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Meineke, Kyle

Hampel, Judy

English 1001


Should Genetically Modified Food Be Labeled by Law?

Do you know what you are eating every day? In 1996, Genetically Modified Food was

introduced into the United States food supply. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants,

animals or microorganisms where the genetic material has been altered. Carol Bartolotto from the

Huffington Post explains that Genetically Engineered Food (GE or GEF) is food that has DNA from

bacteria and viruses spliced into the seeds DNA to help the plants tolerate weed killers such as Round

Up (1). Currently in this country, soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, some

zucchini, yellow squash and alfalfa are grown from genetically engineered seeds. She writes that nine

out of ten people in this country think that these foods should be labeled by law, but biotech companies

and corporations are spending millions of dollars to prevent forced labeling. For over twenty years, the

people of the United States have been participating in the consumption of products that have been

genetically modified. Arguments have arisen on both sides about the safety of Genetically Modified

Foods. Some people have called for all engineered foods to be labeled and on the other side are

scientists and companies who fight vehemently against it. We will explore the concerns connected with

the GMO foods and why people feel it is significant enough for mandatory labeling.

Genetically Modified Organisms were designed many years ago to address growing concerns

from around the world. With the invention of these engineered plants, a growing body of people have

become concerned that the people of the United States have become unwilling guinea pigs in a

dangerous science experiment. Currently, over 60 other countries in the world require legal labeling of

genetically modified food. In the article by Consumer Reports Magazine, GMO Foods: What You

Need to Know, the author explains that, a joint commission of the World Health Organization and the
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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has established a protocol for evaluating the

safety of the GMOs, which it says has the potential to introduce toxins and new allergens, or increase

the levels of existing ones, or cause nutritional changes in foods and other unexpected effects. (1).

The author cited a survey that questioned 1004 participants. Of the 1004 people questioned, 92% of

them felt that engineered foods should be labeled. The article noted that various other ingredients such

as high fructose corn syrup, homogenized oils, etc. are all required to be noted on the labels so

genetically modified food should be no different.

Genetically engineered foods were started in the United States, but there are questions of the

safety of this food from all over the world. The world map shown below, represents what countries

have required labeling for GMO foods as noted in the green color and the tan color shows the countries

that do not require labeling. The number of countries which require labeling by law is 64, which

appears to be close to half of the world. If the safety concerns about this food are completely

unfounded, then why do so many countries believe that people have the right to be informed about the

food they eat?

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Countries that require labels on GMO foods. Naturalnews.com. Justlabelit.org, 20 June

2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Many scientists assure people that genetically engineered food is completely safe and beneficial

to everyone, so what is the problem? People feel that there are enough concerns connected to GM

foods that labeling should be required by law so that everyone can make informed choices. Some of

the concerns noted were herbicide use, health concerns, environmental studies, animal studies, and

questionable testing procedures. The opposition argues that the world would be facing a food shortage

without the engineered food, and the modifications being made are saving lives. They say that labeling

these foods will theoretically create a cross and skull bones on them, that people will be afraid of the

food. This fear will in turn cause companies not to use them in their products and in the long run, all

food costs will go up for everyone. In addition to that, they assert that we will not be able to feed a

growing population without the modifications that have been made to the plants we eat.

Herbicides are a chemical sprayed onto food crops to keep weeds from becoming overgrown

and killing the plants. Fewer weeds also keep the soil from having to be disturbed more than necessary

which is better for the growing seeds. When foods started to be engineered in laboratories, scientists

spliced a gene into the seeds so that the resulting plants would be resistant to glyphosate which is the

most widely used herbicide in the United States. This means that all food crops could be sprayed with

weed killer, and the food producing plants would not be affected. In the National Geographic

Magazine, Elizabeth Grossman explains how the use of the herbicide glyphosate, also known as

Round Up, has changed over the years. She writes, Introduced commercially by Monsanto in 1974,

glyphosate kills weeds by blocking proteins essential to plant growth. It is now used in more than 160

countries with more than 1.4 billion pounds applied per year. (1). At first this method worked well for

inhibiting weed growth, but problems soon followed. Fixing one problem led directly into the second

problem because of the heavy reliance on this herbicide. Philip Landrigan and Charles Benbrook
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argue, Not surprisingly, glyphosate-resistant weeds have emerged and are found today on nearly 100

million acres in 36 states. Fields must now be treated with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D, a

component of the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War. The widespread adoption of

herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate5. In the

United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 -- from 0.4 million kg in 1974

to 113 million kg in 2014. Global use has increased by a factor of more than 10. (693). The

widespread use of glyphosate has created resistant weeds, forcing farmers to use more much more

glyphosate on the crops as well as more dangerous herbicides to fix the problem that the genetic

engineering created. In an article written by Abbie Goldbas in the International Journal of Childbirth

Education, she reviewed an article and found that genetically modified soybeans have more chemical

residues including the herbicide Glyphosate a possible contributor to chronic diseases and female

hormonal imbalances. (22). This means that the increasing use of these chemicals is not only forcing

more chemicals to be used but also penetrating the food we eat. Crops which require increasing

amounts of herbicides to be used, translate into foods with higher amounts of herbicides.

Another concern that people have with Genetically Modified Food is the potential for health

risks. Pesticides have been linked to cancer, liver disease, and other health concerns. Authors Philip J,

Landrigan and Charles Benbrook write in their article, GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health, that

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate, the herbicide

most widely used on GM crops, as a, probable human carcinogen and classified a second herbicide,

2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as a possible human carcinogen. (693). The most used

herbicide in the entire United States and around the world has been listed as being a probable human

carcinogen, even though the creators of the chemical insist that it is safe. This is one reason why so

many countries require the modified foods to be labeled. One other health hazard is that with

the creation of plants that produce more food or larger plants is the introduction of toxins and allergens

into the food that did not exist before, or even increasing the amount of an allergen. Jeffrey Smith who
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writes for the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, described disturbing trends with

genetically engineered soy crops. He wrote, Another study verified that GM soybeans contain an

IgE-binding allergenic protein not found in non-GM soy controls, and that one of eight subjects who

showed a skin-prick allergic reaction to GM soy had no reaction to non-GM soy. (Smith, 2007) With

the potential to add or increase existing allergens this information could be crucial for allergy sufferers.

Other researchers and scientists have conducted animal studies on Genetically Modified Foods

which raise concerns about the safety of the food based on the disturbing outcomes for the rats who

were fed only foods which had been engineered in a laboratory. The argument is that the evidence

speaks for the need to inform the consumer because of potential dangers. In the article, Genetically

Modified Organisms in United States Agriculture: Mandate for Food Labeling, the authors discuss

disturbing findings from rat studies of GM foods. Evidence for the toxicity of GMO foods has been

put forth in a randomized, controlled trial demonstrating that rats fed GMO feed have a two to three-

fold increased risk of developing lethal tumors, liver and kidney disorders, and death. (808). Rats

that were fed only GMO foods had increased tumor formation and mortality. With this testing, the rats

were fed grains that did not contain the pesticides which means that it was the actual genetic mutation

that caused the health issues. Further testing also noted infertility, birth defects, neurological problems,

and cancer. These findings indicate that further testing needs to be done and analyzed before these

foods are considered safe.

Ecological worries are another issue that have been connected to Genetically Modified Foods.

With the significant amounts of herbicides used each year, how does this affect the environment? A

recent USGS study sampled waterways in 38 states and found glyphosate in many rivers, streams,

ditches, and wastewater treatment plant outfalls tested. (1). With this amount of water affected in our

environment, simply eating only non-engineered food may not guarantee that you are not exposed to

some of the potential hazards produced from the engineered foods. As well as in the waterways,
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Glyphosate also was found in about 70 percent of rainfall samples. It attaches pretty firmly to soil

particles that are swept off farm fields then stay in the atmosphere for a relatively long time until they

dissolve off into water. (1). These numbers raise serious safety questions about the widespread use of

the herbicide.

One of the final problems in assessing the safety of this engineered food is about the testing

procedures that are used. In a newspaper article written by Anna Medaris Miller titled Are GMOs

Really That Harmful to Eat, the author reviewed a book by Druker on GMO foods. In the book,

Drucker wrote that the FDA had not followed their own rules when approving Genetically Modified

Foods. He wrote that, Our law was set up to be precautionary, so that you and your families are not

subjected to new foods with questionable additives until those additives have been demonstrated safe to

a reasonable certainty of no harm. There's not a single genetic re-engineered food that has met those

criteria that's not a correct situation. (1). The FDA was created in this country to protect people

from foods and drugs that may cause potential harm. As they have not determined a need to ban these

foods, it seems that at the least there should be a requirement to inform people. A second concern

regarding a conflict of interest is that most of the testing being conducted which finds no safety

concerns is being conducted by the biotech companies that produce and sell the seeds. In an article by

Marek Cuhra he reviewed many different safety studies of GMO crops and found, Thus, the literature

review indicates that there are relatively few representative studies available for regulatory evaluation

of scientific evidence on herbicide-tolerant crop quality and safety. Furthermore, it is found that most

available studies are presented as reports from compositional analyses and animal feeding studies, and

predominantly performed either by biotech industry companies (with potentially conflicting interests in

research outcome) or by subcontractors working for the biotech industry companies. (8). Safety

testing on something as important as the food we eat should be conducted by people outside of the

developers and sellers to assure that conflicts of interest do not occur.

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Many scientists believe that GMO foods are the answer to many of the worlds problems and

should not have to be labeled. There are differing views on the need to label Genetically Engineered

Foods. Some scientists believe that legally having to label GE and GM foods will scare away

consumers and create a belief that the food is harmful. The scientists who feel this way believe the

food to be harmless and in many cases, more beneficial than the unaltered food. Lawrence Gostin

explains that, Potential benefits of genetically modified crops include development of disease and

drought resistance crops, decreased use of pesticides, more nutritious and tastier food, and food with

longer shelf life. The benefits of GMO products are important in highly developed countries like the

United States, but in lower-income countries whose people experience food insecuritysometimes

famineit can be a matter of life or death. (2345). In cases like these, GM and GE foods can be

helpful in the fight for the cure for world hunger, and can even help people receive the nutrients and

vitamins they need to survive. On the surface, of course this looks like a good thing. The problem is

that the studies do not condone blind support for these crops. Besides health, animal and

environmental concerns is one large concern that no one can answer the question of what the long-term

effects will be from a lifetime of eating these foods when they have existed for such a short time.

Fixing some problems, but creating whole new ones is not a true benefit.

In a journal article by Gurau and Ranchhod, the authors describe that the benefits of genetically

engineered foods are dependent on the way the society views the food. As many in the United States

have labeled it Frankenfood, they argue that the methods of rearranging the genes between organisms

have been occurring for many years and that the techniques in the laboratory are simply a way to speed

up the process. (25). They argue that it is merely a continuation of ancient breeding practices and that

it is the only viable solution available. Gurau and Ranchhod give an extensive analysis of how

different people of different cultures view Genetically Engineered Foods. They conclude by noting that

these foods at the least offer a hope of huge potential. Over the course of this paper, I have explored

the question of whether Genetically Modified Foods should be required by law to be labeled. I do see
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the potential benefits that these foods have in a world where many go hungry. The argument that I

have presented though, is that GMO foods should be labeled. I have never argued that these foods

should be banned completely, but a consumer should have a right to know what they are purchasing.

There are enough safety questions surrounding the invention and use of these foods that consumers

should be given the choice to be aware of what they are eating if they choose.

One simple question that people ask is, Dont I have the right to know what I am buying and

eating? Other ingredients that have been considered questionable such as trans fats and High Fructose

Corn Syrup are required to be labeled. All possible allergens are also required to be labeled so if

modified foods may introduce new allergens into the food it seems logical that consumers should be

made aware of the fact that what he or she is eating has been genetically modified. The reason we

should be concerned about this topic is the fact that so many foods these days have GMOs in them, and

without investigating every item you want to buy to make sure it does, or doesnt have GMOs in them,

we are not able to make an informed decision about our purchases. Those food choices could

potentially be affecting your health and the environment right now. What I hope you as the reader get

out of this, is that you have been enlightened that there is more to your food than a simple choice of

what sounds good. There are enough questionable circumstances around GM food that everyone

should stay informed about the possible risks. One of the ways you can make educated choices is if

foods that were genetically engineered, were labeled on the packaging.

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Works Cited

Consumer Reports Magazine. GMO Foods: What you Need To know. N,P., 26 Feb. 2015.

Web. 16 Mar. 2017.

Goldbas, Abbie, M.S. Ed J.D. "GMOs: What are they?" International Journal of Childbirth

Education 29.3 (2014): 20-4. ProQuest.

Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Cuhra, Marek. "Review of GMO safety assessment studies: glyphosate residues in Roundup Ready

crops is an ignored issue." Environmental Sciences Europe 27.1 (2015): 1-14.

Web. 26 Mar. 17.

Smith, Jeffrey. "POINT OF VIEW: Genetically Modified Foods Unsafe? Evidence that Links GM

Foods to Allergic Responses Mounts | GEN Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News -

Biotech from Bench to Business." GEN. N.p., 01 Nov. 2007.

Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Landrigan, Philip J., and Charles Benbrook. "GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health." The New

England journal of medicine 373.8 (2015): 693-5. ProQuest.

Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Grossman, Elizabeth. "What Do We Really Know About Roundup Weed Killer?" National Geo

graphic. National Geographic Society, 22 Mar. 2017.

Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Armenakas, Sophia, and Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas. "Genetically-Modified Organisms in United

States Agriculture: Mandate for Food Labeling." Food and Nutrition Sciences 04.08 (2013):


Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

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Works Cited

Armenakas, Sophia, and Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas. "Genetically-Modified Organisms in United

States Agriculture: Mandate for Food Labeling." Food and Nutrition Sciences 04.08 (2013):


Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Countries that require labels on GMO foods. Digital image. Natural News. justlabelit.org, 20 June


Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Medaris, Anna. "Are GMOs Really That Harmful to Eat? | Wellness | US News." Health.usnews. N.p.,

29 Apr. 2015.

Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Gostin LO. Genetically Modified Food Labeling: A Right to Know?. JAMA. 2016;316(22):2345-

2346. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.17476

Web. 27 Mar. 2017

Guru, Clin, and Ashok Ranchhod. "The futures of genetically-modified foods: Global threat or pana

cea?" Futures 83 (2016): 24-36. Science Direct.

Web. 27 Mar. 2017.