Genetically-engineered (GE) foods sound kind of innocuous, don’t they? I mean, who is going to argue against crops that resist drought or seeds that yield sweeter, plumper fruit? The concept starts to get a little worrying, though, when you realize that genetic engineering is increasingly used to create plants that tolerate the massive application of chemicals, usually herbicides and pesticides, which are then liberally used in the crops’ cultivation. What this does to the resulting agricultural product, not to mention the surrounding environment, is a matter of much-politicized debate. My own gut reaction is that it cannot be good.
Here in the United States, most of the soy, corn, beets and canola beans (think corn syrup, granulated sugar, and cooking oils), we grow are grown from GE seeds. We consume these foods without realizing what we are eating, because the FDA does not currently require GE foods to be labeled as such. So even if we are concerned about the issue, we may have a hard time figuring out how it impacts us or what decisions we can make to protect our families.
Over 50 countries require the labeling of GE foods, including those in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, South Korea and China. This fact alone suggests that here in the U.S., we need to have a discussion about the role of genetic engineering in our food supply. Yet, for most of us, this issue isn’t something we can discuss, because the proliferation of GE foods has been largely hidden from view. If the FDA were to require farmers and manufacturers to tell us when a food is the product of genetic engineering, we consumers would be more likely to discuss and evaluate its consumption.
Recently, Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) and U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (OR) drafted a letter urging the FDA to require the labeling of GE foods. Please consider contacting your Senators and U.S. Representative and asking them to sign onto the letter! No matter what you think of the safety, usefulness, and perhaps inevitability of GE foods, we have a right to know what we are eating and feeding our families. Without awareness, we cannot make a choice.