We’re just days away from the Washington state vote for GMO labeling (voting is November 5, Washington people!). A victory in Washington would mean, in the words of Neil Armstrong’s proclamation about the first moon walk: “…one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” No exaggeration, either – the kind of awareness this sort of regulation at an agricultural powerhouse like Washington would be a movement in the right direction. Even with such a win, however, the entire United States is a long ways away from fully embracing GMO labeling, despite the rise in awareness and the traction events such as March Against Monsanto have had on communities all across the country. Here are five reasons the United States needs GMO labeling – Washington state (and all other states!), take note.
1. Sixty-four other countries label GMOS (and they must have a reason, right?)
Japan, China, Europe, Brazil, India, and Australia, among many others, all have strict guidelines for the labeling and tracking of GMO ingredients and foods. Then, let’s consider that some countries outlaw GMOs altogether! Zambia, Benin, and Serbia, among others, have no need for GMO labeling because they outright will not allow GMO farming (or imports). Some sections of Italy, Austria, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Greece, Spain, the UK, and others are countries that have banned certain GMO crops.
2. There is no consensus on the safety of GMOs, despite what big companies that profit from GMO crops (read: Monsanto) might say
Just last week, more than 90 scientists from across the globe collectively issued a statement asserting that, despite the proclamations of GMO proponents, there is no scientific consensus that GMOs are in fact safe. “We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue,” reads the statement, issued via the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER). “Such claims may place human and environmental health at undue risk and create an atmosphere of complacency.”
3. In fact, there is evidence that GMOs aren’t safe at all
Check out this compilation of studies provided by the Institute for Responsible Technology. If you want the quick numbers, IRT posits that there are 65 known health risks of consuming GMO foods. From potential risks of allergies to immune problems to new disease, the bottom line here is that GMOs, especially with their lack of long-term study on humans, are a gamble. Are you willing to gamble with your health?
4. GMO labels ensure people of all kinds have all the knowledge they need to make a choice
The EU’s position on GMO labeling puts this point into perspective: “Labelling [labeling] provides information for consumers and users of the product and allows them to make an informed choice.” It has been estimated that more than 60 percent of processed food in the United States includes at least one GMO ingredient. But, does everyone know this? Labeling would help ensure it. One study summarizes the feelings of many proponents of GMO labeling in this area of the “right to know.” Responses ranged from “I like to know what I’m eating” to “We should be in control of what goes in our bodies” to “People deserve to make an educated choice” to “The public has the right to know and producers have an obligation to let them know.”
5. Perhaps most importantly: because we want it! Maine and Connecticut have already voted “yes” on GMO labeling bills.
Though there are contingencies before anything really happens (CT requires that four other states pass GMO labeling laws before anything officially happens; Maine requires five other add-on states), but the point is that these measures passed. Last year, California’s GMO labeling bill was only narrowly defeated at a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. And the biggest kicker? A New York Times poll conducted this year indicated that 93 percent of those surveyed across the country believe that GMO ingredients should be identified. It’s only a matter of time before these concerns will be reflected in every state in our nation!
These are but a few reasons the United States should embrace GMO labeling. In just a matter of days, we will see how Washington state votes on this matter. One can only hope that such bills will be on ballots in the remaining states in the near future – considering these five points alone, we have a whole lot to gain by labeling GMO foods, and the future of our food supply depends on the choices we make as a country right now.
Image Source: Alex-Bayden Mayer/Flickr