Food companies do not want to add to any unnecessary hysteria among
consumers that foods produced through biotechnology are fundamentally
different (let alone inferior or unsafe) as compared to conventionally
produced foods. Many companies fear that any labeling would be perceived
by consumers as a warning or red flag towards biotech-derived foods.
It may also be confusing to many consumers that food labels are not
required to contain information on how the foods are produced. Instead
they contain information on food ingredients and potential health
concerns. Labeling is required when the biotech derived food product
is significantly different than the conventional counterpart.
Further, it has become extremely difficult for food companies to
verify if the food components they use (for example soybean oil or
corn syrup solids) are derived from biotech crops or not. The composition
of biotech food components may change from shipment to shipment, which
food companies have argued would make labeling of most processed foods
a logistical nightmare and create a huge unnecessary expense. But
Don't We as Consumers Have a "Right to Know" If We Are Consuming Biotech
Many argue that consumers do have the right to know. Consumers are
increasingly turning to organically-produced foods just for that reason.
By definition, certified organic foods cannot be derived from biotechnology-produced
crops. However, the lines become blurred as to what is a biotech product
and what is not. If a cow was fed organically grown Bt corn, is the
If most consumers are comfortable consuming biotech foods and are
not willing to pay the higher costs associated with labeling foods
as biotech-derived or not, should the food industry be forced to label
biotech foods anyway? Some argue that the anti-biotech consumers can
simply purchase organic foods and that their concerns have no scientific
basis. Others argue that biotech foods are too new to be convinced
of their safety (citing other products such as saccharin and DDT),
they oppose biotech foods on moral or religious grounds and demand
that the industry should respond to their needs.
Biotechnology covers a wide array of processes and procedures. Genetic
modifications can range from simply improving a natural corn gene
in a way that can be considered more precise standard breeding to
introducing animal genes into plants or bacterial genes into animals.
Should all products be labeled the same? I Just Don't Feel Comfortable with Biotechnology -- It's Scares Me.
Is it Morally and Religiously Right to Share DNA Across Species?
It is very difficult to "argue" with other's moral and spiritual
concerns. For example, if the DNA from a pig was inserted into a corn
plant, do those refraining from food that is not kosher have the "right
to know"? We are already putting cod fish genes into tomatoes to lengthen
their shelf life. What next? Many new technologies cause us to do
some real soul searching. These are important questions as we recognize
the dangers and the beauties of technological advancement.
A simple solution is voluntary labeling such as is done for kosher
foods for consumers who prefer such products. Mandatory labeling not
based on health or scientific considerations will make everyone pay
extra for what only some want.