Food Labeling and GMOs

Food Labeling and GMOs 10

FoodLabeling and GMOs

Theconcept of Genetic modification in living organisms has been aroundsince the advent of biotechnology. Advancement in biotechnology hasseen increased varieties of organisms in our day to day lives.Scientists have exploited the concept of genetic modification to comeup with organisms that have desirable characteristics. It is worthnoting that genetically modified organisms have been accepted andrejected in equal measure. People across the world have engaged inheated debates to establish the suitability of Genetically ModifiedOrganisms to human consumption. In this essay, all attention isturned to Molly Ball’s article AtlanticMonthly. Particularly,the issues of food labeling are analyzed in an in-depth manner. Thisessay opens the analysis with a summary of Molly Ball’s article andthen goes further to explore the opponents and proponents ofgenetically modified organisms. International dimensions of foodlabeling are also addressed in later sections of this essay.

Invarious forums, there have been suggestions to label food containersaccordingly as to whether or not they originate from geneticallymodified organisms. In the article AtlanticMonthly, MollyBall gives an example of the Vermont state where residents hadintended to discuss the issue of GMO’s in their foods. Ofparticular interest is the fact that they wanted genetically modifiedorganisms to be labeled. According to the agitators, this would givethem an understanding of what they were consuming. The issues withfood labeling were discussed in Vermont legislature where the ideareceived proponents and opponents in equal measure. A bill wastabled in the legislature in 2012, and many people turned out toexpress their opinions on the food labeling bill. Activists in favorof the bill fought to see it go through, and this bill was assentedto recently. With the assenting of the food labeling bill, the stateof Vermont became the first state to pass legislation requiring allfood companies within its to indicate as to whether or not theycontain genetically modified organisms. Molly Ball also points outthe fact that such kind of legislation had been defeated inWashington in 2013 and California in 2012. Issues surrounding foodlabeling are expected to spread through many states as Molly Ballpoints. Activists are likely to take these issues to states such asColorado, Arizona and Oregon (Molly, 2014).

FoodLabeling Efforts

Inthe article AtlanticMonthly, MollyBall presents a case study of the state of Vermont where there havebeen issues of food labeling. Residents of Vermont wanted legislationto be imposed on all food production companies within Vermont. Thelegislation was supposed to make the companies put labels on all foodcontainers and indicate whether or not the foods have any GMO’s.The group of people who actively agitated for this legislation wascomposed of ordinary citizens.

Invarious legislation forums, food labeling is seen to dividelegislators down their political lines. Both Democrats andrepublicans perceive it differently. It is pointed out that manydemocrats did not have the idea of food labeling until the timepressure was mounted by the public. Campaigns were organized to pushfor the installation of measures regulating food productioncountries. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIR) and thecoalition of organic farms are some of the key campaigners who pushedfor food labeling policies. The campaigns were mainly conducted fromdoor to door trying to woe many people in support of thislegislation.

Thosein support of food labeling argue that when one buys a certain foodpackage, they are able to tell whether or not the food containsgenetically modified organisms. These proponents of the bill make itclear that they are not on an attack mission to destroy the idea ofGMO’s. They just wanted that when one makes a purchase of a certainfood product, they should be in a position to read the ingredientsand be able to know the origin of that food.

Inthe article AtlanticMonthly byMolly Ball, Republican Mike Pompeo of Kansas is portrayed as the mainproponent of the labeling bill in the Congress. When Molly Ball askedMike about the impetus for the labeling bill, he just lookedinfuriated by the whole concept of labeling. Mike argued that manypeople have had to create food scares without any basis in scientificknowledge. In an exclusive interview with Molly, Mike claimed that hehad received more than 500 phone calls from opponents of the billsince its introduction in the Congress.

Scienceand Food Labeling

Despiteall the activism surrounding the concept of genetically modifiedorganisms, there has not been and scientific proof to show theharmfulness of genetically modified organisms for human consumption.In this article, Molly Ball argues that no acceptable science hasbeen found to show the inherence danger that is posed by geneticallymodified organisms in food (Vaclavik &amp Christian, 2008).Proponents in the agribusiness industry claim that those inopposition to GMOs are synonymous to people who oppose childvaccination and/or deny the dynamisms of climate and human activity.It has been argued that food labeling in Vermont has nothing to dowith science. The labeling is of concern to the material informationthey reveal to the consumer about the foods (Vaclavik &ampChristian, 2008).

InVermont and many other states, profits for the food industry depend,to a large extent, on the ingredients of genetically modifiedorganisms. However, there have been cases of people in the UnitedStates who create scares of food without any scientific basis. Allthe efforts are driven by greed and desire to make profits. Incountering these people, the industry responded with a bill in theCongress to introduce labeling biotechnology as a euphemism forgenetically modified organisms. This issue has attracted theintervention of FDA in efforts to prohibit other countries fromexercising it.

Politicsand Public Opinion on Food Labeling

Inthe article AtlanticMonthly byMolly, politics plays a significant role in all the developmentssurrounding food labeling. Molly opens the article with a situationof Vermont residents who are agitating for labeling of all foodpackages. This debate was taken to higher levels of debate such asthe Congress where it took a totally new dimension. There was a tideof pent-up interest in labeling and genetically modified organisms infood ingredients.

GMOProponents and Opponents

Mollyintroduces us to Starr, who was both a farmer and a truck driver. Henever had any strong feelings towards the concept of labelinggenetically modified foods. There two main groups of people whoresponded differently towards the concept of labeling foods so as toindicate whether they had GMO’s in their ingredients.

Thefirst group was the Vermont constituents who were in support of thefood labeling policy. These people wanted food producing companies tolabel all their food packages and indicate the percentage ofgenetically modified organisms in their ingredients. Molly points outthat Starr threw his weight behind the food labeling bill in thelegislature. The bill was heard in the legislature first in 2012 andthen later in 2014 with overwhelming support from the general public.A vote was conducted in the Senate, and the proponents won by alandslide (28-2).

Democratsvoted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, and it was passed. Thisbill was later given assent by Governor Peter Shumlin making Vermontthe first state in the whole country to have labels on all foods soldwithin the state’s boundaries. The labels were meant to indicatewhether the foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

Activistswere also in support of the push to have labels on the food packages.There were plans to spread the agitation beyond the boundaries ofVermont and expand it to other states such as Colorado, Oregon andArizona. Molly claims in this article that there are around 29 stateswith way above 84 bills on the push for food labeling and GMO’s. According to activists, the labeling bill may not take effect verywell if it is not enforced in neighboring states.

Thesecond group of people is that of opponents. This group is mainlycomposed of people from the food industry and those from theagribusiness sector. These people opposed the legislation mainlybecause it threatened their businesses.

Fromthe interview Molly conducted with Mike, it came out that some peoplego as far as making food products without a scientific background. Insuch cases, the processes involved in manufacturing the food productsmay not be authentic and, therefore, these people would not want theidea of labeling their food products. The opponents argue that labelson food products have a negative impact especially when addressingthe issue of Genetically Modified Organisms in the foods we eat. Dueto such kind of opponents, the labeling bill was defeated inCalifornia in 2012 and Washington in 2013.

MonsantoSeed Companies

Thisis a giant seed producing company in the United States accounting formore than 80 percent of the total corn produced and way above 93percent of the soybeans. Being a market leader, its financialposition is clear to all and sundry. Any measures and policies thatcan impact negatively on the profits of the company are likely toface opposition. On this stance, Monsanto Seed Company is inopposition to the labeling bill as it is likely to lower their sales.Monsanto dominates the American food and seed chain mainly composedof genetically modified seeds. Based on this market domination, theimportance of GMO’s to Monsanto Seed company is rated at five (5)since GMO’s mean everything to the company.

Thefood labeling policies imposed by Vermont were so serious to Monsantothat the company decided to file a petition in court suing Vermontover its labeling regulations. This was a strategic measure intendedto give Monsanto Seed Company a chance to continue dominating in afree US market. Labeling has stirred antagonism and fear among manypeople in Vermont State. Monsanto has even been accused of sponsoringuniversity labs so as to conduct experiments


Foodlabeling has received mixed reactions from farmers in the state ofVermont over the years. Different farmers have expressed differentperspectives for quite some time. However, many farmers were found tobe in agreement of the labeling. This was important to these farmersas it enabled them understand well the constitution of the seeds theyplanted.

Inthe article AtlanticMonthly, MollyBill depicts a scenario of farmers demonstrating with placardsagainst the concept of genetically modified organisms. The farmersclaim that one contaminated farm is one too many. To them, it time tostand up in unity against genetically modified organisms in theirfarms. In this perspective, the importance of GMO labeling issue israted at 5 as the farmers are seen to value it so much that theywould want to have all the available information about the seeds theyplant in their farms.

FirstProcessors (e.g., ADM)

ADMis the world’s largest cocoa beans processor. Being first cerealsprocessors, ADM is likely to have objections to the food labelingregulations. Use of genetically modified organisms is a likelyphenomenon in first processing companies. ADM would opposelegislation pushing for labeling of foods because it wants to makemore sales. If foods are labeled as some people want, then it wouldmean that consumers will be able to tell the level of GMO’s in thefoods before they buy.

Sincethe concept of genetically modified organisms is perceived negativelyby some groups of people, this is likely to have an implication ofsome people not wanting to buy any foods with genetically modifiedingredients. Therefore, the importance of Genetically ModifiedOrganisms to first processors is of paramount importance, and it canbe rated at four (4).


Foodprocessors across the world are mainly focused on non-GMO. They arealso focused on organic soybeans. Food processors have differentperspectives towards genetically modified organisms depending ontheir objectives. Some food processors may want to maximize theirproduction

InternationalDimensions to Food Labeling

Foodlabeling is important as it helps consumers understand usefulinformation concerning the ingredients of foods they eat, and thenutritional value of the foods and how they are supposed to serve thefoods. Different countries have put legislations in place to curbrogue food processing companies ad ensure that labels are put in allfood containers. Internationally, there are no stringent regulationson the issue of food labeling. The European Union, for example,provides a list of regulations governing all its member countries onhow to place labels on food products (Plan, 2010). However, theseregulations are not binding to other countries outside the EU. It isimportant for one to understand food labeling regulations of othercountries how those countries define and identify labeling of foodproducts.

and Assessment

Foodlabeling is a significant measure in food production industries. Inthe article AtlanticMonthly byMolly Ball, a case is presented for Vermont State whose residents areagitating for food labeling. People gathered and discussed theconcept of genetically modified organisms and the whole issue of foodlabeling. Due to complaints from the public, debates were organizedat various levels trying to find a common ground on the issue of foodlabeling. Citizens of Vermont claimed that putting labels on foodpackages could enable them understand the composition of any tracesof GMOs in the foods they buy.

Thisdebate was taken further to the Congress where a bill was introducedto enforce legislation that would regulate food industries. In thestate of Vermont, democrats and republicans perceived food labelingdifferently. There were both proponents and the opponents of the ideaand the bill on food labeling. The proponents in favor of foodlabeling argued that when labels are put on the foods, the consumersare able to access useful information about the foods they areconsuming. It is argued that a consumer should be able to tellwhether or not the foods they are consuming contain GMOs in theiringredients. On the hand, the opponents argued that there was norelationship between science and food labeling. As such, the conceptof labeling foods was not a priority.

Onthe assessment of these developments, the measure to enforcelegislation regulating food industry is an important strategy. Theinternational dimension of food labeling should be harmonized so thatfree trade is not affected or derailed by variations in legislationsgoverning various countries. It is important for other countries toembrace the idea of food labeling with clear scientific basisexplaining all the ingredients of the foods.

Plan,D. (2010). TheEU Legislation on GMOs an Overview.Luxembourg: Publications Office.

MollyB. (2014). AtlanticMonthly.

Vaclavik,V., &amp Christian, E. (2008). Essentialsof food science(3rd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.