GMO Labeling – Who are we protecting?

By Tim Lymberopoulos March 19, 2011 6 Comments

We have all sorts of labels on the food we buy. Caffeine Free, From Concentrate, Organic, but we do not label genetically modified (GM) food. Why?

“Extra labeling only confuses the consumer,” said David Edwards, director of animal biotechnology at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. “It differentiates products that are not different. As we stick more labels on products that don’t really tell us anything more, it makes it harder for consumers to make their choices.” 1

The large biotech companies repeatedly state their GM food products are safe, taste the same, and offer solutions to some of the food industry’s most difficult challenges. If they are as good, safe and helpful as they claim, why wouldn’t they promote the use of GM food rather than hide it?

The Food and Drug Administration’s stance is vague and unclear and claims it can only mandate GMO labeling if the food is different from regular food (taste, texture, allergen, nutritional value).  It is also vague on whether a product can be labeled as GMO Free.

As I write this, I notice my Odwalla juice has a No GMO label. But in 2008, the FDA went as far as restricting several companies from labeling their products GMO free. According to an article in the Washington Post, the FDA “sent a flurry of enforcement letters to food makers, including B&G Foods, which was told it could not use the phrase “GMO-free” on its Polaner All Fruit strawberry spread label because GMO refers to genetically modified organisms and strawberries are produce, not organisms.” 1 It also states such labeling can be interpreted as “GMO free” food being better.

“We totally disagree that our GMO-free claim implies that our product is better,” says Dave Wenner, president, B&G Foods, which manufactures Polaner All Fruit products. “We’re simply giving consumers a choice.” 2

And consumers want that choice. We highlighted on our Facebook page a recent poll done by MSNBC clearly showing the public’s desire to know what food is genetically modified. An astonishing 96% said yes to labeling GM food.3

Here is the conundrum. The public wants to know if they are eating GM Food. The biotech companies claim that it is perfectly safe. Yet the government states that labeling will only confuse the consumer. My only explanation is that the GM food industry is not afraid of a government mandate to label GM food, but rather GM food becomes a marketing liability to food companies because consumers want to know what they are eating.

The next big milestone will be GM salmon. The FDA has already stated there is no reason to enforce labeling of GM salmon.  But would you want to know if you are eating a genetically modified fish? Leave us a comment.

1 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/18/AR2010091803520.html

2 http://newhope360.com/fda-warns-natural-foods-companies-about-non-gmo-labels

3 http://health.newsvine.com/_question/2011/02/25/6131050-do-you-believe-genetically-modified-foods-should-be-labeled

Food Politics

6 Responses to “GMO Labeling – Who are we protecting?”

  1. Mo says:

    Great topic! This is a real problem and YES, I want labels stating if the products contain GMO's.

    I read every label and do my best to avoid GMO's.

    Thanks for opening this dialogue!

    • Tim says:

      Mo, thanks for your comment. That's great you read labels and try to be an educated shopper. I look forward to more of you comments.

  2. Alex Logan says:

    Very interesting article. In fact I buy Polaner spreadable fruit and I appreciate that they tried to be honest with the consumer. Keep the articles coming…look forward to the next one!

  3. Tim says:

    Alex, We are glad you liked the post. We appreciate your comments. Has anyone else purchased a product that has a GMO label of any kind? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  4. andrea says:

    label it! consumers are not dumb, we can handle the "confusion" of extra labeling.

    • Tim says:

      Andrea, I agree. I think it is ironic they try to play this labeling issue as being confusing. As more and more of our food will be genetically altered, this topic becomes more important. Thanks for you comment.

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