Over my short 25 years as a “meat head” I have witnessed a continual expansion of the rules for labeling our products.
These changes, in my opinion, have been both good and bad. Expanding the detail of what one must declare from ingredients and allergens is good from the standpoint of providing more information to the consumer; having to identify the country of origin is not as good, as it creates an unnecessary and unfair environment for our trading partners.
Most recently the powers that be are considering making it mandatory for processors to declare if “GMOs” — genetically modified organisms — were used in the production of their products.
For me, I have to ask the obvious question: Why? Why always more to declare — is it to inform the consumer, to protect the consumer, to confuse the consumer, or to scare the consumer….
In many cases, like with the mandatory declaration of country of origin, most American consumers have no idea that the animals although born in one country — Canada — were actually raised and slaughtered in the good old USA.
In order to get to the truth one must look at the history of labeling.
Few know that the first mandatory label was in the early 13th century. The king of England proclaimed the first food regulatory law — “the assize of bread” — a law that prohibited bakers from mixing ground peas and beans into bread dough.
- 1862: President Lincoln launches the Department of Agriculture
- 1906: Food and Drug Act is passed
- 1906: Meat Inspection Act is passed
- 1965: Fair Packaging and Liability Act is passed
- 1973: California Certified Organic Farmers is formed
- 1990: Nutrition Labeling and Education Act is passed
- 2004: Passage of the Food Allergy </li> <li>Labeling and Consumer Protection Act
- 2014: FDA proposes sweeping changes to nutrition facts on labels
All of which brings us to the present debate, whether the consumer needs to know whether the products they are eating contain GMOs. The challenge in all of these decisions is that without the proper education these declarations serve only to confuse and create unnecessary fear in the consumer.
Would consumers know?
- That only after 5 years of extensive testing for the effects of GMOs on human health and health of the environment the first genetically modified crop of beef tomatoes was approved for commercial production by the US Department of Agriculture?
- That the purpose of genetically modifying crops is to enhance their nutritional value and to protect crops against insects, plant diseases and or viruses, and that after rigorous testing it has been determined by the WHO that GMO foods do not pose any greater risk to humans than non GMO foods?
If the past is any indication of the future and declaring GMOs on our labels will become mandatory, let’s hope this time consumers, along with hearing about the myths associated with GMO’s, will also become educated on the history and benefits.
After all, if it wasn’t for genetically modified organisms we would all still be walking on all fours. I suppose there is an argument that some among us still do…..