The Debate About GMOs Drags On and On

Sarah Rockwood, Staff Writer

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Take a walk down an aisle in Safeway, any aisle.  Ask yourself: how much of this has been modified to seem more appealing to customers like me? The answer may surprise you.

In our modern consumer society, companies will do whatever it takes to successfully market their products to the public.  In the world of food production, that means genetically modifying the staple foods we buy in order to augment the size of their harvests and increase the appeal of their products.  It’s so effective that it has become nearly impossible to find a product in a general grocery store that hasn’t been tampered with.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be everywhere now, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for us.  GMOs are only minimally understood by the scientists and companies who produce them, and most customers aren’t aware of the extent of their use.  If the consequences of GMOs aren’t fully understood, they shouldn’t be sold to oblivious customers who aren’t aware of what they’re buying.

The FDA has issued regulations for the production and consumption of GMOs, but is it really enough?  Not enough research has been done to confirm whether GMOs are harmful to our health or not.  It is unacceptable for companies to gamble on a hunch at the risk of all the people who are buying their products.

GMOs don’t necessarily need to be banned altogether.  Not only would that be nearly impossible due to the extent they’re already being used, but it might even be detrimental to the availability of the viable food that feeds our nation.

Rather, more resources need to be put into studying the effects of GMO and figuring out how to make them safer for consumption, along with labeling them very clearly so everyone knows what they’re buying.

If you had a choice between an apple that was altered by manufacturers to be larger and pest resistant, or one that was naturally grown and untampered with, which would you choose?

Many people claim they would prefer to buy natural products over anything that has been modified.  People admit that if they knew something was genetically modified, they would opt out for the more natural choice.  With this in mind, many companies will hide the fact that their product is a GMO to prevent customer aversion.

Although the FDA “encourages” companies to label their products as GMO, there is no requirement to do so. The only official regulation regarding GMO labeling on the FDA website states that “Food manufacturers may indicate through voluntary labeling whether foods have or have not been developed through genetic engineering, provided that such labeling is truthful and not misleading. FDA supports voluntary labeling.”

But merely “supporting” labeling is futile.  No company that wants to make a profit will willingly label their product with something that might prevent their customers from buying it, so they don’t.

The consequence: most products that people buy have been modified and they don’t know it.  People have a right to know exactly what they’re eating.  It shouldn’t require any detective work to figure out where your food came from and what it’s been through.  The FDA needs to require companies to clearly mark their products if they have been modified in any way.

Regardless of popular belief, most Americans believe that the government should require companies to make GMO labels clear and conspicuous.  With such a rare unanimity, it’s clear that the public is untrustworthy of GMOs.  The government needs to respond to the general will of the public by requiring such labeling, instead of just “supporting” it.

Senior Jeff Lee said, “GMOs may have helped the world in a lot of ways, but if there is any sort of risk to them that we don’t know about, they shouldn’t be available to the general public.  All GMOs should be distinctly identified as such.”

If you open up a standard pantry, a shocking amount of the food inside will be genetically modified: as much as 80% of the all conventional processed foods.  Every meal you eat will likely have GMOs in it unless you only shop at the farmer’s market.  Anything this pervasive in society needs to be fully understood before endorsed by major corporations such as the FDA.  If there’s more to GMOs than meets the eye, the general public will pay the price.

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