The US currently has a voluntary food-labeling program. It’s important to know that the FDA controls all food labeling and policy. The FDA published a draft in 1992 that summarizes food policy developed through the use of biotechnology and this quote was of particular interest.
So if the FDA says it’s safe then what’s the issue? Well, through my research I was able to narrow down the issue to a few key points. Supporters of food labeling and non-GMO products, want these labels for health and safety reasons - to identify possible allergen risk. They feel that without the label there is no way of determining if the food is safe and often view GMO as this photo. Inserting the gene directly into the food, but it’s much more intensive than that. Some also fear that genetic engineering in agriculture will destroy the natural biological system with pollution and the threat of crossbreeding, especially with genetically modified salmon. Now we all know that the global population in steadily increasing and will reach an all-time high by 2050. Many researchers are concerned about this increase and how to sustain the population with the same acreage of arable land. For them the answer is simple – GMOs. The Food and Drink Federation states that GM crops and food will be a global solution to food security. Genetic engineering allows for crops to be drought and pest tolerant, it improves yield and reduces pesticide use. Some believe that genetic engineering is just the beginning of many technological advancements to sustain the food supply.
Now I want to go back to allergen risk for a moment. The peanut has been the center of much controversy for GM food and allergies. In an interview with one of my stakeholders, she mentioned that her main concern with GM was allergies and non-labeling. She told a story about her friend that had a peanut allergy and he kept getting sick randomly after eating. They found out that he had ingested a tomato with a peanut gene, which was supposed to increase weather tolerance. Now this makes GMOs and non-labeling look bad. But, could the same technology in the same crop be good? A researcher at the University of Florida is using biotechnology and ultraviolet light to control the peanut allergen at the processing stage and has reduced the allergen potential of peanuts by 90%.
So it comes down to should or shouldn’t we label. It might help consumers make more informed decisions about their food and supporters say non-GMO locally grown food can certainly sustain the population. Opponents say that there is no way non-GMO food can sustain the world and GM corn and soy are so prevalent that even trusted organic food supplier, Whole Foods, admitted to stocking items that contained them. And that technological advancements aren’t going anywhere.
During my stakeholder interviews it was clear that whether they were in support of or opposed food labeling everyone wants to feed the growing population with a safe and healthy product. However, different people view food in different ways and a lot of it comes down to personal preference and how your upbringing around agriculture shaped their viewpoints. My expert, BarretKirwan, is a professor in ACE and grew up on a conventional farm in Idaho. My stakeholder, Wes King, is the policy director for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and he’s a 2nd generation organic gardner.
Ultimately, both sides are focused on producing a safe and healthy food supply, but want to use different methods and feel very strongly about their viewpoints. The government feels pressure for a regulatory labeling system, however much research and education is needed to balance the debate and find a solution.
+ Background Voluntary FDA “This policy states that the FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern.”
+ So what’s the issue? Supporters Opponents High allergen risk Feedingthe growing population Wildlife interaction Technology
+To label or not to labelOne small step in the fight forsafer food.One small speed bump fortechnological advancement.
+ Differing viewpoints Expert – Barret Kirwan “Those who believe this [non-GMO sustainability] are completely missing the big picture. Locally grown , non- GMO food is beside the point and will never feed the growing population because it’s less productive. There is no need to label our food.” Stakeholder – Wes King “There has been a lot of hype over the years that GM products in food will add to sustainability and productivity, but I see little evidence of this. The FDA won’t label because their ultimate worry is that it will require an overwhelming consumer decision and they won’t purchase GM products.”
+ Finding a balance Both sides want the same thing, but with different methods. Label No label