GMO labeling: a consumer’s right

Genetically-modified organisms are exactly what they sound like: crops that are altered at the genetic level to deter insects, survive long-distance travel, and remain beautiful and ripe for several days. These crops are a dream come true for major supermarket chains, but because GMOs have been tied to adverse health effects, many consumers worry about what really is in their food.

Unfortunately for cautious food lovers, GMO labeling is not required in the U.S. It is difficult to differentiate the genetically-modified from the organic in any local supermarket. Even Whole Foods Markets is guilty of stocking its shelves with genetically-modified produce. To secure our rights as consumers to know what we are really eating, Floridians should fight to be the first state to require genetically-modified labeling.

Consumers are definitely skeptical when it comes to genetically-modified food and their skepticism is completely justified. The American Society of Environmental Medicine urges doctors to recommend all-organic diets to patients because, when the ASEE studied the effects of GMOs on animals, they found cases of organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging and infertility. In humans, they discovered that genetically-modified soy can transfer genes into bacterial DNA found naturally in our bodies, and insecticide from genetically-modified corn can enter pregnant women’s bloodstreams, affecting them and their fetuses.

Although there is no concrete proof connecting GMOs to specific health issues, the Institute for Responsible Technology discovered significant raises in food allergies, autism, reproductive disorders and digestive problems since the introduction of GMOs in 1996. Regardless of where you stand on the health debate, here’s why you should support putting GMO labeling on a future ballot in Florida: consumer awareness.

Food companies acknowledge their use of GMOs but don’t specify which products are genetically-modified. Many people find this unsettling. To regulate the ambiguity, Washington state put required genetically-modified labeling on the ballot earlier this month. Proposition 522 was incredibly popular; according to the Seattle Times, 66 percent of Washington citizens supported it. However, after a close race, the proposition failed. The same thing happened in California; required genetically-modified labeling, something the public widely supported, was rejected in the 2012 election.

If these propositions were so popular, why did they fail? I am pointing my finger at five major food-related corporations. According to USA Today, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience completely funded the campaign against Proposition 522. These corporations donated $22 million, a fundraising record, to threaten the people of Washington with raised food prices and to scare them into compliance.

It’s worth reiterating that these five major corporations spent tens of millions of dollars to keep consumers in the dark. As consumers, we have the right to know when GMOS are used and select for ourselves whether or not we want to consume them. But Monsanto feels differently.

Imagine this: a woman buys a new coat with a fur collar. The label says the collar includes faux fur, so the woman, an animal rights activist, feels comfortable with her new cozy purchase. However, the label did not mention that only 60 percent of the collar is faux; the rest is real rabbit fur. This is exactly what happens to consumers seeking organic foods. Food labels proudly advertise “organic ingredients” but only refer to a limited amount of the ingredients used.

Labeling when GMOs are used, like labeling when real fur is used, will keep the food industry from tricking health-conscious consumers. Sixty countries, including the entire European Union, have already enforced GMO labeling and have illustrated to the world that the benefits significantly outweigh the costs. Whether or not you believe that GMOs are unhealthy is completely irrelevant. What truly matters is everyone’s right to know what is in a product and to make a conscious decision before purchasing it. Think about it: major corporations will tell anyone want they want to hear if they can profit off of it. It is up to the educated voters to require the truth. The pros and cons of GMO use are completely irrelevant when it comes to its required labeling. What truly matters is your right to consumer awareness.

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