Farm Press Blog

More words on food labels – for the sake of fear or fact

  • Organic agriculture has started another push to label food products containing GMOs. Maybe organic foods should be held to a higher standard as well.

Legislators in the House and Senate have introduced bills requiring manufacturers to label foods that have been genetically engineered. “Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said.

“When American families purchase food, they deserve to know if that food was genetically engineered in a laboratory,” added Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who introduced the legislation in the House with 22 co-sponsors.

Several consumer advocacy organizations, environmental groups and businesses have jumped on the bandwagon, including the Center for Food Safety, EarthJustice, Ben and Jerry’s and the Consumers Union.

This isn’t Boxers first attempt at a GMO labelling law. Last year, Boxer and DeFazio sent a letter to the FDA asking the Food and Drug Administration to require labelling of genetically engineered foods. They wrote, “At issue is the fundamental right consumers have to make informed choices about the food they eat.”

Most everybody knows that the GMO labelling is the pet project of the U.S. organic industry, which for some reason, just can’t figure out how to grow their market without generating hysteria and fear about conventional agriculture and genetic engineering, where obviously, none is warranted.

If consumers really want to be informed about their food purchases, as Boxer and DeFazio suggest, we should take a closer look at a “truth in labelling” campaign for organic foods. Here are my suggestions, some of which were cherry-picked from a blog in Scientific American,

On organic fruits and vegetable labels:

Labor may have been abused and/or grossly underpaid in the collection of this product at harvest.

Or this: Some of the natural pesticides and fungicides applied to this product are toxic and can cause ecological damage.

There is some solid science behind this claim. According to the aforementioned blog, a Canadian study comparing organic and synthetic pesticides in the control of the soybean aphid found that “synthetic pesticides were not only more effective” than organic ones, but organic pesticides “were more ecologically damaging, including causing higher mortality in other non-target species like the aphid’s predators.”

Add as an advisory on organic fruits and vegetable labels:

 Organic food products have not been determined to be any more nutritious or safe for human consumption than conventionally-produced food products.

A sign above the “Organic Produce” section at all grocery stores could read:

Organic foods may contain higher levels of trans fats and may have higher levels of phosphorus and acidity than foods produced conventionally. Organic foods may also contain pesticide residues.

This blog refers to a study on this.

  If the objective of food labelling is to inform – rather than incite fear – the organic crowd might need to be careful what they wish for with its GMO labelling push.

On the other hand, with so much stuff on labels as it is, who’s going to read them anyway?


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Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Larry McHargue (not verified)
on May 19, 2013

Elton, Your suggestions will probably never be adopted. The problem with them is that they make way too much sense.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 20, 2013

Seriously? What is the point of this article exactly, the author makes it very clear that:
"Most everybody knows that the GMO labelling is the pet project of the U.S. organic industry, which for some reason, just can’t figure out how to grow their market without generating hysteria and fear about conventional agriculture and genetic engineering, where obviously, none is warranted"
-but it is definitely not "obvious" to many that "none is warranted" and the worst thing is that this is the statement made in the article to try and sound mature right before the author goes in depth of doing the exact same thing but worse about vilifying organic agriculture because apparently conventional ag can't protect it's "market without generating hysteria and fear about agriculture ..., where obviously, none is warranted". Come on guys, no one is whisking away your big-ag friends for no reason, if people want to buy Organic - like you said, at up to 3x the price - it seems people have a good reason in mind. There truly are myths about organic ag, but you make them out to be something they are not. Once again, shame on you Farm Press - try to get the non-biased attitude and science might give you the same edge against blind worship of organic. However, with no better way to know what's in our food than at least a credo of requirements (we have NO idea what goes on at conventional sites except national and local LAWS) if the people want it - give it to them. We should label GMOs not because we know they are bad, but because we should have the right to know. Ingredients lists are there for similar reasons (and of course allergen issues). There's nothing dangerous about eating gluten for most people, but a non-gluten diet is important to some so they need to see what's in their food. Organic people label theirs, let's see yours. Power of information to the people... that's honest.

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