The decision by Whole Foods Market to label all products with genetically modified ingredients within 5 years is a very welcome if overdue one. Now other retail grocery chains should follow suit.
GMI labeling is popular with the public and objections to it don’t hold water. For example:
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the trade group that represents major food companies and retailers, issued a statement opposing the move. “These labels could mislead consumers into believing that these food products are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk,” Louis Finkel, the organization’s executive director of government affairs, said in the statement.
Mr. Finkel noted that the Food and Drug Administration, as well as regulatory and scientific bodies including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, had deemed genetically modified products safe.
It seems the Grocery Manufacturers Association has a surprisingly low opinion of the public in suggesting that they could be confused by too much information. I guess the GMA believes Americans are dumber than residents of the European Union, for example, since the latter already insist on such labeling?
And the fact that genetically modified ingredients have been deemed safe is not in dispute. The sole issue is whether consumers have the right to know whether their food has been produced the old fashioned way, i.e. more or less naturally, or not.
The GMA and others in the food production industry would prefer that we all continue to live in a fog of ignorance about the reality behind the production of food in America. This surely extends to the shamefully inhumane conditions under which animals are raised so that we can buy our meats and dairy products cheaply. This is an issue that has been highlighted for me by a good friend who is passionate about it. And you know what? She’s right and I’m glad she did because it was something I had barely thought about before. For example, if we each understood clearly that a typical egg-laying hen spends her life in a factory occupying a space barely larger than her own body, some of us at least might gag on our next omelet.
You can be sure that lobbyists for agricultural business interests will ensure that congress continues to dodge the regulation bullet both in terms of food labeling and ensuring that farm animals are treated humanely. Any meaningful reform will only come from the grass-roots – that means us, primarily through our buying habits.
Whole Foods and its customers have taken a positive step and I applaud them for it, but we have a long way to go.