Why We Should Label GMOs

studentvoices01By Amber Salud
LCC-Wai’anae student
April 2013
Instructor Danny Wyatt
Leeward Community College-Wai’anae instructor – English 100

[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]

When hearing the word GMO, what is the first thing that comes to mind? People may think that this is just a common topic being discussed around the world. In actuality, there are many people that are still uninformed about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are organisms that have been altered when scientists extract DNA from one organism and inject it into another. The benefits scientists receive from this process is that they are able to create herbicide and pesticide resistant plants that weren’t resistant before. They are also able to alter or change the traits and characteristics of those plants. The push for GMO labeling has become a common and ongoing issue between people who are pro-labeling and those who are against  it. While GMOs are said to be safe for people and the environment, equal and cheaper, it appears they are not, which is why consumers deserve the right to know if their food has GMO ingredients.

It may be a coincidence that many illnesses are becoming more common today, but it may also be a situation due to increasing rates of GMO production and consumption. According to GMOs research , the slower proteins digest, the more chances for an allergic reaction (“Spilling the beans…”). A crop like GM soy reduces the digestive enzymes which slows protein digestion causing more allergic reactions from many foods. In addition, genes from the GM product still may remain inside of the victim after they consumed it. It was discovered in animal studies that the DNA of GMO food products are still able to transfer throughout the body. Therefore, if scientists inject toxins to make a crop herbicide resistant, like soybeans, then that same toxin may transfer through our bodies as well.

GMOs not only cause health risks, but they also damage the environment. Many organic farms are being destroyed due to cross-pollination from nearby GM crops. For example, a bee may take pollen from a GM plant and then  carry it to an organic plant causing that organic plant to become polluted. Since most GM crops are herbicide or pesticide resistant, those crops that are now weeds will be harder to kill. Furthermore, according to the article “Environmental Effects…,” plants that are being created to kill certain insects are now harming other untargeted animals (Mellon and Rissler). Bees pollinate our plants and the potency of these pesticides and herbicide used in GM crops are strong enough to infect the bees causing them to die off. If they continue to grwo GM crops, then many insects will slowly start to become extinct.

These problems are occurring all over but still these corporations do not want consumers to have the right to know what they are eating. Consumers are taking risks because they do not know what that product may or may not contain. For example, companies are disguising labels on their products that may or may not be true. They re-word ingredients and some companies label their products ‘natural’ even if they are not (“Our Right to Know”). However, truthfully labeling GMO products will also help people make better food choices. When food is labeled, they could more intelligently think twice about what they eat. They will have more motivation to choose organic products rather than processed foods. Also, people will be able to learn more about GMOs. If a product is labeled, people will look more into GMOs since the labeling is on most of the products they would buy. People will more likely want to learn about what GMO means and if it is safe or harmful. Having that knowledge will allow them to choose food products more wisely.

The Food and Drug Administration does not require any safety testing for GM foods because Monsanto, the manufacturer of most GM seeds, says the product is safe.  However, according to tests that have been conducted, Bt corn and cottonseed have been linked to allergies (“Health Risks”). For example, farmers who were exposed to Bt cotton had the same allergy symptoms as those exposed to Bt spray. Worse still, these scientists have known that GMOs may cause allergic reactions, yet they still have not conducted proper GMO safety tests. If these scientists perform proper independent safety tests they would most likely find out more effects GMOs will cause. They can’t cover it up if those results are coming from their experiments directly. In addition, many other health risks have been discovered such as more frequent gastric intestinal problems. For instance, the liver of the rats that were fed GM canola were 12% heavier than normal and GM soy altered the rat’s liver cells which became more toxic.

Furthermore, research has shown that GMOs also cause infertility problems. A French rat study was the first long-term study that discovered new health problems caused by GM products. Jonathan Amos, author of “French GM-fed rat study triggers furor,” acknowledges that the French rat research showed 50% of the male rats and 70% of the female rats died prematurely. In short, many risks are being discovered but the U.S continues to deny the need for labeling GMOs.

In addition to corporations claiming that GMOs are safe, it is also being stated that GMOs are substantially equivalent to non-GM products. In reality, though, the GM products that are being grown have lower nutritional value. Worse still, glyphosate that has been produced in GMO products to become resistant towards herbicides also eliminates vital nutrients (Honeycutt). For example, GMO corn has 14 ppm (parts per million) of calcium while non-GMO corn has 113 ppm. This shows clearly that non-GMO products contain more nutritional values than GMOs. Also, GMOs are said to have a size difference when compared to non-GMO. Crops that are modified can have altered traits that allow the end product to grow bigger. A product that contains GMOs may be larger, but it doesn’t mean that it has any additional nutritional value, in fact, quite the opposite is true.

Monsanto and other companies joined together and created ads that claim people will have to spend more money if products have to be labeled (Stonebrook 16). Yet, GMO labeling is already required in other countries. If other countries label their products, then it shouldn’t be a problem for the U.S. because food producers spend millions of dollars every day on other necessities. On the other hand, the cost of food products will not increase due to high customer demands that will result if food prices do increase. For instance, if a few groceries cost more than what they are worth, customers will either stop purchasing them or start complaining about it. That could result in a situation of its own because food markets will have to adapt to new consumer demand.

In addition, organizations that are pro-GMO labeling claim that labeling the products will not cost anything significant.  Shepherd-Bailey who works with a coalition of those who support labeling points out, “one-timer average per-store cost of placards disclosing genetic engineering will be $2,820, or about 0.1% of the annual sales in the average supermarket,” (“Pro-GMO propaganda…”). Since this cost is so insignificant, it will cause no problems towards consumers. Therefore, costs of grocery bills will not increase dramatically, if at all, if GMOs were to be labeled.

Companies against labeling will continue to push claims on why GMO products are safe and why they should continue to sell them unlabeled. Health problems may continue to increase due to the lack of GMO safety tests. It will continue to grow just as the increasing rates of allergies and immune system problems are being discovered. If these problems are happening to animals, they can be just as effective towards humans as well. Not only  do GMOs put people at risk, they also damage the environment and many untargeted species. In addition, claims of GMOs being equivalent are being proven wrong. In fact, genes that are injected to fight off herbicides are now cancelling out the natural nutrition that plant contained originally. Finally, the only cost that is increasing is the money that companies are using to fight against GMO labeling. For instance, Monsanto spent $8 million alone just to stop  Proposition 37 law in California. People will not spend more because there is no vast cost needed to change labels. In fact, everyone deserves the right to know what they consume for their and their families’ safety.

No one should give these companies the satisfaction of winning this fight for labeling. People need to be informed about this common issue because they are the ones who are being affected by it. If more people learn more about GMOs, then more questions will be brought up about them. The more they bring up, then the more tests that will have to be run to really determine their safety. A few excuses and a lot of money allow companies that are against GMO labeling to win their side of the argument. Learn more about the risks caused by GMOs, inform others about it as well, and start making better food choices. Speak up and join this ongoing battle on pro-labeling so for once, the people who are pro-labeling will be able to win because choosing what to eat and what not to eat is the people’s choice, not the industrial agricultural conglomerate’s choice.

Work Cited

Amos, Jonathan. “French GM-fed Rat Study Triggers Furore.” British Broadcasting Corporation Network. British Broadcasting Corporation. 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2013

“Health Risks.” Institute for Responsible Technology. The Institute for Responsible Technology. N.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2013

Honeycutt, Zen. “Stunning Corn Comparison: GMO versus Non-GMO.” Moms Across America. Moms Across America. 05 Mar. 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2013

Mellon, Margaret. Rissler, Jane. “Environmental Effects of Genetically Modified Food Crops – Recent Experiences.” Food & Agriculture. Union of Concerned Scientists. N.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2013

“Our Right to Know.” Mother Earth News 252 (2012): 8. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.

“Pro-GMO Propaganda in California dismantled by New Cost.” Natural Health USA. Alliance for Natural Health USA. Aug 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2013

Smith, Jeffrey. “Spilling the Beans: Unintended GMO Health Risks.” Organic Consumers Association. Organic Consumers Association. March 2008. Web. 05 Apr. 2013

Stonebrook, Shelley. “Big Ag Defeats GMO-Labeling Proposition.” Mother Earth News 256 (2013): 16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Mar. 2013

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