To label or not to label: That is the great debate over GMOs, and it’s one that has been raging for many years. With the trend toward healthier eating, the debate is once again heating up. In the absence of a federal definition of GMO, several states have attempted to push through labeling mandates. To date, those attempts have failed.
The most recent — and expensive — fight took place in Washington state on Nov. 5. Voters had the opportunity to force food manufacturers to label all foods containing genetically modified crops, a.k.a GMOs. Initiative 522 failed to pass by a reported margin of 55 to 45%. Proponents experienced a strong show of support at the outset, but they couldn’t overcome the deep pockets of a consortium of US food companies and suppliers that included General Mills, Nestle USA, Pepsi Co., Monsanto and DuPont. In total, the industry group spent $22 million on advertising and campaigning, compared with the $6.8 million raised by pro-labeling groups.
The proposal mirrored that of California’s Proposition 37, which was struck down in the 2012 election by a narrow margin of 51.4% against and 48.6% in favor.
As a possible sign of things to come, the Mexican government on Oct. 10 officially and indefinitely suspended the planting of GM varieties of corn, a primary food crop for the country. This means that companies who product GMO corn are no longer allowed to plant or sell it in the country.
But not everyone understands the flurry of excitement over GMOs. “I’m not for labeling or against labeling,” said Peter Meehan, CEO and co-founder of Newman’s Own Organics. “I’m just puzzled as to why it’s so important to people when there are so many other, bigger food safety issues to be concerned about such as pesticide run-off and water sanitation. We’ve never been involved with it because we can’t use GMO seed in anything organic. If people are against GMOs, why don’t they just support organic food and organic agriculture?”