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Labeling Discrepancies in Food Containing GMOs

labeling discrepanciesAmericans trust that ingredients on food labels are complete and safe. Yet, few know and even less approve of the undisclosed, genetically modified food in the pantry.

The Food and Drug Administration has no reason to believe that bioengineered food is any different from food grown with original DNA. Because of this stance, disclosing food as “genetically modified” or bioengineered is voluntary. None of the associated processors opt for this disclosure because 87% of people polled in 2008 by CBS do not want to eat manipulated food (Miller, 2009). Eighty percent of processed foods lining grocery store shelves are genetically modified. It is doubtful the general public is aware of this fact.

How Bioengineered Food Reaches Our Tables

Genetically modified foods are not considered a class of food separate from others. According to section 403(a)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, food is misbranded if the label information is misleading in any way. If a label is false or has the potential of providing false information, then the food processor is in violation of FDA label standards. But failing to disclose the fact that food is bioengineered is not considered misleading.

Bioengineered or GM foods do not appear any different from their non-manipulated cousins. Bioengineered foods reflect no nutritional differences. If manipulated corn consisted of new allergens not found in regular corn, then the difference would require disclosure. Given these guidelines, bioengineered substance is not likely to pose consequences to those who ingest it and does not require special labeling.

Genetically modified foods are products of a scientific process. An informative update on genetic engineering appeared in Issues & Controversies (“Update: Genetic Engineering”, 2009). Genes of a plant are spliced in order to alter the DNA for possible improvement. The FDA decided biotech foods were genetically safe, the composition unaltered. There has been plenty of opposition regarding biotech foods. It seems the opposition would encourage the FDA to revamp food label requirements. As it stands now, GM foods do not have to be submitted for approval before they grace store shelves.

The most common use of Genetic Engineering is in the biotech food industry. Crops are redesigned to include herbicide resistant DNA. Farmers combat insects and weed growth without fear of ruining crops with the poison. Further research hints at creating drought resistant crops. Soybean, corn, cotton, and canola farms have benefited from bioengineered food. Yet, Europe refuses to partake in the process.

Monsanto Seed King

Monsanto is a headliner in the biotech food industry. An editorial entitled “A Seedy Practice” appeared in the August 2009 issue of Scientific American sharing the details of Monsanto business. The company produces Round-Up, an herbicide used in unison with modified crop seeds resistant to Round-Up. The two are sold together. The buyer must sign a user agreement which forbids independent study of Monsanto seeds. This means one cannot test the possible outcomes and effects of Monsanto crops without legal consequences. This aspect of the agreement goes well past intellectual property rights. Crops from biotech seeds yield a final product not subject to approval, manipulation, or testing. It is hard to determine by what standards Monsanto and similar companies abide.

A GM farmer, Brian Hind, confided his experience in the October 10, 2009 issue of Crops (“Brits: Don’t rush into growing GM”). The herbicide resistant formula used in modified crop seeds has migrated into nearby weeds. Consequently, herbicide resistant weeds are growing in Kansas crops. Many GM farmers are facing problems originally remedied by bioengineered seeds, only now the cause is technology, not nature.

Health Concerns and Biotech Foods

Genetically Modified foods have recently been linked to organ damage in animals and humans. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called for a moratorium on all GM foods. There is evidence that GM foods are cause of immune dysfunction and reproductive health to name a few (Maroc, 2009). These symptoms sound like consequences of eating something that was supposed to have no outstanding consequence. It makes sense for Americans to read and understand food labels. It seems fair to demand proper disclosure on product labels.

References:

A Seedy Practice.(2009,August). Scientific American, 301(2), 28.

Hind, B. (2009, October 10). Brits: Don’t rush into growing GM. Crops, p. 34.

Maroc,D.(2009, June 2). Just another reason to grow your own food. Cowichan News Leader Pictorial, p. 66.

Miller, C. (2009, Sept/October). Today’s Synthetic Foods: Shrinking Our Brains, Testicles, and Livers? Tikkun, 24(5), 27.

United States Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Guidance for Industry: Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering Draft Guidance.

Update: Genetic Engineering. (2009, July 15). Issues and Controversies on File.

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