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DES MOINES REGISTER CALLS FOR LABELING OF GMO FOODS
Des Moines Register Op-Ed:

A fight is brewing between America's consumers and the giant businesses that grow and manufacture our nation's foods. At issue is the use of so-called GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, in those foods.

The fight over genetic engineering boils down to this underlying disagreement:

Consumers want to know what is in the foods they are eating. They want government - either their state or, better yet, the federal government - to require growers and processors to label their products to disclose the presence of GMOs so shoppers know what is in the foods they are buying at the supermarket.

Those growers, manufacturers and processors don't want to be forced to go to the expense of labeling their many products. And they especially don't want the government telling them what they must do. Besides, these companies say, research has shown that GMOs are not harmful to people's health.

The fight ratcheted up several notches this spring when Vermont became the first state to require labeling of foods made with GMOs when they are sold in that state. One giant trade organization, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, has sued in an attempt to block the Vermont law.

The debate really hasn't occurred in Iowa in a prominent way, in part because of the prevalence of GMOs in Iowa agriculture and because of the clout that such agribusinesses as DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto wield in this state. But that doesn't mean there aren't strong feelings in Iowa on both sides of the GMO labeling debate.

Even though Congress has done its best to ignore the labeling issue, agriculture and business interests are kidding themselves if they think the push for GMO disclosure is going to blow over anytime soon.

Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, told Gannett's Christopher Doering last week, "We're in the midst of an area of food democracy the likes of which we've never seen. People want to know everything about their food, what's in it, who made it, where it's from, how it's made. The politicians who are trying to deny people the right to know about their food are running headlong into this sort of brick wall of opposition."

Doering reported last week that food and agribusiness companies, including Monsanto and DuPont, are supporting a bill by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., that would ban mandatory GMO food labeling by the states and let food companies decide if they want to disclose the presence of GMOs on their package labels.

That's not going to be sufficient for the people who are buying these companies' products. Consumers want transparency.

More than 60 other nations already give their shoppers that information so they can decide whether it's an issue for them if foods they buy contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Corporate America is fighting a losing battle over the GMO issue. Consumers wanted to know - and now product labels tell them - how much sugar is in their foods. Consumers have been pressuring restaurant chains to post the calorie counts for their various products, and those chains are coming around to understand the consumers' wishes.

It's the same with the use of GMOs. Congress should set a nationwide standard of disclosure and then let the individual consumers decide whether the presence of GMOs in a product is something that concerns them.

But keeping consumers in the dark is never the right thing to do.


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