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GMO labels protect consumers
Published 11/6/2012 6:00:00 AM
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I ate a science experiment today. As a matter of fact, so did you.

You may have noticed the petitioners on the mall for the past week asking students, “are you registered to vote?” They were collecting signatures to support Initiative 522, which requires the full disclosure labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering.

A genetically modified organism, or GMO, is any living entity man-made processes have tampered with.

This is an issue because the scientific community doesn’t know the long-term effects of GMOs. Buyers need to have the right to decide for themselves whether the cheaper price is worth the as-yet uncalculated risks. If there are negative effects, it’s better to give consumers control now than after those effects are discovered.

Therefore, foods containing GMOs should be labeled so consumers can take charge of what they put in their bodies. I-522 needs to be enacted into law.

In a few cases, the negative effects of using GMOs in food production have already been established.

When GMOs were first introduced into the farming community, ‘Roundup Ready’ crops were among the most attractive elements of their integration. These plants resisted the herbicides agricultural workers used to kill weeds, allowing farmers to use those herbicides without fear of harming their crops.

As a result, a new strain of weeds adapted and developed an immunity to the herbicide, and this nuisance negatively affected both organic and non-organic farmers alike, according to a study in The Plant Journal.

A law requiring manufacturers to reveal whether GMOs are included in a product could help promote the sale of organic produce, counteracting the detrimental consequences of GMOs in the organic farming industry.

Unmarked genetically engineered food may also cause the consumer to unintentionally violate their religious beliefs.

For instance, Judaism requires food preparation follow the laws of kashrut, a specific set of dietary restrictions. These restrictions require meat and dairy products remain separated and forbid the consumption of hare, camel, rock badger and pig, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

Since creating GMOs often involves pulling a gene from one species and inserting that gene into the genetic code of another species, it’s possible to inadvertently violate these laws without the consumer knowing.

This strips the individual of power over his or her own body and beliefs.

Required labeling of genetically engineered products is not a new concept. The text of I-522 states that 49 countries already enforce similar laws and 90 percent of the public supports the idea.

If the initiative passes, Washington state will not pioneer a new form of government involvement in the private sector. Instead we will simply catch up to the rest of the world in standing up for consumer rights.

Keep in mind, genetically modified organisms do not represent an entirely negative departure from traditional farming practices. Some of them, such as the vitamin A-infused ‘Golden Rice’ help provide a nutritious diet to humans living in conditions where obtaining a nutritious diet presents a challenge.

I take issue, not with the existence of GMOs on our grocery store shelves, but with their ninja-like integration with non-GMO products. The average consumer does not and should not have to tote their laptop to the grocery store so they can research the origin of every product they purchase. Manufacturers should print this information on their packaging.

-Calley Hair is a sophomore communication major from Redmond. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.

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