The May 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing magazine includes a nice editorial called The Public’s “Right to Know” which proposes that food companies should not run away from legislative efforts to mandate GMO labeling. The editorial does not address the over-the-top measure proposed in the California ballot initiative (discussed in my prior post here), but instead focuses on legislative efforts in states like Vermont and Connecticut. The key point is that food companies should disclose their use of GMO ingredients while simultaneously providing information on why those ingredients are being used.
The food industry would be wise to educate consumers about the benefits of GMOs instead of blocking the public’s access to information. …. [T]he industry is armed with data of its own, including the fact that rising food costs are mitigated by high-yield GMOs. Additionally, in a world plagued by food insecurity, GMOs may well be vital in attaining a dependable food supply in developing nations.
Arming consumers with the information they need to make educated decisions about the foods they choose to buy could change the direction of this conversation. If the food industry pushes too hard against public disclosure, consumers could come to believe that it has something to hide.
This is a fair point. There are many facets to this debate but the current discussion is dominated by consumer groups with a particular agenda that are very savvy at using social media. To combat the potential spread of misinformation and level the debate, the food industry must do more to educate the public on the nature of GMO ingredients (including the latest findings on health and environmental concerns) and the reasons why some GMO ingredients are used for certain products. That is not to say that GMO labeling should be required, especially to the extent such labeling creates a stigma that equates GMO ingredients with saturated fats or added sugars. But it will certainly be a reality if the public discourse (as opposed to behind-the-scenes lobbying) is a one-sided discussion.