United States failure to label GMO foods

Raven Barton, Editor-in-Chief

More than 60 countries around the globe require their genetically modified foods and produce to be labeled, and in over 300 regions the growing of GMOs are completely banned. However, the United States, alongside Canada, is not one of them – leaving Americans unsure of what items they are buying in the grocery store.

GMOs are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional cross-breeding methods.

Most GMOs have been engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicide or to produce an insecticide. However, new technologies are now being used to artificially develop other traits in plants, such as a resistance to browning in apples or freeze resistant crops. Despite biotech industry promises, there is no evidence that any of the GMOs currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition or any other consumer benefit.

Because there is no evidence of a benefit or harm from GMOs, some consumers are very skeptical about purchasing these foods. Scientists have not found the long term effects of these products and that scares people. However, there has been evidence of allergies from GMOs.

In 2000, a woman in California named Grace Booth went into anaphylactic shock after eating three corn tacos. After ruling out all other food allergies, she became suspicious about the corn in the tortillas. Earlier that year, the consumer group Genetically Engineered Food Alert found that some Taco Bell shells, along with other corn products, contain a pest-repelling protein called Cry9C[2] which was introduced into StarLink GMO corn to kill caterpillars. The StarLink corn had only been approved for animal feeding and was never intended for human consumption, but it still entered the human supply due to cross-pollination when the GMO corn was planted too close to unmodified crops. The tortillas that Booth ate were soon recalled due to contamination.

No one knows the long term effects of genetically modified foods, yet over 70 percent of foods in grocery stores have GMOs in them. If people’s lives are possibly in danger they should have the right to know whether the apple they are buying at the grocery store is genetically modified and the right to make that choice of whether to buy it or not. Because GMOs are not labeled, most people assume the produce they buy is not genetically modified but most of the time it is, which is why items should be labeled.