Mediaplanet: Why should genetically engineered foods be labeled?

Gary Hirshberg: Consumers have a right to know how the food we buy is produced, including whether it’s genetically engineered. Labels tell us the fat, calories and colors in our food, but not if it’s genetically engineered (GE). Labeling is required to tell us if our fish is wild or farmed, but not if it’s genetically engineered. Labels help us make informed decisions about the food we eat and feed our families. Most Americans—more than 90 percent in most studies— believe GE-foods should be labeled.

"Labels help us make informed decisions about the food we eat and feed our families. Most Americans—more than 90 percent in most studies— believe GE-foods should be labeled."

Such near-unanimity in public opinion is rare. People support the labeling of GE food for diverse reasons, such as concerns about health, safety, the environment and religion, but we all share the belief that we have the right to know. America has no laws requiring GE-food labeling, but more than 50 countries do, including all of Europe, Japan, Brazil, Australia, russia and even China.

MP: Why aren’t GE foods labeled already?

GH: Twenty years ago, the FDA decided if a GE-food had the same look, taste, smell or feel as a non-GE food that it was “substantially equivalent” and didn’t need to be labeled. The policy still stands today. This means that a salmon genetically engineered with the genes from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish, to produce hormones continuously year-round, a rate never found in nature, does not need to be labeled because you can’t sense a difference. Just Label It believes that the policies that regulate our food should be based upon modern science, not outdated notions based in 19th and 20th century technology.

MP: How can we help get GE-foods labeled?

GH: Tell the FDA you support the GE-foods labeling petition by sending in a comment. It takes just one click at the Just Label It website. Share the Just Label It videos — Labels Matter and Dining in the Dark — with family and friends and through Facebook and Twitter. Help encourage others to send in comments. Support local efforts for GE-foods labeling, such as those in California and Washington. Learn more. Download Genetically Engineered Food: An Overview, by Food & Water Watch and Label It Now: What you Need to Know about Genetically Engineered Foods, an e book we wrote with the proceeds benefiting Just Label It.