Thursday, July 9, 2015

American consumer, the law makers and the Science-A big cauldron waiting to boil over!

Though genetically modified foods are predominantly produced and marketed in the United States, most consumers are either unaware of it or are helpless to do any thing to stem this trend of overwhelming GMO containing foods. The safety or otherwise of GMO foods is still a matter that divides humanity into opposing camps, one section finding no fault with them while the others vehemently loathing them. The gravity of the problem can be realized from the fact that even among scientists there is no consensus on this issue and how can one blame the consumer to take a stand on this burning issue. Whatever it is, in the US of to day consumers have no choice but to accept foods made from GMO raw materials and ingredients unless one has the wherewithal to spend a fortune to switch over to 100% organic foods. The fight that is going on to day in that country centers around the so called constitutional right of the citizen to know what he is eating and for that what they are asking is to just declare on the label of products whether GMO ingredients are there or not in the food packet. A well reasoned demand though the industry, politicians and bureaucrats do not think so, obviously because of pecuniary considerations.

Look at the stand taken by the safety watch dogs in that country viz Food and Drug Administration and US Dept of Agriculture both of which considers genetically altered foods "practically" same as their natural counterparts and therefore felt there is no need to specifically mention about their presence in any food on the label. One is left with the impression that the US wants to be a unique country in swimming against international views on almost all issues, probably because of the arrogance of power, being the only super power left in the global landscape after the demise of erstwhile Soviet Union. Other wise it is difficult to explain why it is cocking a snook at 64 other countries which have made label declaration about GMO foods mandatory! Why is this happening in a country which is supposed to be the beacon for all democracies in the world? Obvious answer is the nexus among politicians, bureaucrats and industry lobbyists to deny the consumer his right and make unholy money for their own welfare!

A peep into the American situation will reveal this paradox. According to recent reports a fierce food fight is going on in the Congress over the labeling of genetically engineered foods.with a substantial section of the law makers trying to block any move to enforce mandatory labeling of GMO foods in any part of the country. Is it not a paradox that in a federal system of governance, where states enjoy high degree of freedom to legislate, their right is being usurped by the federal government through an insidious bill that will block the power of states to enact any law that will mandate compulsory labeling of GMO foods! Who are these law makers trying to help? Of course the GMO industry giants who have a stranglehold on the American economy through their close nexus with politicians. This attempt comes in the wake of three states already putting on the statute book law that requires labeling of foods marketed in their area. Attempts in the past by some big states like California to legislate on similar lines were frustrated by saturated misleading campaign by the GMO lobby pumping millions of dollars to brain wash the voters. 
The attempt to pass a law called "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act" if passed asks for setting up a voluntary nationwide labeling system overseen by the federal government. This bill, popularly renamed by the consumer activist groups as "DARK Act", acronym for Deny All the Right to Know" Act! Protagonists of GMO foods invariably argue that about 90 percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered, meaning that the crops have been artificially altered to use less water or resist pests and no calamity has befallen in the country. Also other supporters cite the clearance given by The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization all of them who have deemed all GMOs on the market as safe. 
However a major chunk of the consumer community is not convinced fully about the safety of such foods because of the common perception that industry does not have the well being of the citizens in their mind, relentlessly pursuing efforts to increase their profits and the scandals surrounding presence of unsafe chemicals hormones, steroids, transfats,etc further reinforce their distrust about the products churned out by the manufacturers. 

At present there are no government-approved labels to let consumers in the U.S. know which foods are derived from GMOs.It is funny that the US Government wants to leave to individual manufacturers to make any label declaration to indicate that their products are free from GMO ingredients without taking any responsibility to verify such claims! That has prompted many companies to advertise their food as "Non-GMO" by taking the services of existing Non-GMO Project which is a private nonprofit outfit floated by retailers. The group is claimed to be testing food products and do product segregation practices to verify that products with its butterfly seal contain less than 1 percent GMO ingredients. Can it be a long term solution when millions of consumers expect their government to come to their rescue by overseeing such label claims to infuse confidence in such products? If mandatory labeling is anathema to the political class which runs the country, least they can do is to set up a dedicated authority to verify claims of manufacturers that their products are free from GMO substances.Will this happen?  Depends on the intensity of struggle by the consumers on the government to sensitize them on this critical issue.


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