[Note from the instructor: “With GMOs in the news, and a big topic for Hawaii especially, I have my class writing a couple of essays and research papers on whether labeling GMO products should be required. The first essay is on ‘reasons for requiring labeling of foods with GMO ingredients.’ The final submissions are students’ research papers examining what research appears to show about GMOs and proposals for labeling foods with GMO ingredients.” -Danny Wyatt]
Genetically modified organisms are a highly debated topic. Concerns about GMOs posing health risks and the unknown quantity of genetically modified ingredients in food are increasing. American consumers are fighting for what consumers in Europe already have; the right to know what they are feeding their families. This right is presented by proposals to require labeling foods containing genetically modified ingredients. The public deserves to know what they are buying so as to make independent and well informed decisions.
GMOs pose an environmental risk. Because some GMOs are resistant to herbicides, farmers have the ability to increase spraying of herbicides such as Roundup, an ability that is likely used too often (Turner 30-33). With the increase in these sprayed applications, the weeds become resistant to them calling for more frequent and stronger herbicides to be applied. Not only can these herbicides run into water supplies, poisoning those who consume the water, it creates a destructive cycle. More spraying gives weeds and pests more opportunities to become resistant to the chemicals which in turn call for even more spraying of even harsher chemicals. In addition, spraying herbicides exposes farmers to chemicals, which even the packaging says is dangerous. These chemicals aren’t just on the fields where they are sprayed; they stay on the crop and end up in people’s meals.
Hospital visits are terrifying and can be caused by what people eat. Choking is no longer the main risk when eating dinner. Due to the alterations in crop genes, contamination between two species causes allergic reactions in people who previously had no issues with the same product (Turner 30-33). Because producers are not required to label GMOs, consumers who experience allergic reactions to the modified product are unaware of the difference between what they used to eat and what they were eating that caused them to become ill. When shopping for someone with allergies, product differences can easily be the difference between life and death and mistakes are more likely to occur without labeling. In addition to allergic reactions, some genetically modified foods are tied to increased cancer risks. Dairy cows injected with the genetically modified hormone called Bovine Growth Hormone (BVH) have higher numbers of insulin growth factor-1 which is closely tied to an increased risk of cancer, such as breast cancer (Miller 27-83). Because cancer often has no definite cure and treatment successes vary by person, allowing GMOs to sit on shelves without labels, potentially causing thousands to die, is denying the American people the ability to save their own and their children’s lives.
The FDA’s argument for not requiring labels on GMO food is that they are not much different than their traditional counter-parts. An argument over this definition occurred in regards to labeling milk as not being injected with Bovine Growth Hormone. In fact, the deciding factor in the argument was in contrast to the FDA’s statement, milk from cows injected with the hormone is proven to be of lesser nutritional value and quality than milk from cows not injected (Au 571-578). Because there is a difference, labeling milk lacking BVH as such does not mislead consumers and allows them to make more educated choices.
Although environmental and health risks are both as terrifying as they are dangerous, the freedom to choose is the single most important factor which without a doubt applies to all in the United States and cannot be thrown out as a paranoid or unfounded claim. A law restricting the size of soda pops available for purchase in New York City was overturned because it violated freedom of choice by forcing consumers and businesses to buy smaller drinks and because it wasn’t evenly applied (Judge voids New York soda ban, calling it “arbitrary and capricous” 1). An example being that although the consumer could no longer purchase hundreds of soda calories from a restaurant, they could still buy a two-liter container of the same beverage from a super market. So just as consumers have the right to drink high sugar and high calorie beverages, they deserve the right to choose whether or not to eat GMO laden food; therefore, the easiest and most practical way to give consumers this choice is to require products containing GMOs to be labeled. Furthermore, this choice is considerably healthier option than being allowed to gorge on potentially unhealthy soda pops.
Genetically modified organisms in foods should be labeled to allow consumers to choose what they eat. Because health and environmental concerns already steer some away from GMOs, labeling just makes it easier for those consumers to avoid products they don’t want. The likelihood of developing obesity because of drinking huge sodas doesn’t stop people from purchasing those sodas; instead it allows people to make more informed decisions about what they consume. That is all that labeling requirements are about, just like nutritional information on the side, it informs the consumer what they are buying so they can decide what is best for their families.
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