Sign of the genetically modified times

California vote on GMO labeling could change the food world

June 27, 2012
Bernie Pacyniak

Not sure if everyone caught the news item regarding California’s ballot initiative involving mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The California Right to Know group submitted 971,126 signatures to get the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act on the Nov. 6 ballot. So, in addition to determining who will be president, Californians could forever change the U.S. food industry.

Currently, the United States doesn’t require food companies to tell consumers whether they use ingredients that come from genetically modified plants or animals. However, all European Union nations, Japan, Australia, and China have laws requiring genetically modified foods to be labeled as such.

If you thought the upcoming presidential election will be contentious one, watch the debate on GMOs as it heats up. First, many don’t believe that GMOs are safe, dubbing such “Frankenfoods” as posing long-term dangers. And, despite a 2003 inquiry by the International Council for Science saying “Currently available genetically modified foods are safe to eat,” there are legitimate questions about this biological tool.

As often is the case, for every study saying GMOs are safe, there are others disputing that validation. And real concerns regarding GMOS exist about allergenicity, gene transfer (transferred genes being absorbed by one’s body) and outcrossing (contamination of non-GMO crops by GMO genes). 

Even groups like the American Medical Association (AMA) are a bit muddled. Consider that their long-standing  stance on the subject, which states that “there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education.”

Then, last week, the group came out with a statement saying that foods made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should have mandatory pre-market safety testing. Even the docs are hemming and hawing a bit. Well, actually, that is their nature.

Personally, I’ve always viewed GMO as an extension of grafting, but on a hi-tech molecular stage. And yes, the long-term effects are subject to debate and investigation.  Nonetheless, the benefits of GMO have – at least in my mind – far outpaced the risks: disease resistance, increased yield, soil adaptability, improved endurance to climate variations.

Nonetheless, if someone doesn’t want to have a food product with GMO ingredients, he or she should have the ability to purchase such items. Moreover, it seems that more and more consumers are willing to pay the price for that option.

Does that mean that the state or federal government should mandate such labeling? In California’s case, the people will decide. Before they do, however, I hope there’s an informed discussion on the subject, including the economic impact following such a decision.

And we’re not just talking packaging changes here. If the vote is a resounding affirmative for putting labels regarding GMO-sourced ingredients, most manufacturers will consider reformulating using non-GMO ingredients. But consider the cost of corn flakes when Kellogg’s has to find a domestic supplier of non-GMO corn!

Of course, there’s always the confectionery approach to this debate. Having just paid a visit to Tony Sweet, our 67th Kettle Award Recipient, I discovered that his company, Salt Lake City-based Sweet Candy Co., company has launched a line of all natural, non-GMO gummies. Moreover, the line’s doing well. (Look for details in coming August cover story.)

Sourcing wasn’t easy or cheap. But there is a group of consumers out there willing to pay the price for non-GMO products. I still think the food manufacturers should have a voluntary option on labeling until there’s definitive science on the matter. But anyone who’s ignoring the issue and those consumers clamoring for non-GMO products will find themselves a non-entity in the future.   

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Candy Industry

Recent Articles by Bernie Pacyniak



Image Galleries

A Venetian Carnival, a Jelly Belly sculpture and gourmet chocolates! Oh my!

Candy Industry takes you into the French Pastry’s School For the Love of Chocolate event in Chicago, held Feb. 25.

Candy Industry Magazine

Candy april 2015

April 2015

Take a look at Santa Cruz Nutritionals as well as previews for ECRM and PMCA!
Table Of Contents Subscribe

Healthier Food Options

A recent Nielsen report shows that consumers are calling for healthier options from food manufacturers. Do you think consumers will actually buy healthier versions of their favorite candy and snacks if they’re made available?
View Results Poll Archive

Candy Industry Store

M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\Candy Industry\natural-food-flavors-colora.gif
Natural Food Flavors and Colorants

Although many foods are appealing, and even perceived as natural, in spite of containing synthetic additives, consumer increasingly prefer food products which are fully natural.

More Products

Candy Industry's Kettle Awards

Kettle Awards

Since 1946, Candy Industry magazine has recognized leaders in the U.S. confectionery industry with the highest recognition possible, the Kettle Award. The distinguished recipients have captured this most coveted award by not only excelling within their companies, but by contributing to the greater good of the industry. It’s virtually a who’s who of past and present professionals who have left their mark as confectioners and business mavens. Learn more about the voting process as well as the annual Kettle Awards Ceremony by visiting our Kettle Awards Website


fb40   twitter 40    youtube40    linked   Google+

Clear Seas Research

Clear SeasWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.