Today: Jul 23, 2024

To label or not to label? Why genetically modified foods are such a big deal

Photo Courtesy | treehugger.com

Mackenzie Hurlbert – Copy Editor

There’s been a lot of debate over the labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods lately. The GM stamp has such a largely negative connotation around it, but many people don’t know exactly what GM entails.

The immediate reaction to the idea of genetically modified foods is: “Oh that’s so unnatural! It must not be good for you.”

Yes, I agree; I would choose the natural, more expensive choice over the unnatural any day of the week, but what bothers me is the widespread social ignorance about how much of our life is genetically modified or “unnatural.”

People stick themselves in amped up Easy Bake Ovens to get tan for swimsuit season! There’s breast enhancements, tattoos, piercings, make-up, hair dye, energy drinks, fake nails…I could go on and on.

Our society is obviously not against unnatural things, so saying something is unnatural simply doesn’t cut it as an excuse to rally against GM foods.

However, I wanted to learn more about the effects of eating GM foods; only then could I feel like I was knowledgeable enough to support the labeling of GM foods.

What I found was surprising…there is actually no evidence that eating GM foods is bad for one’s health, yet that stigma exists (and I am a total supporter of it).

While there was little information on the effects of eating GM foods, there was plenty on the effects of growing it. By introducing a genetically modified plant into a natural ecosystem, its presence will result in cross contamination with the natural plant. In the U.S., an example of this occurred when a type of maize approved for animal feed appeared in maize grown for human consumption, according to the World Health Organization.

Along with cross contamination, GM foods spur pesticide resistance among insects. Insects that are naturally resistant survive the pesticides of GM foods. Therefore they are the insects who procreate, consequently creating more pesticide-resistant offspring.

Invasiveness is another consequence of growing GM foods. According to Livestrong.com and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Genetic modification of plants can increase their abilities to become an invasive species. Invasive species, whether due to genetic modification or intentional introduction, can threaten plants and animals in the area by killing naturally-occurring species, absorbing resources and taking up large amounts of space.”

While there is not much evidence for how GM foods affect humans after consumption, there are plenty negative environmental side-effects. And while there are no known negative effects of eating genetically modified foods, wouldn’t you want to know what you were eating anyways? Wouldn’t you like to have the choice between buying GM and naturally grown? I know I would.

The United States has yet to pass a law mandating the labeling of GM foods, but countries such as Mexico, the U.K., Japan and Italy are far ahead of us. What is stopping us? Big companies’ fears of immediate consumer rejection? I think so.

I also think we as consumers have a right to know what unnatural substances we are putting in our bodies. We choose whether or not we want to fake bake, consume energy drinks, or dye our hair. Shouldn’t we be able to choose whether or not we want GM foods?

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