Recently, a friend sent me a photo of an actual dairy case in a real supermarket that had a label that read “gluten-free milk.” Now just ponder that a minute. I have also seen labels on chicken that read “hormone free.” Since it is against federal law to give hormones to chickens, of course it would be hormone free. Then there is my favorite: “boneless bananas.” These are just a few examples of the current ludicrous state of food labeling in this country. Against this background, Democrats in the Senate want to add GMOs to the label issue. If we can’t trust food labels to give us the straight scoop on milk, how can we expect a GMO label to be anything but a lie?
It used to be that labels on food provided information about the product, its nutrition, salt or fat content, or suggested serving sizes. Today, however, labels are red flashing warning lights. “Labels today are telling us what to be afraid of,” said Carolyn O’Neil, nutritionist, cook book author, and CNN food correspondent. “Most of these labels just draw attention to things you don’t need to be worried about.” She told me, in a recent interview, that the things we should be worried about, like cooking your food to the proper temperature to avoid salmonella, are not listed on most food labels.
Most of those advocating for more information on food labels are doing so as part of a marketing plan. Congress is trying to bring some sanity to this issue and to set some national standards so that food processers and producers do not need 50 different varieties of the same product to meet individual state requirements. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is advocating a smart label. This would be a barcode or QR code that, when scanned by a cell phone, would provide all the detail a consumer could want. Everything could be included how the product was produced, where it was produced, any possible allergens, and even if the product was touched by human hands and, if so, if he or she washed their hands. This is a high tech, but reasonable and affordable solution. It provides quick access to details for those who want to know and no cost or marketing manipulation for those of us who don’t want to know.
But Democrats are opposed to this concept, insisting on some kind of affixed label to anything made with GMO products. This would be akin to putting a skull and cross bones on all GMO products. As one pro-GMO advocate put it, the earth is round, yet there are some folks who still don’t believe it. Biotechnology is safe and people have to begin to accept the fact that it is. Putting GMO labels on food would be like putting stickers on globes that read “the earth is really flat.”
Much of the information on food labels today is misleading, not important, and alarmist. Mandating one more element — GMO — to this mix will just make things worse. Congress should approve a common sense, science-based, labeling approach that really has the consumer in mind, not the activists.
By Gary Truitt