The good news is that we are FINALLY getting some package labelling to indicate GMOs are in our food.
Starting Jan. 1, labels at the grocery store are about to get a makeover on foods that have been genetically modified.
The bad news is that they are not calling them GMOs any more:
The goal was to get rid of the patchwork of different labels for foods and ingredients that have been scientifically tinkered with, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, the move also puts a greater burden on consumers to do their homework to understand what the labels mean, food advocates say.
Foods that previously were labeled as containing “genetically engineered” (GE) ingredients or “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs) will now be labeled as “bioengineered,” or come with a phone number or QR code guiding consumers to more information online.
What has always gotten my Irish up has been the opaqueness on blocking us from knowing what is in our food, so at first glance this is good news. Or is it?
The move is universally confounding food safety advocate groups. Eating bioengineered foods poses no risk to human health, according to the National Academy of Sciences and the Food and Drug Administration. However, watchdog organizations say the new rules contain too many loopholes for consumers who want to avoid these foods.
Given a choice between two potatoes, I’m always going to take the natural one, and I think that is probably the majority opinion of American grocery shoppers, but our Big Ag overlords who want a return on their investment. Calling a spade a spade and a GMO a Bioengeered Food seems… weasely:
“The worst part of this law is the use of the term ‘bioengineered’ because that’s not a term most consumers are familiar with,” said Gregory Jaffe, director of the project on biotechnology for the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. He said this choice was in large measure because “GMO” had come to be perceived as pejorative.
But wait! There’s more:
Other advocacy groups such as the Center for Food Safety say the rules don’t go far enough and will leave the majority of genetically modified foods unlabeled. And the new rules discriminate against the more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to smartphones or cell service, because companies will be allowed to rely on smartphone-based scannable QR codes to share information with consumers.
So once again, everyone in Possum Hollar will be left behind, thanks again to Joe Manchin who is blocking broadband from going out to the hamlets and hollers. Hooterville will have food labels but no way to know what it means. And as always, the burden is on us to be informed, not on the producers to disclose.
Most of my outrage at GMOs has been the policies around them, more than the technology itself. The so-called Frankenfoods, trans genetic technology (the apocryphal tomato with the fish gene added) never made it to market, and the commodity crops that are resistant to Round-Up herbicide are not for human consumption (ethanol for gasoline, for instance), but as any gardener will tell you, corn pollen travels for miles on the wind. There’s really no way to know… until it is too late.
Enter the IP lawyers
The Intellectual Property aspects that forbid a farmer from saving his own seeds if they’ve crossed with a patented seed (not the fault of the farmer) is an outrage, and yes these Big Ag companies have had the balls to demand farmers destroy their own crops (and livelihoods) when this has happened.
So yeah, the policy around GMOs suck, and they make it hard to be pro-science and yet retrograde on this one technology.
Anyway, every step forward is progress. Could these disclosure laws be better, absolutely. It’s a first step and I hope that we’ll have some runway to tighten those regulations.