GMOs or genetically modified organisms have been part of our food supply since 1996. The debate regarding the potential harms (and benefits) of GMOs has gained more attention recently, as several US states have approved or proposed laws regulating the labeling of food for GMOs. While Maine and Connecticut approved such laws this summer, New York, Vermont, Hawaii and Oregon seek to propose similar bills during next year’s election cycle.
Public opinion on genetically modified foods is still quite evenly divided. For instance, in California, a proposal to label food for GMOs failed by only 51% to 49% earlier this year. Generally speaking, voters in rural regions oppose such measures, whereas constituencies in urban areas support labeling laws. Aside from state regulations, food safety advocates demand a national standard set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the federal government is reluctant to implement a national labeling law mainly because there has been no strong evidence that GMOs are unsafe to eat and several reputable agencies have endorsed the safety of GM food.
The American public has been consuming GMOs for almost two decades without any alarming side effects. A state-commissioned report found “no statistically significant, repeatable evidence of adverse health consequences” with regard to genetically modified foods. Yet, many critics of GMOs question how the data from this report was gathered and request more extensive research on the matter. Another controversial issue is that GM crops have become more herbicide- and pesticide-resistant, which has resulted in an increased use of these chemicals. Furthermore, corporate patents by GMO companies like Monsanto can sue farmers for using their seed, even though they spread naturally through cross-pollination.
Regardless of where you stand on the use of GMOs in our food, you should consider that this is a very complex issue that involves multiple players and plays out on various levels. In order to make an educated decision for you and your family, it’s advisable to gather as much information as possible on GMOs and their impact on agriculture, health, and the economy: A Snapshot of the GMO Argument.