American Society For Nutrition

The Food-Labeling Revolution: What’s Next?

The Food-Labeling Revolution: What’s Next?

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 12/03/2012 at 09:47:01 AM by Student Blogger
By Chris Sovey

corn
Many readers may be unaware that an historic piece of food legislation was on the ballot for the 2012 election in California. Proposal 37 would have required the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sold in California retailers. The proposal fell short of passing by a margin of 52.3% to 47.7%.

Proposal 37 was primarily a grassroots movement, created with the intention of bringing transparency to our food supply. Supporters argued that labeling genetically modified foods (which contain a genetically modified organism or GMO) is a basic right. Those who were in favor of the food-labeling act had various reasons for their support. Some voiced concerns over safety, lack of long-term human trials, or just a desire to avoid these foods.

Opposition to the proposal claimed that implementing it would have posed an unnecessary economical strain on retailers and subsequently consumers. Opponents also claimed that GMOs are entirely safe and that no testing is necessary.

So is this the end of the food-labeling initiative? Not likely. Other movements in states such as Washington are currently gaining momentum after the defeat of Proposal 37. Regardless of individual opinions on food labeling proposals, one thing is clear: There is a growing level of awareness regarding food's composition and safety. People want to know what is in their food. They are concerned and even frightened. Whether this fear is warranted remains to be seen in (much needed) human clinical trials.
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A controversial 2012 study of rats fed genetically-modified maize has created quite a stir on both sides of the debate. The French study is the longest in-vivo animal trial of GMOs to date. The study authors found that rats administered GMO feed experienced side effects such as tumor formation and several other multi-organ side effects. Critics of the study were quick to claim methodological flaws in the design of the French trial. This research highlights one glaring point:

More testing of GMOs is necessary to confirm or deny the presence of danger to humans.

I'd like to pose the following questions to you:

•    Do you consider genetically modified foods to be safe? Why or why not?
•    Do you support or oppose food-labeling initiatives such as Proposal 37? Why?
•    What are your thoughts or feelings on the recent defeat of Proposal 37 in California?
•    If labeling genetically modified foods posed an additional cost to the consumer, is it worth it to you?
•    Most pharmaceutical drugs undergo several years of animal and human testing before release to the public. It appears this is not so with GMOs. Do you think that long-term studies should be performed in human subjects before releasing new GMO products for consumption?
•    What sort of ethical dilemmas complicate the topic of food labeling, GMO consumption, and GMO research?

Chris Sovey is the founder of www.healthyconsumer.com, a premiere website for practical tips on healthy living and integrative health practices.

Reference
Seralini, G., Clair, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge, N., Malatesta, M., Hennequin, D., & Vendomois, J. (2012). Long term toxicity of a roundup herbicide and a roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 50(11), 4221-4231. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637.

Photos used under a Creative Commons License. Original authors can be found here and here.

3 Comments
Posted Dec 03, 2012 11:42 AM by Jeff W

Have any prospective studies been done on whheter labeling would in fact raise food prices?


Jeff: great question. I looked into this back during the election, and I was unable to locate any legitimate sources confirming that Proposal 37 would indeed have raised food prices. I am unaware of any data or studies that confirm the claims made by the opposition of proposal 37 regarding food prices.


Definitely everyone has a right to ask anything. I agree.