4 May 2022

351

Genetically Modified Foods in the United States Should Be Sold with Warning Label

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Academic level: University

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The phrase Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) is used to refer to the crop plants produced using the recent molecular biology technologies for animal or human consumption (Weirich, 2007). Laboratory technology is used to modify these plants to increase desired traits like improved nutritional content and better resistance to herbicides. Traditionally, such enhancement of desired traits was achieved through breeding but today, crop breeding methods are seen as not only time consuming but also inaccurate. As such, lately, GMOs have attained a record level in news. American public interest groups and environmental organizations continue to actively protest against GMOs. Moreover, the surging controversial studies regarding the consequences of these crops have catapulted the matter to the fore of the public consciousness in America. The question of whether genetically modified foods in the United States should be sold with warning label remains an open one in the country. A primary argument favoring labeling GMOs is that consumers must be granted the choice to avoid or consume foods made with GMO components. However, a central argument against labeling is that there are currently no proven health risks emerging from GMO foods. I will attempt to summarize both arguments on whether genetically modified foods in the United States should be sold with a warning label or not.

Consumer advocates contend that consumers have the right to know the constituents of the foods they buy and serve their families (Weirich, 2007). This entails the right to decide whether or not to buy foods with genetically modified ingredients. Other countries have given their consumers this right and the American consumers want the same right. Therefore, labeling must be considered since genetically modified foods compared to the non-modified counterparts. The public has the right to this information. Indeed, these foods contain DNAs which have been patented by biotech companies as entirely new. By labeling, the US will not have curtailed a technology that is useful to the society (Turkec et al. 2016). 

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Currently, no commercialized GMO foods have proven to be significantly nutritious. Besides, other cheaper approaches have demonstrated to be highly effective at boosting production. On the contrary, using genetic engineering as the primary production method only involves genetically altering crops to enable them to withstand massive degrees of herbicide (Turkec et al. 2016). As it is, a higher usage of herbicide leads to water and air pollution and results in a higher toxic residue on the public food. 

Agribusiness corporations, farmers, and supermarkets are the most vocal opponents of GMO labeling; all of them are key stakeholders in the GMO sector. These groups hold a great financial interest to contest against the prospective GMO labeling policy. They contend that labeling a GMO stamp on foods is both unwarranted and highly harmful because it falsely alarms the buyers (Weirich, 2007). In addition, these groups conquer that individuals concerned about the intake of GMO food still have the capacity to avoid them by opting for certified organic produce. In the US, the Department of Agriculture stipulates the certification standards for the organic manufacturing process. Under this standard, a company can only label an agricultural produce as organic given that it contains approximately 95% of organic ingredients (Garlough, 2011). Therefore, opponents of labeling hold that this measure adequately permits consumers to avoid GMOs.

Those opposing GMO labelings bolster their position by adamantly contending that mandatory labeling will only strip the market of the various benefits introduced by genetic engineering (Carter et al. 2011). Specifically, they cite the emerging waves of nutrient-boosting capabilities, possible impacts on global hunger, low crop production costs and a reduction in environmental effects. Generally, genetic engineering promotes the nurturing of desirable crop features which farmers may otherwise fail to achieve through traditional plant breeding methods (Garlough, 2011). Here, the central argument is the biotechnology that is used for nutrient enrichment of agricultural products. Through altering the genetic makeup of crops, scientists have purportedly proven to add minerals, vitamins, and other crucial nutrients to produce which may otherwise lack the nutrients. Although this factor of biotechnology may somehow benefit the entire American society, it is of particular appeal to the poor nations that confront malnutrition and starvation (Turkec et al. 2016). Monsanto Corporation is a good example of companies using this biotechnology. Monsanto, a notorious biotechnology corporation has recently launched a project to come up with a genetically engineered virus-resistant sweet potato crop for farmers in Africa. Scientists believe that these genetically engineered crops are richer in color, bigger and retain a higher nutritional value (Carter et al. 2011). For the opponents of labeling, this is sufficient proof that genetic engineering is beneficial.

Food and chemical companies argue that labeling should not be encouraged because GMOs have not been proven to be unsafe. However, we have been seeing labels for food processes and additives like “made of concentrate” which have been found to be safe (Weirich, 2007). The US Food and Drugs Administration labeling standard does not have anything to do with danger. Instead, the regulation warrants labeling to educate the public about changes or novel contents which may not be obvious and which the public would be interested to know. Typically, all the commercialized GMOs contain novel viral, bacterial or other DNA ingredients which have never before been observed in our foods. Given that the FDA virtually tests the GE produce and finds them hazardous it will decline to label them; instead, it would remove them from the stores (Brandner, 2002). Opponents of labeling cite that the costs of labeling would be transferred to the consumers and producers (Köppel et al. 2017). Nevertheless, food companies have a tendency of changing their product labels regularly as a packaging strategy. Therefore, adding GE stamp on the package will not be cost effective. 

While the opponents of labeling boast of the lack of evidence of damaging or harmful side effects associated with the use of biotechnology in the agricultural field, proponents of this regulation provide evidence to the contrary. They reveal the damaging impacts of biotechnology on the farming industry, humans and the environment (Carter et al. 2011). Also, they cite that even if we are yet to see any negative effects, the novelty of the GE production procedure renders it completely too soon to contend that they will never ultimately surface. Pro-labeling movements such as the Non-GMO group cite various examples like the rise of superweeds, higher use of toxic herbicides and exacerbated allergy symptoms in support of their stance that GMOs are adversely affecting the environment and human beings alike (Cole et al. 2007). The Non-GMO group maintains that its studies are highly reliable and accurate because they are not pursuing profits from the results of the tests conducted. In essence, they claim that whether or not the society believes that these detrimental impacts prevail today does not necessarily imply that they never will. Given that biotechnology is still an emerging form of science, it is too early to argue that damaging side effects will not emerge after the harm has already been done (Weirich, 2007).

The ripples associated with the labeling regulation remain unclear. Studies reveal that the proposed law would significantly increase a family’s grocery costs besides costing grocers and manufacturers millions (Köppel et al. 2017). Others say that mandatory labeling would only force farmers to stop cultivating GMO foods thus drive agriculture backwards where farmers relied on highly toxic pesticides and were at the mercy of Mother Nature. GE produce are safe and contain vital benefits to the planet and for the people. These crops depend on fewer pesticides and less water hence they lower crop prices significantly. In turn, they can help the US to feed the currently growing population of billions of people. Trade groups contend that they will only support the legislation of labeling GMO foods given that the FDA finds a health risk in these foods (Brandner, 2002). To this end, the current state of affairs provides consumers nothing but confusion. In fact, this issue has already created a divide along class lines (Cole et al. 2007). Families that want an assurance that they are not eating GMO produce can opt for certified organic or non-GMO labeled brands; often, these are highly costly. On the other hand, even if poor families are concerned about GMOs, they still cannot afford certified organic foods. 

Today, the biggest controversy in the food world involves foods that have been genetically produced. Based on the passionate arguments presented by both parties, it is highly difficult to come up with a solution which would likely appease both the proponents and opponents of GMO labeling. Interestingly, both sides of this debate understand that they must compromise in order to move ahead. Therefore, we can only hope that the government will intervene in a helpful and constructive way and address the concerns of both parties. Previously, anti-GMO entities strongly supported their cause of ending the agricultural biotechnology. Nevertheless, most of them agree that their inflexibility has led to a deadlock in addressing the issue. Hence, groups such as Non-GMO have shifted from pushing from labeling to reaching out for support from retailers, manufacturers, and consumers in order to grab the government attention. The government has only two options in addressing the issue. It could either set specifications and regulations for produce claiming to be free of GMO components or authorize the FDA to develop a policy to mandatory label all produce, which contain GMO ingredients.

References

Brandner, D. L. (August 01, 2002). Detection of Genetically Modified Food: Has Your Food Been Genetically Modified.  The American Biology Teacher, 64,  6, 433-442.

Carter, C. A., Moschini, G., & Sheldon, I. M. (2011).  Genetically modified food and global welfare . Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Cole, I. B., Saxena, P. K., Murch, S. J., & Lakshmanan, P. (August 01, 2007). Medicinal biotechnology in the genus Scutellaria.  In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Plant, 43,  4, 318-327.

Garlough, R. (2011).  Modern food service purchasing . Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.

Köppel, R., Ganeshan, A., van, V. F., & Bucher, T. (February 01, 2017). Five pentaplex real-time PCR systems for the efficient determination of 20 genetically modified maize traits in food.  European Food Research and Technology: Zeitschrift Für Lebensmittel-Untersuchung Und Forschung A, 243,  2, 215-225.

Turkec, A., Lucas, S. J., & Karlık, E. (July 01, 2016). Monitoring the prevalence of genetically modified maize in commercial animal feeds and food products in Turkey.  Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 96,  9, 3173-3179.

Weirich, P. (2007).  Labeling genetically modified food: The philosophical and legal debate . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). Genetically Modified Foods in the United States Should Be Sold with Warning Label.
https://studybounty.com/genetically-modified-foods-in-the-united-states-should-be-sold-with-warning-label-research-paper

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