New Guidelines Submitted by US Department of Agriculture
American consumers will soon be provided with full information on whether the food they are buying contains genetically modified organisms.
The debate and controversy around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their use in food is one that has been raging for years and will continue to do so. While advocates argue that GMOs can only bring benefits to consumers, there are plenty of pressure groups out there who think differently.
Achieving any sort of consensus between these opposing views is still a long way off, but consumers will at least be able to make a more informed choice about whether or not to consume GMOs with the news that new custom product labels will be obligatory by 2020.
What are GMOs?
To take a step back for a moment, GMOs are animals or plants that have been subjected to some form of genetic alteration that does not occur naturally. Genetic modification per se is nothing new – for example, it has been used for some time in medicine for the creation of insulin and the human growth hormone, as without this modification, it would carry risk of certain diseases.
In food production, GMOs are designed to deliver specific benefits. A few examples include potatoes that are less susceptible to bruising, meaning reduced waste, and crops that are engineered with greater tolerance to diseases, meaning a reduced need to use pesticides.
Why the controversy?
Put that way, you might wonder why anyone would have an objection to GMOs. Pressure groups that are against GMOs believe they carry a heightened risk of diseases and that they are damaging to the environment. From a purely objective and scientific perspective, this is perplexing, as it flies in the face of every single study.
Perhaps the reason for the opposition is more of a psychological one. The idea of altering natural products on the genetic level to make them better than nature could manage is a concept that does not sit well with some people. It almost gives the impression of “playing God,” and that is dangerous ground to be treading, particularly in the USA.
Placing the choice with the consumer
Clearly, the debate over GMO is not going to reach a satisfactory resolution and consensus any time soon, so the new labelling law is a triumph for good sense. Ultimately, those on both sides of the argument are entitled to their opinions and to have the power to decide what they put into their bodies.
The new guidelines will require food makers to mark the product either GMO, BO (bioengineered), or to include a QR code that allows the consumer to visit a website to see the full details about the nature of GMO the product contains.
The guidelines are currently under public consultation till 03 July 2018.