GMO’s Educating the other Point of View
These risks are associated with a product that has been modified from its original state and is made up of different components that may be harmful to those that are sensitive to those to components. It is important that producers make the new allergy risks and different components from the original state are noticeable whether it is printed on the label, advertised on the tv or radio or if an article is published about it. It needs to be made known. This is where a majority of the fear comes from. It’s not always noted boldly and made aware of. If producers want to change or alter the product in any way, they should always make consumers aware of those potential changes. It needs to be reminded of what consumers see in their mind of what they see these products are without the scientific knowledge. Consumers view these products as something engineers have broken down natural genetic barriers of and insert genes from bacteria, viruses and animals with an unforeseen consequence. To a scientist, this sounds like a cool and innovative experiment. Experiments don’t always have the outcome that everyone wishes. Consumers believe that the process of genetic modification is based on a dated scientific theory. They don’t have the updated information and the science terms are sometimes too much to comprehend or they can’t see the beneficial value. A majority of the articles that consumers read, suggest that the chemicals used in the production of a genetically modified food is the cause of a number of health issues. Consumers will read headlines on an article and instead of doing the research they believe the worst. Mainly, because they are only receiving the negative news and the agriculture industry isn’t defending its practice nearly as well as people who strongly disagree.
The fact that there are so many consumers that view GMOs as a bad thing to put in their bodies, they have developed a need to want to know if the products they are purchasing at the grocery store include a product of a GMO. So, this resulted in the labeling of GMOs. The labeling of a GMO is not required if the company wishes to not label their food. However, if they do wish to label them, companies are encouraged to use labels like, not bioengineered, not genetically engineered or not genetically modified through the use of modern biotechnology (USFDA). Foods that contain a modified product must meet the same requirements of safety, labeling and other regulatory factors that apply to all foods that are regulated by the FDA. The 1992 Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties, is a clarification of foods that come from new plant varieties or from plants that have been developed through recombinant (DNA) techniques (FDA). Currently, the FDA only regulates the safety of commercial food and additives other than meat and poultry. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regulates pesticides and sets tolerances for pesticide residues in food (FDA), along with the FDA.
The 1992 statement says, producers of new foods have an obligation under the act to ensure that the foods they offer consumers are safe and in compliance with applicable legal requirements. Because in some cases the regulatory jurisdiction of a new food product including those produced using innovative methods may not be clear, producers can informally consult with FDA prior to marketing new foods to ensure that the safety and regulatory status of a new food is properly resolved¦ Section 402(a)(1) of the act will be applied to any substance that occurs unexpectedly in the food at a level that may be injurious to health. This includes a naturally occurring toxicant whose level is unintentionally increased by the genetic modification, as well as an unexpected toxicant that first appears in the food as a result of pleiotropic effects. Such substances are regarded by the FDA as added substances whose presence adulterates the food if present at a level that may render the food injurious to health. It is the responsibility of the producer of a new food to evaluate the safety of the food and assure that the safety requirement of section 402(a)(1) of the act (Statement of Policy, 1992).
Because consumers are more aware that there are genetically modified foods, they want to know what is in their food that they have purchased. While the FDA does not require food manufacturers to label their foods as non GMO, manufacturers are able to choose whether or not they want to label. It is important that producers are aware of what they are putting into their products and to make sure that they are complying by the rules and regulations that are set for foods that come from modified plants. While some may think that labeling is a good idea, some might not and ultimately, the bad outweigh the good.
There are several reasons why labeling a genetically modified product is not a good idea. It is extremely expensive. Labeling affects smaller producers rather than larger producers. an example would be of the Big Food companies. Campbells is one of the Big Food companies. Campbells is now labeling all of their products across the United States. Vermont was the first state to require all food products be labeled with a GMO. The company chose to have all their products labeled that were shipped to all states because only labeling for just one state would be too expensive. They had the choice of pulling all their stock from Vermont or labeling all of it hoping they would get some sort of return to cover the cost of labeling. To make sure that they are meeting the labeling requirements, they have to review the supply chain, check the recipes, evaluate logistics and look at sourcing options. The penalty for not following regulations and providing false information, is $1,000 per day.
Labeling can also be confusing to consumers because sometimes they are not portrayed how the company intends them to. This can either increase revenues or decrease revenues depending on how well the company markets the product. An example of a Campbells product that would show how labels can be confusing is SpaghettiOs. The regular, plain can of SpaghettiOs, are required to have a GMO label. However, the SpaghettiOs that contain meatballs, are not required to have a GMO label. The consumer is under the assumption that all Campbells products are labeled with a GMO, so how do the consumers feel when they realize that the product they thought they were purchasing, isn’t really that product at all? I would imagine that they will not be buying any of Campbells products or giving them a negative review and paying more attention to the small labeling. In return, this causes the company to lose money. The reason why the SpaghettiOs with meatballs aren’t required to label with GMOs is because the two products are regulated by two different agencies. Products that contain meat are exempt from the labeling law.
Companies will often sub out for different ingredients. Labeling can be a hassle and expensive if it is not don’t correctly. For example, a small pasta company had to change their recipes specifically for this reason. The small company was using canola oil which could have possibly been an herbicide tolerant GMO. They now use olive oil just because it was easier. However, their cost raised by ten percent but, their sales didn’t. The Big Food companies aren’t really affected by these kinds of small costs smaller companies are ultimately hurt. It took Ben and Jerry’s three years to remove ingredients from cookie dough and caramel flavored ice cream that were products of a GMO. The new products were eleven percent higher in price.
Changing the recipe, changes the product, which isn’t always a good thing. It can be unpleasant, actually. Some products are just discontinued dur to the hoops that companies have to go through for labeling and sometimes the hassle, isn’t worth it. Some products have lost vitamins once they have reached their non-GMO status. The Heath Bar company changed their recipe and consumers did not like the new flavor of the candy bar at all. As part of their transition, they added new allergen labels. If a company stops using a cottonseed oil and has chosen to use peanut oil instead, the company must be sure to inform consumers of the new allergen. This can be dangerous. Sometimes consumers don’t always know about these changes, so they are not looking for them.
Some companies will choose to not ship products to Vermont. This can be costly and take a lot of time if you run into a logistical issue. Herr Foods Inc., based out of Philadelphia considered pulling their products from Vermont because the expense is too much. That doesn’t just include the expenses of getting the labeling wrong. Small shop owners are having to deal with the consequences of possibly opting out.
While I am not obligated to tell someone how to do their job, it is my obligation as part of the ag industry to always find a way to make it better. I understand the frustrations that consumers have towards GMOs. I also understand the frustrations producers have when they hear consumers making negative remarks about these products and are quick to put blame on the farmer. Right now, I believe that neither side wants to help the other out. Some consumers do not want to take the time of day to learn about GMOs and their minds aren’t going to be changed. Producers and others that are involved in this industry, do not want to take the time to make sure that those consumers are getting real information and help in understanding our advances. While I do not see the Non-GMO trend going away anytime soon, we, the agriculture industry can defend our practices, help others understand why we do it and answer the many questions that have been circulating for years. Our job is not just planting corn and spraying weeds. Part of our job is educating those that are utilizing our products. As a whole industry, we have failed at this. We can do better because we are better.