Target: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Goal: Require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods
Genetically engineered foods are created through the transferring of genetic material from one organism to another. The genes can be extracted from and inserted into any plant, animal or microorganism’s DNA. Advocates for genetically engineered foods argue that the alterations are desirable because of the creation of specific traits. Advantages of genetically modified foods are pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought resistance, salinity tolerance, improved nutrition, and creation of pharmaceuticals.
While these all sound beneficial there are many criticisms of genetically engineered foods. Of course, there is cause for environmental concern. These altered foods can cause unintended harm to other organisms. Research done by the Agricultural Research Service showed that pollen from genetically modified corn which was eaten by monarch caterpillars caused high mortality rates for the species, almost causing a mass extinction. The resistance to herbicide for genetically modified crops will eventually decrease and lose effectiveness as pests also grow resistance. Weeds will grow resistant as well because there is also a possibility of gene transfer from modified crop plants which cross-breed with weeds creating “super weeds.”
Additionally, human health risks are involved with the consuming of genetically engineered foods. There are possibilities of the creation of new allergens with the transferring of genetic materials. Some independent, peer-reviewed studies on biotech crops reveal deterioration of the liver and impairment of kidney functions.
The Food and Drug Administration does not require that genetically engineered foods to be labeled because they view them as no different from normal crops. Companies that include genetically engineered ingredients in their products are permitted to voluntarily label the information as long as it is not false or misleading. A 2008 CBS/New York Times poll found that more than half of American consumers would not choose to by GE foods while 87% want them to be labeled. Needless to say, with the stigma of GE foods it is no wonder that a lot of companies choose to not disclose that they are using these types of ingredients. Consumers of the United States do not know that they are consuming GE foods because of the voluntary scheme.
The United States seems to fall short when it comes to labeling GE foods compared to other countries of the world. The European Union makes it a point to address the risks of genetically engineered foods. They evaluate the safety of all GE crops and require that all food (processed or not) and animal feed be labeled. Other countries such as Brazil, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea also require labels and even limit the amount allowed in the product.
As an influential world leader, the United States has the responsibility to let their consumers have full disclosure of what GE ingredients are in their food. Let the Food and Drug Administration know that it is their duty to protect citizen’s health by labeling all genetically engineered products. If we could get them to label all the ingredients and nutritional information in our foods they could just as easily let us know if they have been genetically modified.
Dear Food and Drug Administration,
Genetically engineered crops are a danger to our environment and to the health of United States citizens. Genetically engineered crops can cause harm to different species of animals and insects. They can also create problems of resistance resulting in “super weeds” that could affect yields. The consumption of genetically modified crops could cause harm to people’s health through the creation of new allergens.
It is only right that the FDA label all genetically engineered ingredients in products for human and animal consumption. People need to know what is in their food and the FDA should provide the information for people to successfully defend their health. I ask you today to require that all genetically engineered ingredients be labeled so that people can make the choice to protect their health and the environment.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Miguel Angel Pasalodos via Google