Labeling the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Labeling the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Genetically modified organisms or foods are created in laboratories by introducing genes of one organism into another one that it is not related to the former, leading to the production of plants and animals that may not occur in nature. Long term studies conducted on the consumption and production of GMOs indicate an increase in allergies, liver and kidney diseases, cancer and other terminal illnesses. There has been growing demand for GM foods to be labeled in the United States of America since their production was legalized (Twardowski and Małyska 46). This agitation has been emanating from various groups ranging from activists, mothers and even children. Over time, the struggle to develop laws for the labeling of GM foods has created bitter antagonism between the proponents of the law and the opposition, where the former claim that it is the right of consumers to know the source and type of products they are consuming, while the latter argue that if this is allowed, it will curtail their profitability and general production (Valceschini 10). Such conflicts have often led the lobby groups into the ballot.

Prior to the legislation process for having GMO labeling in Vermont, the Democrat senator Bobby Starr held the view that the farmers could lose revenue. However, with time he learnt the demands of his constituency through public hearings, where the chambers were filled with people who supported labeling. Out of all the votes in the state senate, maximum supported GMO labeling, hence, the bill was signed into law by the Governor. Vermont is not a case of exclusion; there are 84 bills in 29 states on GMO labeling. The efforts vary from state to state; politicians are pushing for the law as a result of public agitation, despite it hardly being in their interest. For example, in Vermont, the lobby groups were the Vermont public interest research group and the coalition for organic farmers. The aim to label GMOs does not only target their production, but also secures the right of consumers to information.

With reference to the foregoing events in Vermont, most food production industries are in a panic state since the labeling requirement will result in new packaging of their products from one state to the other. To counter this, the GMO proponents have put forth a bill in the senate stating that only the Food and Drug Administration should put labels on GMOs and not the states. The primary opponents of proliferation of GMOs, mostly the natural food advocates, have often had their efforts curtailed. One such failures took place in 2002 in Oregon where a referendum calling for GMO levels to put on products was defeated. In Chicago, a grandmother named Pamm Larry initiated the drive-in during January, 2011. Though lacking political expertise, she marshaled support and managed to collect the required signatures leading to the birth of Proposition 37, which was supported by the Green party. The initiative faced more competition from Monsanto adverts and campaigns. Coupled with financial assistance from other companies like DuPont and Kraft Foods, the public support crumpled.

The same initiative in Michigan by a lone activist who used a statewide network of the farmers market, organic groceries and natural food activists to find allies suffered setbacks through numerous ads sponsored by pro-GMO companies. The proponents of GMOs held the view that the labeling demands were being driven by organic and natural food producers who aim at expanding their markets if consumers viewed the labels on GMOs on grocery shelves. The major funders consisted of organic food manufacturers like Amy’s Kitchen and Nature’s Path. The campaign for labeling is not merely initiated and supported by activists and lobby groups, but also by the Environmental Working Groups, such as Just Label it and Center for Food Safety.

Most activism against GMOs stems from individuals like Kristi Marsh, who while suffering from ailments like cancer became passionate about shoving off all things deemed to lead or exacerbate such illnesses. She believes that her life has for long been interfered by products that she had not been allowed to have a say about. To achieve this, she is calling upon women to take charge of their bodies and children, rather than following the marketing language for the GMOs (Bennett 31). The support from all communities across the nation is overwhelming. Despite the opposition of GMOs rooting from environmental lobby groups, such groups have recently started to support them based on the scientific research that indicates that they do not have negative health implications.

The effect of GMOs on the environment is multifaceted (Ball 2). While their introduction has led to the reduced application of insecticides, it has increased the use of herbicides. Yet, Mark Bittmam still remarks that, “If GMOs would be successfully burnt, we would still have industrial agriculture with more degradation and pollution, labor abuse and overproduction of junk food ingredients.” The pro-GMO groups believe that the society’s perception is poisoned by the media and the information they read on the internet, which is not scientific. To circumvent the debate about the safety of GMOs, the labeling proponents have held the view that the label would serve to inform the consumers and it is their right to know what is in their food, further believing that this will reduce the prevalence of GMs.

Labeling will have far reaching effects on GMO based companies like Monsanto and DuPont (scale of 5) as they are widely involved with production of seeds, mostly corn and soybeans that account for up to 95% of the cereals in America. This will affect their market share adversely, paving the way for natural and organic farming. This is because the safety of GMOs is misunderstood and it would lead to consumers being scared of the products hence making such companies lose in markets and profitability. For the farmers, the impact will be dependent on whether they are organic or natural farmers, as this category will be benefitted from the labeling because many people will prefer biological and natural products over GMOs. The GMO farmers will suffer negatively in equal measure as their products will lack consumers. (The impact will be a scale of 5). First processors will not have much impact (scale of 1) as they are not involved in the production of raw materials or marketing of the products. The food processors will be affected as the labeling will call for repackaging of different foods in various states.

In conclusion, the campaign for GMO labeling is taking shape with time. Even though the efforts are thwarted by the financing of large enterprises, the efforts are bearing fruits, and perhaps this is being replicated in other states. The continued misconception about the health impacts of GMOs among the population is increasing the agitation among the communities, and it is equally getting political attention, more so from the Democrats.

 

 

Works Cited

Bennett, Anna K. “GMO Labeling–Truth Beyond the Hype.” Agricultural Management Committee Newsletter. vol. 17, no. 3, 2013, pp. 7.  Print.

Twardowski, Tomasz, and Malyska, Aleksandra. “Uninformed and Disinformed Society and the GMO Market.” Trends in Biotechnology. vol. 33, no. 1, 2015, pp. 1–3. Web.

Valceschini, E. “Consumer Information and Separating GMO from Non-GMO Sector.” OCL-Oleagineux Corps Gras Lipides, vol. 7, no. 5, 2000, pp. 399 – 403. Print.

Ball, Molly. “Want to Know if Your Food is Genetically Modified?” Atlantic Monthly, 2014. Accessed 12 April, 2017 from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/want-to-know-if-your-food-is-genetically-modified/370812/