This picture is from http://gmo-freephoenix.com/
Okay, I want to preface this with the fact that I think the idea of labeling to educate the masses is wonderful.
My question, is it logical? There always seem to be loop holes (like in organic...no requirement for testing of GMO's...or the use of any chicken manure from any farm even industrial on organic farms). Loop holes like this are never going to be on labels. People aren't going to know that GMO's aren't tested for until they start talking to feed companies, organic farmers (and you have to hit the right topic), seed companies or other knowledgeable individuals. The Non-GMO Project actually covers this in their second FAQ question for verification (see below, emphasis in answer added).
"Why should I enroll if my products are already USDA certified organic?
While the National Organic Program (NOP) identifies genetic modification as an excluded method, GMOs are not a prohibited substance. This means that although GMO seeds are not supposed to be planted, and GMO ingredients are not supposed to be used, no testing is required. These rules were established at a time when GMOs were in limited production, and accidental contamination was not a significant risk. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. With the majority of key crops like soy and corn being planted with GM varieties in North America, contamination of seeds, ingredients, and products is a real risk, even for certified organic products. The good news is that the NOP has excellent guidelines for traceability and segregation, and the Non-GMO Project is designed to honor the work that certified organic companies are already doing, with the added measure of testing risk ingredients at critical control points. Many founding members of the Non-GMO Project are the leaders of organic companies. These pioneers understand that protecting the long-term integrity of organic products, starting at the seed level, requires that they be protected from GMO contamination, which can only be done with testing."
Now if our organic farmers aren't taking it upon themselves to test (it is expensive, time consuming and frankly, do you want to know that your crop that is down the road from Joe Blow the GMO Farmer is contaminated and result in premium grain prices because...well it's GMO) but are also claiming their product is GMO-free, that seems to be a breakdown in communication, knowledge or something? If labeling were to take place, would Organic farmers be required to test before labeling that their product contained no GMO ingredients or would the status quo continue? No testing and the assumption because they are buying organic seeds or saving organic seeds that their crops are uncontaminated because, it's organic. If we lived in a vacuum I may concede, but since we live on planet earth and have wind, water and transportation to move contamination from hither to dale (and might I add, corn is in the grass family, many of us have probably seen grass pollen in the wind) how can we base this assumption in reality. Most of us that took basic Biology in high school, or earth science for that matter, have a basic understanding of pollination. And I am pretty certain, although I haven't checked definitively, that the GMO farmers aren't out hand pollinating their huge mono-crop plantations.
I suspect there might be other short comings to the labeling as there are to any system and yes, it would be nice but, would it fix the problem? I have talked to several Vitamin C producers (Ascorbic Acid) which is derived from corn (and often China corn) and they say that their product is GMO free because the corn has been essentially processed out of it. Perhaps, but the protein of that product is different and I suspect there are some "anomalies" that haven't been factored in. Would they have to label their product as being produced on GMO corn if it is that processed?
How would this affect the feed industry. Will it have to be labeled? Or will organic keep on keeping on under the guise that it's organic so it's GMO free? Will conventional feed be assumed to be GMO? Would there be a percentage? If most of the grains in the feed are non-GMO grains, but a small portion of the grains are GMO, would it there be a rating like "100% GMO Free" vs. just "GMO Free" like there is in the Organic industry...let admit it, that's confusing. And there is something in the organic industry where they can still label themselves as organic if 95% of their product is organic and the other 5% is on the "National List." I'm sorry, what's the "National List?" On the USDA's National Organic Program site for Organic Labeling there is no link to what the "National List" is. Also this excludes salt and water. So you will take a side of fluoridated, chlorinated water with your organic chicken and some Morton's salt too while you are at it (which contains anti-caking agent derived from...you guessed it, corn). If you are getting confused, you aren't the only one.
Now lets jump to produce in the produce isle. Label my produce darn it! But, I want a sticker that says "Organic," "Conventional" OR "GMO." Do you think our 75 year old grandparents are going to be reading those little stickers with the digits that tell you if it's organic, conventional or gmo? Probably not most of them. How about the average Joe that has no idea this is even happening? I'm going to guess not. Did you know there are already produce sticker standards for GMO and companies just aren't using them. That's right. And for all of you new to the stickers (and trust me you aren't alone, I just learned this myself in the last 6 months regarding GMO's) a sticker that is only 4 digits and starts with a 4 is conventional (no telling if it GMO or not because GMO's aren't required to label), a sticker that's 5 digits starting with a 8 is GMO (let me know if you have ever seen one of these), and a 5 digit number starting with a 9 is organic (organic banana is 94011 for example). Are you going to remember that? I can remember the organic in the store but that's because I've trained myself. And 8 and 9 are kinda close...if I am having a brain fart day it may be all over and I may walk out of the store with GMO corn and not organic corn... if they labeled.
My head is spinning. So is more labeling really a good thing. Well heck yeah if they are going to flat out write on the products (fruits, vegetables, grain's, etc.) that they are GMO (with no middle ground because the GMO product will have contaminated the rest of the product) or GMO-free. I don't want any of this 5% hanky-panky... But also, how much do you want to pay to fight the huge corporations with billions of dollars so that you can buy non-GMO twinkies. And lastly, is it even possible to get non-GMO products anymore (the answer here is yes but oh what it would do to the grain markets if you think that certified organic is bad...supply and demand baby and I'd be willing to bet that the supply would be FAR LESS then the demand). It's like trying to undo opening Pandora's Box, or take back biting the apple in Eden...is it possible?
Ultimately, is it our responsibility as the end consumer to educate ourselves or do we need someone else to take care of us? Those stickers would cause a lot more people to wake up a lot quicker...maybe. But would they take the responsibility to make changes or would they think it was simply too hard, they didn't have time, etc? I do my darndest every day to vote with my dollars. Reason being? Well I'm pretty sure hitting someone's pocket is the only way to get them to listen. Sure, we want to hope that all people are wonderful, caring, responsible people. But at the end of the day, money talks and there are a lot of people that listen with reckless abandon to the end result because the initial benefit is a fat wallet. Eventually it all comes full circle I suppose and it would be a ton easier to just have someone label it for me, but even then...would I really want to put my faith in standards that may or may not be up to mine? Chicken feces from conventional farms being spread on organic farm fields because there is no standard...for example.
Thanks for reading my rant. This is something that has me a bit tied up in the head right now!
Hi there, Wysteria here. I will be writing as regularly as possible on behalf of my family and regarding our adventures in farming, food, health and things of the like. My interest range widely and my brain wanders far. Namaste.