I can't help but wonder why certain obviously intelligent diarists deliberately confuse and muddle the Genetic Modified Organism (GMO) Labeling issue. (I was prompted to write this after reading the Daily Kos diary "GMO/Food Labeling-Let's Get Serious" (7/12/14) and some of the accompanying comments. Rather than speculating about possible motives, I would like to add some clarity to the issue of GMO labeling.
SHOULD WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW?
GMO labeling is based on a simple question. Do you or don't you believe American consumers should have the basic human right to know what they are eating? If not - end of discussion. Put a period. Move on. If we shouldn't have that right, then food manufacturers should not have to indicate whether a food is genetically engineered. And they may as well stop listing food ingredients on labels, as well. And why shouldn't food processors be allowed to add whatever they want to our food without telling us, like they do in China
WE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT, BUT...
On the other hand, if we should have the right to know what we are eating, then it makes sense to discuss the ways in which that right can be actualized. The position taken by some diarists seems to be that letting people know what they are eating would be impractical, impossible, too expensive, etc. This position seems either designed to entirely distract us from the rights question or to imply, without saying it directly, that this right to know is not worth protecting. I can understand people who don't care about their health nor about what they put in their mouths who believe that the right to know what they are eating is completely insignificant, and therefore, not worth protecting or actualizing.
I'm sure there are, likewise, citizens who never cast votes in a civil election and who would not mind giving large corporations the power to select public officials, especially if that resulted in the non-voters saving a couple dollars on their taxes. If the process of giving every eligible citizen the power to vote was ten times more expensive than it is, we should still have the right to vote. I never heard that human rights are cheap. From the beginning of this Nation, a lot of men and women have given their lives to protect our rights. But, then again, look how we treat surviving war veterans (http://hereandnow.wbur.org/...).
WHAT I WANT IS SIMPLE
I believe that people should have the right to know what they are eating. My principle concern in regard to that right and the focus of this diary is GMOs. I want to be able to tell if the food, or any part of the food, I might purchase from store shelves, store freezers, deli counters, farmer's markets, etc. is genetically engineered.
HOW COULD THAT HAPPEN?
One way to let me know if food is genetically engineered is to attach a note to the food with the letters "GMO". Another method would be to include those letters on the label in the already required list of ingredients. How would this come about? One way would be for food producers, manufacturers, and marketers to recognize and respect consumers' rights and voluntarily label foods sold for human consumption that have been wholly or partly genetically engineered.
GMO LABELING LAW PROVISION #1
When that fails to happen, the other way GMO labeling would occur is to require it by law. For the law to be effective I think there are some provisions which would probably be indispensable. One provision would be a definition of GMOs. One could start with the World Health Organization's definition: "Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally." I would prefer replacing "altered in a way that does not occur naturally" with "altered by human bioengineering". This would clarify that GMOs are not the product of hybridization, cross-pollination, or mutations occurring independent of human intervention .
GMO LAW PROVISION #2
The law would also need to make clear that GMO labeling requirements apply only to food marketed for human ingestion. For example, if a dairy cow given rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), is slaughtered, the blood may be comingled with blood from cows not genetically modified. If the blood is sold to a cosmetics firm for use in lipstick and nail polish, the blood would not have to be labeled as GMO because it would not be food sold for human ingestion.
GMO LAW PROVISION #3
The law would also need to specify what is NOT a GMO. Unless an animal is genetically engineered, it would not have to be lableled as GMO when sold for human ingestion. However, any animal, GMO or not, that has been fed genetically modified feed, should be prohibited from being labeled as "natural" or "organic".
GMO LAW PROVISION #4
I read in a diary comment that one reason why GMO labeling would cost so much is that grains such as wheat are comingled in this country and that to change the system to keep GMO and non-GMO wheat separated would cost billions. Pretty alarming? According to http://www.organicconsumers.org/... there is no GMO wheat being marketed in the U.S. Corn is the only GMO grain being grown for commercial consumption by Americans. Approximately 80% of the corn grown in the U.S. is GMO.
Since there is the possibility of GMO and non-GMO foods being comingled, an additional provision to the GMO labeling law seems to be desirable. That provision would be that if GMO food such as corn is comingled with non-GMO food, the resulting mixture should be labeled as GMO.
Another example would involve milk containing rBGH. If rBGH milk is mixed together with non-GMO milk, the resulting mixture should be designated as GMO.
This eliminates the need to change the existing food processing system to keep GMO and non-GMO foods such as grains separated. The alternative solution for food processors would be to not accept GMO product.
FEASIBILITY OF GMO LABELING
Some diarists would like us to believe that GMO labeling would be an unreasonable, impractical, and technologically challenging burden for the food industry which will result in higher food prices for consumers. There is an article at http://www.anh-usa.org/... that asserts that the cost of changing food labels is negligible.
If GMO labeling is non-feasible, why and how do 30% of the world's countries have GMO labeling regulations (http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/...)? Are their GMO laws flawless? No law is flawless. But the fact that legislators in these countries passed GMO labeling laws testifies to their willingness to give human rights and the Common Good priority over corporate profits.
$ AND GMO LABELING
I don't believe that GMO labeling would raise the retail cost of food. But, if I'm wrong, so what? Public parks, schools, and libraries cost money. So do voting machines. Not everyone values those things. Nevertheless, they are parts of the Common Good and reasonable people would agree that the quality of American life would be diminished without these things.
I can almost understand some Americans' willingness to give up their right to privacy for increased national security. But are we really willing to trade the right to know what we are eating for cheaper food? What's next? Trading libraries, schools, and parks for cheaper taxes?
Where would we be today if the Founding Fathers had opted to keep prices and taxes down while preserving their own personal fortunes rather than to fight for the human rights of the American colonists?
Hopefully this diary has added some clarity to the issue of GMO labeling.