There has been a lot of talk recently about the benefits and potential harmful side effects of using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as food sources. This has led to a lively debate about whether the companies that sell foods containing GMOs should be required to label their products as such.

As you might expect, the debate pits members of the agribusiness community and the research companies that support them against consumer protection groups and concerned citizens. This is not a topic covered when obtaining an online bachelors in public safety administration but a major public concern as it effects the future of our foods. But what is all the hype about?

Why does it really matter if foods containing GMOs bear labels that state that fact? Before you can answer that question you need a basic understanding of just what genetically modified foods are.

Genetically Modified Foods
In a nutshell, genetically modified foods are those that are made, at least in part, from organisms whose genetic structure has been altered in some way at the cellular level.

 

Although this may sound scary, this is not much different than the traditional manner of improving the quality or quantity of food sources through selective breeding practices.

The main difference here is that these changes, like increased resistance to disease or enhanced nutritional content that would normally take several generations to bring about can be done immediately by the use of genetic engineering techniques in a laboratory. It is the genetic engineering aspect that has some concerned as to the safety of these foods for human consumption.

The Debate
The debate to focus on here is not whether foods containing GMOs are safe but rather whether consumers have the right to know if the food they are purchasing contains them. Many other countries have already resolved this debate but in the United States the arguing continues.

The Pros
The arguments for the labeling of GMO foods centers around two basic concepts; 1) that consumers have the right to know 2) that the science of genetic engineering is in its infancy.

The Right To Know – The United States has long prided itself on both protecting its citizens from potentially harmful products and giving those citizens the information they need to protect themselves.

The argument here is that the consumer has the right to know what is in the foods they eat so they can makes their own decisions as to whether they eat it or not.

New Science Does Not Always Equal Safe Science – This argument centers around the concern that consuming GMO foods could have long term effects.

Those touting this reason argue that the consumer should be made aware of the GMO content of their food because no one can say what possible side effects of long term consumption could be and therefore the consumer should have the final say on whether they eat it or not.

Basically the people for the labeling of GMO foods are saying that knowledge is power and only if the consumer is armed with this information can they make an accurate determination of what is best for them and their families.

The Cons
The main argument against the labeling of GMO foods is the consumers fear of the unknown. Researchers and food production companies believe that the consumers’ ignorance of what GMO foods actually are will lead them to reject these foods without rational reason.

They point out that GMO foods are cheaper to produce and often healthier than their non-altered counterparts but that a GMO label would prevent a significant number of those the alterations were intended to help from purchasing them.

The FDA has declined to require the labeling of GMO foods. Their stance is that the fact that some or all of the ingredients in a food have been bioengineered does not actually change the content of the food so there is no legal reason to label it.

Most scientists agree that more research should be done to determine whether or not consuming genetically altered foods poses any kind of threat to people.

Few are willing to openly say that they believe it to be harmful or safe, just that they are unsure. As long as this is the case, it is likely that the debate over whether or not to label foods that contain GMOs will continue.

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Pros and Cons of GMO Labeling

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