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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Biotechnologically-Improved(-altered) Foods (a.k.a GMO) - Label Them

I want to see foods containing GMO ingredients labeled.  To take personal responsibility for the food I eat, I need to know what is in it.  I do not like that the foods companies, aided by the federal government, can hide the fact that GMO ingredients are in the foods I buy.  It seems un-American and anti-democratic to suppress information about the foods Americans eats.

The ultimate goal is to have foods with GMO ingredients labeled as such and provide choices of GMO or GMO-free foods.  Although some state governments are starting to act on making GMO labeling mandatory, it may be a long time before the federal government will do so.

One action among many I am doing about GMO food is to write to food manufacturers, retailers and restaurants about my desire to have verified GMO-free foods.  When writing to companies I like to pick particular products since this makes the inquiry more focused.  I have done this recently for two products: Quaker Old Fashion Oatmeal and Cheerios. I just submitted my request through their websites.  I got some interesting responses almost immediately.  These companies have obviously thought about GMO foods a lot.

Quaker Oats, which happens to be a division of PepsiCo, stated in their reply email:

None of the oats, wheat or barley used in our products -- across all brands -- are grown from genetically modified seeds. In fact, genetically modified seeds for this/these crops are not currently commercially available in the U.S.”  …
“When it comes to safety, the FDA has determined that foods developed through this process [GMO] are no different than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”

I do not trust the FDA determination on GMOs since they were under great political pressure to approve GMO crops despite reservations.

General Mills, which makes Cheerios, refers to GMOs with the term ”biotechnologically-improved crops.”  That is great marketing spin.  I suppose it tries to convey the impression GMO crops are better than conventional crops so don’t worry.  I would use the term biotechnologically-altered crops” because I think it is more accurate.  General Mills also stated that 

“ … the FDA does not require special labeling for it [GMO]. However, if food has been significantly altered in composition or nutrient content, or if biotechnology introduces allergens into food, special labeling is required. None of our products requires special labeling. Accordingly, we do not test them for the presence of this material.”

Hey, we see no problem with GMO food ingredients so we don’t to check for it.  Further

“Because of the growing use of biotechnology by farmers and the way that grain gets commingled in storage and shipment, it′s certainly possible that some of our products may contain ingredients that have been improved through biotechnology.”

We don’t know what’s GMO and what isn’t so how can we label it?  Finally, they stated if you want GMO-free just buy organic food.   Oh, by the way, we sell that too.

General Mills also believes in providing consumers with a variety of food options. Toward that end, we do offer organic products that, by definition, do not use ingredients that have been improved through biotechnology.”

Food manufacturers are aware that many people have concerns about GMO foods.  However, they generally would rather not label their food products as GMO or GMO-free.  But foods companies will also do what they think is in their best interest.  If enough people demand to know if their products are GMO-free, the food companies will eventually provide that information.

I encourage you to write to food manufacturers, restaurants and supermarkets to let them know that you want GMO-free food.  It’s easy through their websites.  Just find their contact page.  Simply state “I like your brand X, but I also want to be informed about what is in my food.  I want to make sure my foods are healthy.  One thing I want is to avoid foods with GMO ingredients.  I would like to see a variety of your brand X that is verified GMO-free and labeled as such.”  There is no need to go into a polemic about GMO food.  The food companies probably know more about the pros and cons of GMO food then we do.  We just need to say I want GMO-free food and GMO labeling.

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