Have you been to a store lately and noticed that there are tags or labels galore. I am talking tags and labels on everything! Anything from 3-5 tags on a t-shirt to 2-6 on food packages to comments and symbols on toilet paper! How about menus? Have you noticed more icons and asterisks on the long list of food items available on those 2-sided and tri-fold works of art? How about descriptions that include phrases such as “locally- sourced”, “free- range” , “antibiotic free”, “hormone free”, “natural”… the list could go on and on. The real question is does it tell us anything that we are wanting to know? Does it impact what we purchase or order? Or is it a marketing tool used to promote a product and create an emotional response? Hmmmmm.
Currently the hot topic with labels is whether or not to label items made with genetically modified (GMO) substances. This means upwards of 80% of the items on the market could potentially have another label on them. The topic being debated is what products would actually receive the label, what would that label mean, what would it look like, whether it should a voluntary or mandatory label, and whether or not it should be a national label or allow each state to define and design their own. The conversation is real and is filled with factional and emotional evidence.
Personally, I despise the idea that another label is needed. I dislike that a safe scientific process of identifying and producing naturally occurring proteins and genes needs a label. I feel what is happening is genetic engineering or genetic modification is not understood or significantly misunderstood thus causing uncertainty, confusion, and an open market for exploitation. GMO’s have more research, data, and technical insight than many medications, vitamins, and personal products on the market today. There is no need for a label that increases company profits buy increasing fear.
Sadly, marketing and lack of understanding has pushed fear and for a GMO label. Currently, one state has passed a GMO labeling law and our Senate is in the middle of discussion on a national label law. Again, I hate the fact that this is even a topic taking up time in our states’ and nation’s capitols, but the reality is that it is. The other part of the reality is that if we don’t adopt a national label law, then states are free to develop their own, causing a patchwork of definitions and criteria and increased confusion. It also causes a logistical nightmare on the production side of things labeling each item for point of sale and ensuring that each lot of items reaches the correct location with the correct label. Think about a bag of Doritos. If each state is able to have their own law, definition and symbol, that could mean 50 different packages, boxes not able to be delivered to just any point of sale that placed an order, but to specific sites. It is a production and distribution nightmare logistically and economically.This nightmare comes with a cost, a cost handed down to the customer payable at the till.
So, with the reality being that a label law is going to be put in place, and even though I do not like it, I STRONGLY feel that a voluntary national label is needed. This will allow for everyone regardless of where they live in the US to know exactly what GMO stands for and means (if they want to know).
The proposal is to have the “label” be a QR code, or similar information code, that would allow the customer to scan it and read first hand about the product and substances used to make it. As updates to information needed to be made, they could be made “behind the scenes” and done instantaneously, without changing packaging and interrupting production and distribution. Additionally, data could be collected as to which products are being inquired about and how many inquiries are taking place.A national label law should also be voluntary, allowing companies who felt that they wanted to include this code on their packaging to do so while allowing others to chose otherwise.
In all honesty, I want to see the name of the product I am purchasing. I am sick of icons, verbiage, and advertisements splashed all over the items I buy. To a farmer who raises some crops that fall under the umbrella of GMO, this seems like a first world demand and issue. We have not had a food shortage. We have become entitled people. We have decided that emotions should supersede science, research, data, and our food safety and approval processes. GMO crops used in food, fiber and fuel are not dangerous, but have been made available in efforts to give us farmers more tools in our tool box to help protect our livelihood from things such as drought, extreme temperatures, wind, insects and weeds.
So, if we have to have a law showing that a product has been developed using some of the top research and scientific methods and is allowing farmers to have more tools to be better stewards of the land and increase sustainability, then so be it!
Let’s pass a VOLUNTARY, UNIFORM, NATIONAL LABEL LAW so that at least we are all on the same page and operating under the same framework.
Let us not be divided more than necessary. Let us use diversity to create great things. Let us not drive a wedge between people, states, and our nation where it is not needed. Let us not forget that line we repeated day after day, each day we were in school, from the Pledge of Allegiance, “One Nation Under God”. Let us come together.