Labeling GMO Foods

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The Issue: Labeling GMO Foods

The Initiative: Just Label It! is an advocacy campaign that hopes to get Congress and the Food and Drug Administration to make the labeling of genetically-modified foods (GMOs) mandatory.

Vandana Shiva explains why corporations want to patent seeds in the first place.

Background: Genetically engineered (GE) foods, or GMOs as they are often called, have been altered at the molecular level in a laboratory for a variety of reasons, such as increasing crop yields, imparting extra nutritional benefits or speeding up the growing process of a fruit or vegetable (or salmon). Opponents question these benefits. One GMO crop that many people are familiar with is “golden rice,” which TIME magazine put on their cover in 2000 with the headline, “Grains of Hope.”

The truth is that GMO foods had been available in the United States for nearly a decade before that. The first GMO offered in America was the Flavr Savr tomato, which was made available in supermarkets in 1994 without any special labeling. Since then, public outcry in the European Union and elsewhere produced labeling laws in 40 European countries, Brazil, Japan and China. According to the AP, 18 states are considering similar legislation, but the only state that currently requires it is Alaska, where genetically modified fish and shellfish must be labeled.

The Just Label It! campaign is a coalition of over 500 partner organizations including consumer advocates, farmers, concerned parents, environmentalists and organic businesses, such as Amy’s Kitchen, Stonyfield and Earthbound Farms, among others. They think Americans have a basic right to know what they’re eating and the right to make informed choices about what’s for dinner. There are only 9 genetically engineered fruits and vegetables for sale in produce aisles in U.S. supermarkets: corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. But wander away from the produce section and you’ll have a lot harder time identifying processed foods that contain GMO ingredients. Prevention magazine reports that genetically altered crops are in 80 percent of processed foods. They counsel: “[U]nless a packaged food is certified organic or specifically labeled non-GMO, chances are it contains modified ingredients.”

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