Earlier this month, Daylin Leach (D) introduced a bill to the Pennsylvania State House to mandate that foods containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) be labeled as such in PA. This is the same piece of legislature that was struck down in California in the November 2012 election. This makes Pennsylvania the latest in a growing number of states to discuss the issue of labeling GMO foods.
GMOs are plants or animals in which the DNA has been altered. GMOs are used predominately in the production of soybeans, corn, squash, salmon, tomatoes, and potatoes. Genetic modification can cause the product to grow faster or larger, enjoy a longer shelf life, or be more resistant to insects or weeds.
Those in favor of the labeling, like State Senator Leach, want consumers to have an educated choice in the foods they purchase. They believe the public deserves to know how foods are created, and purchase accordingly. We already label for calories, ingredients, and organic production, why not GMOs too? Some believe GMOs create an increased risk for cancer and other long term health concerns that have yet to be identified. There are also concerns of environment damage as the GMO grown products may contaminate wild species or harm insects or other species that they were never intended to affect. There just hasn’t been enough research to determine the long term consequences.
However, many in the food industry, like Monsato, oppose the labeling because it will lead the public to believe GMO foods are inferior in quality to non-GMO foods. They further state that there has been no evidenc of adverse health effects found in GMO produced foods. Proponents of GMOs recognize that food grown this way is cheaper and less intensive to produce, as well as reduces some environmentally harmful factors, like the need for herbicides and insecticides in certain cases.
No matter what opponents say or want, GMO labeling is most likely our future. Whole Foods Market has become the first nationwide grocery store to demand their foods be GMO labeled in their US and Canadian stores by 2018. They already have numerous products that are non-GMO verified. Most industrialized nations, like countries in the European Union, already require GMO labeling, which affects US food exports. And most likely, state legislatures will continue to see petitions and bills on this issue. Who knows, Pennsylvania may be the first state to require GMO labeling, setting off a chain reaction in other states.
Further reading: Labeling gentically modified foods