"Frankenfoods' or better living through biotechnology?
Lawmakers, like most of us, generally aren't rocket scientists, nor are they cutting-edge health researchers. So when it comes to genetically modified organisms, they just want what all of us want to know: Are GMOs safe? And should we know if they're in our food?
Therein lies the rub over GMOs: There is no consensus.
GMOs (also called GM products or GE products for genetically engineered) are plants or animals created through the gene-splicing techniques, merging DNA from different species so the GMO can be hardier, drought-resistant, withstand direct application of herbicide and/or produce an insecticide.
Opponents of the foods point to anti-GMO guru Jeffery M. Smith's contentions that GM foods are "inherently unsafe,' are related to a jump in soy allergies, Bt-triggered immune response and reproductive problems.
Supporters — such as giant seed maker Monsanto — say GMOs are already in many products through GM corn, soybean or cotton; labeling would put a "scarlet letter A' on foods and be costly to grocers; and there is no strong science saying GMOs are unhealthy.
Fears about GMOs initially led to bans, severe restrictions and labeling in Europe and Japan. Proponents say GM crops can help feed a growing population and even though Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops are bred for the herbicide, they allow farmers to conserve fuel and cut the overall amount of herbicides used.
Anti-GMO crusaders dispute such benefits. In any case, they say they have a right to know if GMOs are in their food, while opponents of labeling challenge the anti-GMO crowd to produce real scientific evidence of harm.
Back and forth, much like the old debate over TV violence that led to the V chip and "labels' but little or no change in viewing habits. But it's clear that the zeal demonstrated in weekly meetings and rallies means the labeling issue isn't going away.
You wonder why the labeling crusaders are so dedicated to calling back this GMO ship that has long sailed into our food supply. Well, GMO opponents are often environmentalists, organic farmers, vegetarians and "natural' food lovers who know that, for instance, the outside aisles of the supermarket hold the healthiest food because it is less processed.
They also know America has a nasty obesity and diabetes problem.
For these reasons, we think labeling should be done, but phased in slowly over a few years so small producers and shops have time to revise labels. By then more scientific evidence will be available, and consumers can better decide if it's a health issue or not to them.