VIEWS: 11 PAGES: 1 POSTED ON: 2/8/2010
LABELING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD Even though the discussion about the use of genetically engineered products has not finished yet, but since is a fact that genetically engineered products are being used for food manufacturing, another topic arises to public consideration, that is the labelling of genetically engineered food. To have an idea of the actual impact of GE, in USA it was estimated that about 60-70% of the processed food in grocery stores include at least one genetic engineered component. Those against labelling states that labels imply a warning about potential health effects whereas no significant differences between GE and conventional food have been detected. Also they consider that labelling could increase the price of the products, and found out in a survey done in Colorado with 437 supermarket shoppers that 78% of them supported labelling of GE products, but they were not willing to pay more for labelling. In the case that consumers want to be sure about the GE product absence, they can purchase certified organic food, which can not have GE ingredients. On the other hand, it is said that the US food system infrastructure (storage, transportation, and processing facilities) could not accommodate the need for segregation of GE and non-GE products. In contrast, those in favour of labelling consider that is a right of the consumer to know the composition of the products they are buying, because in the case of genetically modified food, they could be ingesting products that in their belief should not be consuming. Not only because of the concerns about GE, health and environment, but also for religious and ethical reasons. An example: people that do not want to eat animal products, including animal DNA, and even when actually there are no vegetal products with animal DNA, it might appear in the market in the future. Another theme to consider , is if the labelling should be mandatory or voluntary for the GE and/or non- GE food. Actually the FDA policy requires that GE food be labelled when the nutritional properties are significantly different or contains unexpected allergen. For other cases, FDA proposes voluntary labelling. Even in the case of labelling becoming obligatory or not, it requires a proper legislation in order to state the correct language to avoid misunderstandings and/or misinformation of the consumers. People that are against labelling think that it is a disadvantage, but considering that labelling of products is actually regulated in most countries, as far as I know, labelling of genetically engineering food, in my opinion, means only a “new chapter” in the legislation, for the sake of everybody. So everybody could have the possibility of being inform about what are they selling and what are they buying, and then be able to choose. In order to do so, it is necessary to state what constitutes a GE food product (ingredients and %) and which technologies are included. Of course, after the legislation is done, control is required to verify physical presence of foreign DNA or protein, as well as process-based verification: requiring record- keeping of seed source, field location, harvest, transport and storage, etc, in a word traceability of the product. It seems that this may imply a higher price of the product in order to assure that what is written in the label is true, but since this technology has not convinced that is harmless either to the health or the environment, I think it should be stated so the consumer is informed. Often when new requirements are established, the first reaction is to highlight issues like the increase in the price or other inconveniences. But by doing that it seems to me, that the only issue being considering is the profit of those that are involve in the genetically engineered production, not taking into account the concerns of at least part of the consumers.
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