In England, a bag of tortilla chips sports a label announcing "no GM [genetically modified] ingredients." But in the United States, where over 60 percent of processed foods contain a genetically altered ingredient, GM labeling is not required, and consumers remain largely unconcerned about it.
Farmers are pleased with genetically modified seeds resistant to pests or weed killer, and scientists are excited about advancements in genetic engineering that could improve public health. But in the recent glare of publicity focused on biotechnology, some consumers are beginning to view genetically modified foods with mounting suspicion.
Campbell Soup Company became the first of a series of food companies targeted by a coalition of consumer and environmental groups, including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, who urged it to stop using genetically modified ingredients in its products. Campbell stands by its products as safe and stressed it meets all government food safety and labeling requirements for biotech foods. The company said it has no intention of dropping its genetically modified ingredients.
GM-Free vs. non-GM Free
The coalition expressed concern that research has not proven that genetically modified crops do not pose health risks, and urged mandatory genetically modified labeling to let consumers know whether the food they buy contains genetically modified ingredients or not.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration requires genetically modified labeling only if biotechnology changes the nutritional profile of the food or introduces an allergen, such as a peanut protein. If not, the genetically modified food is considered "substantially equivalent" to its non-genetically modified counterpart and doesn't need to be labeled. However, the FDA is considering permitting voluntary labeling about the presence or absence of biotechnology in foods.
Groups representing the food industry worry that claims such as "GM free" or "non-GM" could imply that a traditional food is superior to a genetically modified food that has been determined to be "substantially equivalent." But Greenpeace and others argue that people want to know whether they're eating GM foods or not, and are calling for the labeling of all genetically modified foods.