According to an MSNBC poll, 96 percent of respondents strongly favor the labeling of genetically modified foods. Over 40,000 people participated in the survey which is the latest in a series of national polls showing that a vast majority of Americans still want to exercise the right of informed consumer choice when it comes to nutrition.
Blogger Rady Ananda offers a review of opinion polls conducted since 1994 to show that the numbers have always heavily favored GMO labeling. Here are some examples:
The European Commission on Agriculture procured data from the U.S. for its own report which revealed that:
“84% of the respondents favoured [GM labels] in a 1995 USDA survey in New Jersey; 93% in the 1997 Novartis survey; and 81% in the Time magazine poll. In Canada, a 1994 survey showed that 83% to 94% of Canadians polled want labelling on foods that are produced using biotechnology.”
A 2003 study by the University of Maine and the Ohio State University had 85 percent of respondents calling for the labeling of GM foods. These researchers noted that:
“Polls have emphasized that a majority of consumers in the United States (US) desire GMFs to be labeled, and legislation has been entered at both the federal and state levels. For example, HR 3377 and S 2080—the “Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Acts”—were introduced into the US House of Representatives and Senate, respectively. In addition, at least seven states have debated labeling and marketing requirements for GM foods. Further, the current lack of harmonization of policies across countries also makes GM food labeling an international trade issue.”
More recently, a CBS/New York Times poll in February found 87 percent favor labeling.
The will of the people is clear, so why are U.S. regulators ignoring it? The simplest answer might be monopoly aspirations. Opponents of GMO labeling are now easily identifiable as a small clique of lobbyists from the biotech, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries who have, themselves, been employed by one or more of the regulatory agencies which set the rules for the commercialization of food, namely the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. It matters not where the top food policy makers get their start, whether in the private sector as a biotech employee or as a bureaucrat in the regulatory apparatus. You can be sure they're always amenable to fulfilling both roles no matter their current title or position. The revolving door leadership policy adopted by the FDA has seen to it that Monsanto's main man and biotech advocate, Michael Taylor, has returned to the regulatory industry as our “Food Czar.”
Taylor's stance on GMOs is that of the USDA's which has maintained that transgenic foods are “substantially equivalent” to their unadulterated counterparts. If genetically altered organisms are, in fact, the same as the real ones they mimic, how then are they patentable? Why does a double-standard exist for the labeling of foods grown without the use of synthetic hormones or pesticides (otherwise known as organics)? Surely, synthesizing the genetic makeup of a plant qualifies it as a substantially different product which requires it to be labeled properly.
Health arguments aside, what the GMO labeling debate boils down to is informed consent, or the lack thereof, when buying food in a regulated market. No one can make nutritional decisions for anyone else, but you certainly should be able to have all the necessary information at your disposal when making those decisions for yourself.