This week, the Hartford Business Journal featured an article about proposed Connecticut legislation (it failed in the General Assembly this session, but will be resubmitted next session) that would require the indication of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on the food labels of products that contain them. I’m curious how Connecticut parents feel about this impending change.
A food that has been genetically modified has had a gene either added or removed to change its makeup and allow that product to take on new characteristics not found in nature. A GMO is more common in our food system than you may think: 86% of corn and 93% of soybeans grown in the United States is genetically modified. Cotton, sugar beets and canola are on the list, too. And, while GMOs are mostly thought of in terms of produce, 70% of processed foods are said to contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Are GMOs potentially harmful to your health? It is hard to say. Since many products containing GMOs are unlabeled as such, it is difficult to make an easy link between those products and poor health. However, certain fruits and vegetables have been genetically altered to produce their own pesticides, and many consumers are worried about their impact on the health of humans. Thirty countries around the world have either restrictions or bans on genetically engineered foods, claiming these foods are unsafe.
The debate over GMOs and their impact of food labeling has many sides. On the side of the producer, there is an economic impact: the cost of changing the design of a label diminishes the company’s bottom line, potentially prompting these producers to pass the added cost on to the consumers; and, those who choose to adopt the change early face potential discrimination by consumers, who perceive the product labeled to contain GMOs to be harmful or bad, even though their competitors’ unlabeled products may include the same ingredients. On the side of the consumer, the debate turns to ethics: consumers feel they have the right to full transparency concerning what is in their food.
On what side of the debate do you fall? Should companies be required to list any GMOs on their product labels, or do they have the right to opt-in, just as we as consumers can choose whether or not to go organic? How carefully do you read labels when choosing foods for your family?