CP Editorial: The absurdity of misleading food labels

Companies are using unnecessary labels such as “organic,” “all-natural,” and “non-GMO” on their products to capitalize on consumers’ misconceptions, and it’s time for them to stop. Uninformed consumers are led to believe that these products are better or healthier and are then willing to pay the extra money for that label. The average American family spends from 12.4 percent to as much as 33 percent of their household income on food according to the United States Department of Agriculture. That percentage spent can easily increase whenever food companies stick meaningless labels on products and raise their prices.

One of the most common labels slapped on products is “non-GMO.” A GMO is a genetically modified organism. About 90 percent of scientists believe GMOs are safe — a view that has been endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the World Health Organization. If you visit nongmoproject.org you will be able to find a list of 4,222 brands that are non-GMO verified products. This makes it seem as though there are thousands upon thousands of products being genetically modified, but in reality, there are only 10 genetically modified crops commercially available today: squash, cotton, soybeans, corn (both field and sweet), papaya, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, potatoes, and apples.

One company using scare tactics to get to the consumer is Hunt’s Tomatoes. In 2016, Hunt’s announced their Non-GMO Project certification with a post saying, “No matter how far afield you look, you won’t find a single genetically modified tomato among our vines.” The only problem here? There are zero genetically modified tomatoes currently on the market.

In an interview with Beth Kowitt, a reporter for Fortune Magazine, Gary Hirshberg, the chairman and cofounder of the pro-GMO labeling group Just Label It is quoted as saying:

“It’s obviously disingenuous to call a product for which there is no GMO counterpart non-GMO. This doesn’t increase transparency. It obfuscates and adds confusion at a time when all of us—corporations, food companies—ought to be committed to clarity and simplicity in our messaging.”

So, what should we, as the consumer, do? We can begin by educating ourselves. If we’re willing to put it into our bodies, we should at least know what it is. Knowing that it’s “non-GMO” simply isn’t good enough. We need to understand what genetically-modified means, understand what products are actually genetically modified, and understand that genetically-modified is not a bad thing.