Do you have a right to know what’s in your food?

November 18, 2013 Edited by  
Filed under Biotechnology, Consumer awareness

Is there gluten in your bread? Trans fat in your potato chips? High-fructose corn syrup in your cookies? The answers to all of these questions (and more!) are conveniently located on your food labels. By law. Go ahead and take a look for yourself.

How about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – are there any of those in your food? Hmm, that one is a little harder to determine. By lack of law.

In the European Union, food products that contain GMOs or were derived from GMOs have been labeled since 1997. In the United States, despite upwards of 93% of citizens supporting similar measures (Kopicki, 2013), such food products are currently NOT labeled. Biotechnology companies claim that GMO labels would raise “unnecessary fears” among consumers and increase the price of food. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that genetically-modified foods are “substantially equivalent” to non-modified foods.

The battle to label genetically-modified foods has been waged and lost in two high profile state elections over the past year. Following a similar storyline, citizens in both California and Washington initially supported independent measures to label GMO foods by an overwhelming margin. Then, in the days and weeks before each election, an influx of money  from pro-GMO/anti-labeling interest groups ($46 million in California and $22 million in Washington) swayed public opinion when it mattered most: at the polls. Although both measures were ultimately voted down, twenty other states are now considering similar ballot issues for GMO labels in 2014.

Food for thought

On one hand, biotechnology companies are allowed to patent foods that have been genetically modified because they represent “unique” technologies.  On the other hand, the FDA claims that genetically modified foods are “substantially equivalent” to non-modified foods and thus does not support mandatory GMO labeling laws.

What are your thoughts? Regardless of your stance on GMOs, how do you feel about labeling laws for food products that contain GMOs? Do you have a right to know what’s in your food?


Kopicki, A (2013). “Strong Support for Labeling Modified Foods”. The New York Times. July 17, 2013. Accessed November 17, 2013.


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