Another Look at GMO Labelling…

DSCN9617Today, a simple bag of Ukrainian poppy seed biscuits sparked a renewed interest in the GM labelling debate for me.  These cookies are imported from Kiev, Ukraine, and my father bought me two bags as a treat, because he knows I really like them.   As I was putting them away at home, I noticed on the very bottom of the back of the bag, two small words:   “без ГМО”.  Translated, “without GMO”.  Woo hoo!  Now I love them even more!

Once my excitement wore off, I had my epiphany….if a relatively small, financially and politically challenged country like Ukraine can “afford” to add extra labelling to identify non-GMO food, why is it such a big deal here in North America?  My husband, Ralph, pointed out that most of these cookies are probably exported to countries within Europe, where demand for GMO labelling has resulted in most countries providing this information.  (Click here for a map)

One of the arguments against labelling of GMO’s is that it will raise the price of food items.  An anti-labelling journalist wrote: “Labels won’t help consumers make better decisions, but they’ll increase the cost of food because the labels aren’t free. They represent a significant new regulation on farmers and food companies. The added expense of compliance will be passed along to consumers. We’ll all pay more for what they eat at grocery stores and restaurants.”

This is total you-know-what.  As we all know, the cost of adjusting labelling on food products is absorbed by manufacturers all the time…and let’s face it, it’s processed food that needs labelling the most.  Processed foods “hide” many GMO ingredients.  Examples are salad dresssings (GM oils), baked goods and breakfast cereals, snack foods, pop/soda, etc.  Anything sweetened more than likely has GM corn, by way of high fructose corn syrup or GM sugar beets.

Manufacturers change labels all the time, not only to “update” their look, but to capitalize on eating and purchasing trends.  An example is putting “cholesterol free” on apple sauce.  When you know that cholesterol is not found in fruits and vegetables, this statement is redundant.  And yet, the labelling may sway buyers if they think it’s better for them.  This type of extra labelling is done all the time by processors, to get more people to buy their products.

At a recent meeting, a university researcher told us that food marketers basically don’t really care if something is GMO or non-GMO.  Their concern is for their bottom dollar, ie. to provide what the customers want.  When Whole Foods announced that they would have GM labelling throughout all their stores by 2018, they made other retailers pay attention.  If Whole Foods starts to gain market share as a result of providing labelling, you can bet other stores will be following suit, and will be requiring their suppliers to provide GM labels.

Jeffrey Smith believes that there is a “tipping point“, at which time, if enough consumers demand non-GM food, the food industry will be forced to provide it.  As awareness of genetically modified food increases, and people are choosing non-GMO, we are getting closer and closer to that point.

Which leads me to my happy conclusion… as much as labelling of GM foods will make it simpler to make food shopping decisions, we do not need labels to affect change.  All we have to do is vote with our pocket book.  If 10% of consumers start demanding GM free food, and only buying certified organic or Non GMO Project verified labels, you can bet your bottom dollar that farmers and food processors alike are going to pay attention, and will make the switch.  There’s a great recap of how to avoid GM foods at the store here.

By all means, let’s keep asking for GM labelling, but more importantly, let’s put our money where our mouth is!



4 responses to this post.

  1. Delicious Read Julie. Thanks for the links too!


  2. I agree about the need for GMO labeling.


  3. Julie this is off topic (I loved this write-up) but if you know of any recipes for gluten-free dumplings/perogies I would love to see them….! Or if you have tips on making them. You are my kitchen guru. : )


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