My baby Violet recently started eating solid foods, and as I’ve watched her gobble up the organic produce that I’ve purchased and pureed, I’ve been struck by the purity of the process. She is such a happy recipient of the whole foods being presented to her! I know it won’t last forever — food gets more complicated as kids grow and are exposed to processed items — but at the very least, we can teach our kids to read ingredient labels and make good choices based on the information presented, right?
Apparently not here in the United States.
I recently learned from Stonyfield about the Just Label It campaign, through which more than 400 businesses and organizations are rallying consumers to stand up for full disclosure when it comes to genetically engineered foods (GEs; also known as genetically modified foods or GMOs). Genetically engineered foods represent foods that are not possible naturally, such as crops engineered to withstand temperatures and livestock raised on genetically engineered grains and hormones to accelerate growth. It’s also estimated that 60-70% of non-organic processed foods in U.S. grocery stores probably contain some genetically engineered material. Why is this bad? Genetically engineered foods do not benefit consumers but pose potential health risks – the long term effects of which we don’t have a clear picture — yet the FDA does not require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods in the U.S., even though disclosure is standard practice in 15 European Union nations, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries around the world.
The FDA’s lack of regulation disturbs me both as a trained scientist and as a mom. My research was about as tame and non-invasive as it gets — I studied how people perceive music and other types of sounds — but I was required to submit my experimental protocol to an institutional review board, engage in HIPAA training, and administer informed consent forms to my listeners. Full disclosure of experimental procedures was mandatory and expected. In contrast, the FDA does not require disclosure of inclusion of GE ingredients in foods – an act that seems tantamount to engaging consumers in an experiment without informed consent. And as a mom, the lack of regulation troubles me because I do read labels; it’s one of the first things I recommend to others who wish to improve their eating habits. So the lack of regulation feels as if due diligence in reading labels is not enough.
The good news is that is not the case. We can take simple steps to protect our families. Just Label It offers a fantastic list of 8 things you can do to make your voice heard and avoid consumption of GE foods. I urge you to sign the petition (it takes just a few seconds…really!), then check out the shopping tips. Because by the time our kids are old enough to read labels, I want full disclosure. Don’t you?