On October 4, the Just Label It - We Have a Right to Know campaign submitted a petition to the FDA demanding the mandatory labeling of genetically modified organismsÂ (GMOs). The petition was signed by millions of consumers, and almost 400 businesses and organizations also back the initiative.
GMOs are genetically modified organisms, also called GE or genetically engineered foods. This involves scientists making changes to the food on a molecular level which could not happen in nature. These changes may include mixing the DNA from two separate sources, and potentially from different species, and they are ultimately made so that the crops will be more beneficial for humans. For example, flounder DNA was mixed with tomatoes so that they will be better able to withstand the cold. While this allows tomatoes to grow in a larger geographic area and for a longer period, it is unclear what other effects genetic modification may have.
That is one of the reasons GMOs have been getting so much media attention in recent years. The basic argument against GMOs is that their safety has not been adequately tested, although they are consumed by millions of human beings every day. Some of Americaâ€™s main crops - including corn, soy and cottonseed - are already made of over 90% GE seeds, but to date there is no mandatory process to test the safety of these foods for consumption. The makers of GMOs have been given the same freedom as common manufacturers, but their product has much higher stakes than the average garage door or book case.
While federal testing may be out of the picture, Just Label It wants to make sure that consumers are aware of whether or not their food has been genetically modified. According to a poll by the Consumerâ€™s Union, 95% of consumers believe that genetically engineered food should be labeled, and 93% of Americans want labelling to be mandatory.
The FDA requires food labels to carry â€œmaterialâ€ information, based on the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Material information constitutes anything that can be tasted, seen, or experienced by the other senses. Genetic modifications donâ€™t have to be represented on labels because they cannot be sensed - but this is exactly the reason that consumers need to be informed if their food has been genetically modified. Without being told, they can never figure it out on their own.
The Just Label It petition calls for the FDA to require labelling so that Americans can make the choice to purchase GE foods or not. It highlights several nations where this labelling is already required, including the European Union nations, Russia, China, Japan, New Zealand and several others, and calls for America to have those same requirements for the benefit of its consumers.