I am frequently asked what I think about genetically modified food. I believe there is no easy answer because there are perils and great promise in understanding and manipulating genes.
Consumers were generally disgusted when the publicity about researchers from the Netherlands who cooked some burgers made from a single cloned muscle cell Iit was the size of a hamburger. It looked like the chopped meat we buy in the supermarket. People told me they wouldn’t eat it. Yet, the aim is such lab grown meat may help supply the increasing international demand for meat products.
A New York Times article by Amy Harmon raised a storm recently when she described the effort in Florida to genetically alter trees to save the orange crop infected with a disease that sours the fruit and leaves them half green. The fruit of the genetically altered trees produced healthy oranges and did not apparently harm bees– the loss of which has become a problem.
Genetic engineering is in full swing for products you may buy at the grocery store The FDA, however, is considering approving genetically engineered salmon that grow faster than the ones swimming in the water today. Pigs were being engineered to produce less polluting waste but that experiment failed because no one wanted to invest in constipated pigs.
Whether the genetically altered edibles are dangerous to us humans or whether they have the potential to lessen the application of pesticides, hormones and other potentially harmful chemicals is still not resolved.
One thing that I do have a definite opinion on is that if a genetically modified food is being sold, it should be listed on the label.
I wrote the first edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives in 1978 to provide consumers with more information about what was in their food. At that time, everyone said that people wouldn’t take the time to read the labels. Now, the Seventh Edition published in 2009 proves consumers do read labels. They do want to know what is in their food.
A battle in progress however, not only to leave GMFs off the labels but also whether or not the Country of Origin Label (COOL) should be put on meat and produce labels. The USDA issued a final rule in May to modify labeling provisions for muscle cut commodities covered under COOL. The rule requires the origin of muscle cuts to include information about where the originating animal was born, raised and slaughtered .The rule also removes allowance for comingling of muscle cuts.
Those involved in the production and selling meat are solidly against the new rule .The National Farmers Union (NFU) announced in August it was seeking to nullify the USDA’s rule regarding COOL. Nine groups including the Cattle and Sheep Association joined in the protest against COOL which they say” will create a consumer bias against imported goods.”
Mexico and Canada are against the new COOL regulation.
While the hot battle about COOL are in the courts, the information on the label will not appear and inform the consumer.
Do you care whether you know if your food has been genetically modified or if the countries of origin are on the label? Please make me aware of your opinion.