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GMO Labeling

Transparent Statement:
I am in favor of GMO labeling.

GMO refers to genetically modified organisms. GMO Labeling means that on packaged foods, the label must indicate that the product contains genetically-modified ingredients.

Foods are genetically modified for different reasons. For some, it is to make the food better able to withstand pests that may eat it. Some simply inject preferred traits from another food. Many are based on building in resistance to herbicides, particularly RoundUp. Just about every packaged food that contains corn or soy, except organic versions, contain genetically-modified ingredients.

I am not going to attack "Big Ag" or "Big Food" for selling or using genetically modified seeds. Whether you agree with the reasons for genetically modifying food is not the issue here. What matters is whether consumers have the right to know.

Just as with campaign finance, I believe in transparency. It is really that simple, in my mind.

Each time a state tries to require GMO Labeling, the agriculture and food industries argue that it is too expensive to change labels (false), consumers can just buy organice (mostly true), that it is too difficult to explain and will scare consumers (maybe) and that genetically-modified foods are safe (probably).

Label — I do not buy the argument that changing labels is too expensive. Food companies constantly change their packaging for various promotions. Moreover, they recently offered to display a QR code on their packaging which would link to information about the GMO ingredients.

Organic — Yes, consumers can just purchase organic foods, which by definition do not contain GMO ingredients. However, not all consumers know this. Plus organic food is much more expensive. More importantly, there are many non-organic foods that do NOT contain GMO ingredients.

Difficult to Explain — I agree that it is difficult to explain to consumers what genetically-modified truly means and that consumers will likely have concerns. But companies must distinguish between real sugar and artificial sweeteners. (Please do not get me started on "evaporated cane juice," aka sugar.) And if they are making the decision to use a particular ingredient, consumers should have the right to know.

GMO Foods are Safe — Most scientists believe such foods are safe. The FDA says they are, but not convincingly. Environmental groups are generally against it. But in developing countries with malnutrition, one solution is to inject crucial nutriets into GMO rice. So yes, GMO food are probably safe.

A similar issue is labeing of food that contain milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones. Consumer groups wanted such products labeled. Many companies that do not use such milk added labels to their own products to indicate their milk was NOT from treated cows. Initially, Congress and the agricultural industry attempted to prevent companies from even stating their milk was NOT from treated cows.

As a compromise, companies are permitted to specify if their product does NOT contain milk from treated cows. This means companies using such milk are not required to label it. Yes, I disagree with this because consumers can unknowingly purchase a product with treated milk, which seems wrong.

Food companies are concerned that such a label puts a stigma on their product, and rightfully so. But if they spent as much money on educating consumers as they do fighting GMO Labeling initiatives, perhaps that would not be an issue. The fact that companies want the right to not tell consumers what is in their food is inherently ridiculous. Simply putting a QR code, which not all consumers can view, is not adequate either.

So yes, I definitely prefer GMO Labeling. But if choosing between no GMO Labeling and the right for companies to state their product does NOT contain GMO ingredients, I would choose the latter.

Steve Rubenstein for Governor | Privacy Policy