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The GMO Controversy Continues to Swirl

Some are concerned that the potential health consequence of the use of genetically modified organisms in food is unknown because of the lack of long-term testing proving that it is safe.  Fearful consumers imagine “Franken foods,” conjuring up images of over-sized ears of corn that shuffle about the fields, stiff-legged and neck-bolted.

Several states have attempted to establish regulations regarding the labeling of foods as a GMO.  In California, Proposition 37 was on the table for decision in November 2012.  Although the Act was favored six weeks out, a late push by opponents was successful in defeating the Act.

The only guidance currently available in California, therefore, is FDA’s statement regarding GMOs:

“[FDA] is not aware of any data or other information that would form a basis for concluding that the fact that a food or its ingredients was produced using bioengineering is a material fact that must be disclosed.  FDA is therefore reaffirming its decision to not require special labeling of all bioengineered foods.”

The use of GMOs in food is a hot-button issue.  Opponents of additional labeling requirements say that labeling is unnecessary and would negatively impact a consumer’s perception of a safe food product.  Proponents say that the labeling gives the public the ability to make informed purchasing decisions.  On the ground, however, the debate is conflating the issues – not only do proponents invoke a consumer’s right to know, but they also invoke arguments against big business and big agriculture.  Another argument used is that GMOs require a large amount of pesticide, but a pioneer in the biotech field says that genetically modifying the seed to increase disease resistance leads to the use of less pesticide.  For more information, see GMO pioneer.

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Michelle Gillette