(NaturalNews) Big agribusiness and biotech companies don't want it, but increasingly Americans - and people in countries all over the world - want food products that contain genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such.
Calls for GMO labeling come amid a backdrop of consumer regulations that already require all other foods and food products - even bottles of water that only contain "water" - to be labeled. Yet the federal government has taken no action on the issue, even as some states (Vermont recently became the first) to require such labeling.
As reported by The New York Times:
Most consumers want that to change. Some 93 percent of respondents to a New York Times survey said they want genetically modified ingredients identified, though only half said they would avoid GMO products.
More than 1.4 million people have signed the Center for Food Safety's petition urging the FDA to require GMO labeling. Marches were held in dozens of cities recently to protest the introduction of genetically engineered products by Monsanto and other developers.
Industry gets to write its own rules regarding GMOs
After Vermont, Connecticut and Maine passed similar statutes requiring the labeling of GMO foods, though the latter two state laws are contingent on other states eventually enacting such legislation. The producers of genetically modified foods, plants and seeds have poured millions into advertising campaigns across the country - most recently in California in 2012 to defeat a GMO labeling initiative - and have begun pushing a federal bill that would bar states from requiring labeling, all the while insisting the ingredients are safe.
"Labeling space is very limited, and mandatory labeling would create an unnecessary stigma," Claire Parker, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, which represents businesses and organizations opposed to GMO labeling, told the Times.
Parker, along with other industry representatives, tout the Food and Drug Administration's finding in 1992 that there was no need for mandatory labeling of GMO foods because there were no "material" or "meaningful" differences between bioengineered and non-bioengineered foods (a determination that has been refuted in a number of studies regarding GMO foods).
More from the Times:
Genetically engineered plants contain DNA from other animal or plant species that is intended to give them traits that are considered desirable by the manufacturers. One of the more recent innovations is an apple that does not turn brown after it is sliced. Another is a strawberry that withstands freezing.
Many of the plants have been engineered to survive being sprayed with weed killers; some even produce their own pesticides.
Some foods are almost guaranteed to contain GMOs
But even FDA scientists have expressed some concerns about GM foods and plant products. They wonder if the new plants have the same levels of important nutrients as non-engineered types, and whether they may contain toxins, new forms of allergens or other unapproved additives, the Times said.
However, despite these concerns and the concerns of non-FDA-affiliated scientists, unlike the approval process for new drugs and many food additives such as artificial sweeteners, the review process for new GMO foods is merely voluntary. Producers of such foods are only asked to "consult" the FDA.
According to the agency's own documents, it "does not conduct a comprehensive scientific review of data generated by the developer." Rather, officials rely instead on producers to conduct their own safety and nutritional assessments, which essentially is letting the biotech industry write its own rules and run the show.
"We recognize and appreciate the interest that some consumers have expressed in knowing whether a food was produced using genetic engineering," Theresa Eisenman, an FDA spokeswoman, told the paper. "Food from genetically engineered plants must meet the same requirements, including safety requirements, as foods from traditionally bred plants."
For anyone who wants to know if what they're buying contains genetically modified foods, there are a few options. First, there is a very good chance that any product containing soybeans, corn, canola (or canola oil) or sugar beets (where much of our processed sugar comes from) has GMOs because genetically modified versions of these crops are in wide use in the U.S.