U.S. should label

During a biosafety conference in Montreal last week, delegates from 131 countries signed a treaty addressing the labeling of genetically modified foods. The agreement will speed the labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms and allow countries the right to ban the controversial foods. Although unable to sign the pact, the United States reluctantly endorsed it. However, greater regulation of genetically modified organisms is necessary to ensure that consumers are fully informed of the products they purchase and that nations have the right to ban goods they consider to be potentially unsafe.
The controversial crops have been the subject of much debate in Europe and Asia for several years. After an environmentalist-led grass-roots movement spread throughout Europe, the European Union began labeling products containing genetically modified plants, and some countries banned them altogether. In the United States, however, the issue received little attention until the recent World Trade Organization convention in Seattle. As more consumers wondered about the safety of the genetically modified plants that go into most of the foods in U.S. groceries, the biotechnology companies have increased their lobbying efforts to limit regulation of the $50 billion industry.
Consumers, both domestic and abroad, should be fully informed of the contents of the products they purchase. In the United States, food products are especially regulated to ensure their safety and quality. The Food and Drug Administration requires that all of the ingredients of food be listed on the label. The required nutrition facts section of the label extensively lists the nutritional value for consumers who need or desire to be informed. Within the past few years, the FDA actually revised this section to ensure clear and full disclosure to consumers.
Full disclosure of genetically modified food is necessary because of ethical and environmental concerns consumers might have. Many consumers object to what they perceive to be unethical interference in modification of natural processes. They are concerned that genetically modified foods could be unhealthy as a result of gene manipulation, and that human beings do not have the right to interfere in a natural process. Environmentalists are concerned new disease strains might evolve from interacting with these foods.
The treaty will also preserve the right of nations to reject trade of products they have legitimate concerns about. The agreement usurps the WTO’s mandate that trade of particular goods can only be refused because of evidence supported by scientific proof.
Biotechnology corporations have been aggressively opposed to regulation of their products. Although the United States did not sign the treaty, it should increase domestic support of labeling genetically modified foods. Consumers have the right to be informed that supersedes the profit interests of large corporations.