Evidently, wild and organic are utterly passé and bioengineering is all the rage — at least from the standpoint of industrialized agriculture.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have recently received a flood of media attention over the issue of labeling. More than 40 countries (including Britain, China, and Russia) require the labeling of GMOs, but the United States does not. On Tuesday, Peru’s congress approved a 10-year moratorium on the entrance of GMOs into Peru for cultivation or breeding. Opponents of genetically modified crops argue that adequate tests concerning safety and environmental impact have not been conducted. Many farmers, on the other hand, swear by GMOs because they repel pests and are now potentially drought resistant.
Marion Nestle neatly spells out the controversy, stating that the bioengineering industry argues, “GM foods are absolutely necessary to feed the world, farmers love them, and they are harmless,” while in fact those statements (with the exception that farmers love them) are questionable.
In a 1992 report the FDA wrote that labeling was not required because, “FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”
In February, The New York Times ran a Mark Bittman post in which he polled people’s opinions on GMO’s. He found that 83 percent of people were unnerved by the presence of GMOs in food and 89 percent wished to see proper labeling of GMOs. It seems that Americans are not willing to tolerate surprises in their food and they especially resent not having the ability to make an informed choice. Meanwhile, Greenpeace activists in Sweden have been locking themselves to a warehouse that plants Amflora GM potatoes.
Salmon in particular has become a hot-button issue for genetic engineering. On Gilt Taste, Paul Greenberg presents four arguments to refute claims that genetically engineered salmon are cleaner, cheaper, and will feed more people.
A 2006 report by the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) on the USDA’s website addresses the inherent difficulty in marketing any food product labeled “genetically modified.” It states, “National regulatory systems for evaluating the safety of new transgenic products are being developed and implemented in many countries around the world, eliminating some uncertainties but, in some cases, complicating the path to market.” Read: no one wants to buy salmon with a GMO label.
Still indifferent? This alarming graphic from the LA Times shows the growing percentage of genetically modified US crops, as well as a map displaying the scant number of states proposing required GMO labels on food.