In the wake of recent conversations around labeling of genetically-modified organisms, Whole Foods recently announced plans to label all of their GMO-containing products by 2018. The company already makes an effort to avoid using GMO foods in their 365 Everyday Value products, and certifies their GMO-free items through the Non-GMO Project. Whole Foods is the first food retailer to set such a standard and timeline.
The vast majority of corn and soy planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. As a result, many products containing GMO ingredients sit on store shelves. The prevalence of GMO items makes it easy to understand why GMO labeling has taken off in the public arena.
There have been a few campaigns to label GMOs in the past. Just Label It! is a national project that is urging Congress to pass a law requiring the labeling of genetically-modified foods. According to their website, over 90% of Americans want GMO labeling, and over 60 nations have already implemented legislation to label GMOs. And in the last election cycle, California's Prop 37 started a huge debate around the labeling issue. Prop 37 was ultimately defeated in a 51/49% vote, but many believe it will be reintroduced in the next cycle.
Proponents of GMO labeling say that Americans have the right to know what's in their food and to make informed choices about whether or not to consume genetically-modified ingredients. The health effects of GMOs are unknown, causing some to demand precautionary measures in case there are detrimental effects to GMO consumption. But opponents of labeling use this lack of evidence as a clear reason not to label. Without proof of harm, GMO labeling could unnecessarily scare consumers about the food on their plate. Naturally, many industry players are not excited about the idea of scaring consumers away.
So what do you think of Whole Foods' decision, eaters? Should there be a national policy to label GMOs?
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.