantages of GMO labeling:

Advantages:

  • Labeling gives the public information about what they are buying and consuming.  The “right to know” extends to this “food processing attribute”.
  • Consumers could make more informed buying decisions
  • It might encourage more companies to use non-GMO ingredients so they would not have to label.  This has been shown to be the case in at least six-ten other countries where labeling is mandatory.

Disadvantages:

  • Groceries will probably cost more as the manufacturers will have to pour a lot of money into testing and segregation.  Labels would have to be remade and, more than likely would have to be generic across state lines.
  • labelgmoshollywood.co
    labelgmoshollywood.co
  • Smaller food producers and specialty food producers would feel the cost burden much more and, if they are able to continue doing business, the products would bear a greater cost – and the consumer might not be able to afford products from smaller food producers.
  • States, farmers and food producers could be tied up in expensive litigation.
  • Having state laws and not using a national standard could create more confusion in the public’s mind.  In some cases, the consumer could be deceived into thinking a food doesn’t contain GMOs, when in fact it does.  For example:  a small food producer in Vermont is required to label.  Since they can not afford to have labels for one state and a different label for another state, all the products are labeled.  That product is then sold on a shelf in a state without labeling laws.  The product next to it comes from a large company that can afford to have separate labels for labeled stated and unlabeled law states.  The consumer looking at the two products would be deceived into thinking the product without the label does not contain GMOs.

Regardless, Vermont has now passed a labeling law.  Smartly, the law establishes a defense fund to defect against potential lawsuits.  And there is a whopper out there – a lawsuit filed by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the Snack Foods Association.   Even Ben & Jerry’s is getting in the fray helping to raise funds for the defense of the law – a renamed ice cream, “Food Fight – Fudge Brownie” shows a box on the front of the ice cream that reads “Food Fight Fund”.   $1 of each pint sold will go to the fund.

photo by  GLENN RUSSELL / FREE PRESS FILE
photo by GLENN RUSSELL / FREE PRESS FILE

Attorney General Bill Sorrell has filed a brief defending the new law and asking the lawsuit be thrown out.

The lawsuit claims that the labeling law exceeds state authority and violates food manufacturer’s right to free speech to not label something they don’t feel necessary.  Defense of the law need only look to NY and the recent upheld law requiring calorie content be listed on chain restaurant food.

Either way, we should all get ready.  Whether it happens today or several years from now, labeling is probably coming to a state near you!

GMOs – Labeling

First, allow me to apologize – a family issue prevented me from being able to devote time to writing.  But, we’re back now!  Thank you to all that have been following this blog.

If you take an initial look at the issue of labeling, you might wonder what could be controversial.  I mean, letting the public know seems the right thing to do, right?

So why are the big-ag companies doing back flips to keep labeling laws from going into effect?  Unfortunately, part of the reason is because they know that people are still widely uneducated when it comes to GMOs.  If a label says anything like “contains or may contain GMOs”, an automatic assumption  may be made that GMOs are bad.   Also, the more the anti-GMO groups put out information on GMOs and stages protests, etc, the more influence this will have on the fears of consumers.  (Please keep in mind that this post DOES NOT mean to imply that GMOs are safe or unsafe – merely just perusing the thoughts and feelings of the public and what might go on in their minds.)

book cover for Sam Merwin Jr book, "A Matter of Policy - An Amy Brewster Mystery"
book cover for Sam Merwin Jr book, “A Matter of Policy – An Amy Brewster Mystery”

You see, friends – fear tactics are not a tool solely for Republicans – Liberals sometimes practice the same fear tactics.  Playing to people’s innate tendency towards fear works, despite being a sleazy way to get people on your side.

But, this issue isn’t about fear.  It is about informing people about what they are buying.  Cigarette pack warnings are an attempt to instill fear and make people reconsider buying cigarettes with negative messaging.   GMO labels are not implying any negative – they are simply telling you what is in your food.  A better comparison would be allergen statements or even ingredients – both are simply telling the consumer what is in the product.

Labeling GMOs is really a debate over labeling process attributes.  Should food processing, of which GMOs are one process, be labeled?  There are several ways to go here:

1.  Legislation that does not allow any GMO process statements – either containing or not containing GMOs.

2.  Legislation requiring all foods containing GMOs to be labeled.  A statement would accompany such label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.

3.  Voluntary labeling with the use of GMOs or the absence of GMOs.  This seems somewhat arbitrary, leaving consumers confused.

4.  Voluntary labeling of the use of GMOs, but again, requiring a statement accompanying the non-GMO label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.

The first option no longer seems viable as anti-GMO groups are not going away and neither is the issue.  By not allowing any labeling of process attributes, consumers could make a judgment call with little to no information.  (Yes, you might say that many people already do that when they go out to vote, but I digress! ;-)).  Lack of information leaves a ripe ground for conspiracy theories!

The second option might work as some of the onus is no longer on the small manufacturer to get verified, even though they will still have to go through the work of getting in house paperwork on ingredients to make sure they are not using GMOs.   But either way the issue goes, no longer are we going to be able to ignore the issue, so this could be the best option.

originally from sustainablepost.com
originally from sustainablepost.com

Under the anti-labeling guise, the third option above would be a continuation of what we have now.  However, that option – in my mind – is the least viable.  The confusion it creates in the minds of consumers is unfair, not only to the consumer, but to smaller manufacturers.  If one product is labeled non-GMO and another product is NOT labeled non-GMO, the natural inclination of a consumer is to believe that the product not labeled does contain GMOs.  But the cost of getting verified non-GMO is prohibitive to many manufacturers that might actually be non-GMO, but can’t afford to get verified.

Gringo Jack’s is going through the process of getting non-GMO verified and I can attest to several things:  it is very expensive and it is extremely time consuming and frustrating.  The requirements for paperwork are over the top (more on that in another post!) and it is a continuing cost every year once accomplished.

So, we’ve presented the beginning of the labeling issue, but there is so much more – evidenced by the many dollars being spent on the part of the anti-labeling campaigns as well as local governments fighting the groups fighting the labels.   Money is being poured into lawsuits, campaigns, advertising, marketing etc and so this issue deserves more time.

Next week will delve into what both sides have to say about the labeling.