Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gary Hirshberg: Why GE Labeling Makes Sense

Gary Hirshberg: Why GE Labeling Makes Sense

I am often asked about why GE ingredients should be present on our food labels, as well as whether the government actually has the power and responsibility to label.
In a recent presentation at TEDxManhattan, I tried to address these questions, and have highlighted many of them here.

What are GE crops? Haven't we been genetically engineering crops since the first seed breeders thousands of years ago?

GE plants or animals have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.
In other words, these are organisms created by the transfer and introduction of genetic material from other species in ways that could not occur in nature or through traditional breeding methods. Monsanto is one of the leading firms in this space. Their website draws a clear distinction between genetically engineered and conventionally bred crops.

Interestingly, the U.S. Commerce Department and specifically the U.S. Patent Office clearly sees these organisms as something unique and new, for they have granted the seed-chemical companies hundreds of patents for these new life forms. And these companies have spent many millions of dollars vigorously and successfully defending their patents from infringement.

Yet over at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is general presumption that these foods are essentially the same as non-GE foods. In fact, the policy at FDA is that as long as GE crops are "substantially equivalent" to non-GE crops in terms of nutritional parameters like calories, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein, they are ALSO presumably safe, and therefore do not necessitate labels to make consumers aware of when they are buying and eating these foods.

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