In the U.S., genetically modified food-labeling is optional. The Food and Drug Administration only makes sure that the food consumers consume is safe and wholesome, it does not consider the fact that the sources of GM foods are genetically engineered. Considering the FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health, you would think that the labeling of GMO foods would be a requirement by now. Altering crops’ genes can not only be harmful to the environment by causing a greater use of pesticides, but it can also potentially be harmful to human health. With this in mind, it is no surprise that more and more states are proposing bills to require GMO labeling. As of Wednesday, Vermont could likely be the first state in the country to require labels on genetically modified foods.
“The vast majority of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are GMOs, and food companies estimate that about 80% of U.S. packaged-food products contain GMO ingredients in some form.” With many people being aware that the use of genetically modified plants and animals has already become commonplace in today’s society, the lack of consumer consent in the choice to eat these foods creates an ethical dilemma. With nearly 80% of all prepackaged food in a normal grocery store containing GMOs, it is a bit concerning of whether or not these foods are safe. Similar to the way that drugs have to be tested to be put on the market and need to have the ingredients and side effects clearly labeled on the package, it should be the same case for food. Consumers should have the right to know what exactly they are eating. With very little testing having been done on genetically modified foods and long-term results being unclear, many other countries have already put much stricter regulations on GMOs. In the European Union, for example, the introduction of labeling requirements led to the virtual extinction of GMOs in food. Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont says, “I am proud of Vermont for being the first state in the nation to ensure that Vermonters will know what is in their food.”
However, the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients will come with a cost to Vermont. Farmers, food manufacturers, distributors, and grocers will have to spend more on record keeping and compliance. Could this result in products being assigned a higher price than what a consumer would see them priced at in another part of the country? Considering the bill’s two-year timetable, it should give farmers and companies plenty of time to adjust. “There is no reason this would put a real burden on farmers, food makers or consumers,” according to the Wall Street Journal.