U.S. Considers ‘GMO-Free’ Label

FOOD

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that it is, after years of debate, considering an official voluntary “GMO-Free” label for food. (The Plate, Nat Geo)

Use activities, reference materials, or interactive games to teach and learn about food and food issues.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

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Customize this map and experiment with layers to identify any patterns shared by countries that require labeling of GMO foods.

Discussion Ideas

 

Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA. The genetically modified corn kernel on the right is enriched with more protein than the yellow, unmodified kernel on the left. Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic

Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA. The genetically modified corn kernel on the right is enriched with more protein than the yellow, unmodified kernel on the left.
Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic

Livestock can also be genetically modified, producing meat or other animal products (such as wool) with desirable characteristics. The cut of meat on the right is noticeably less fatty, for instance, than the meat on the right. Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic

Livestock can also be genetically modified, producing meat or other animal products (such as wool) with desirable characteristics. The cut of meat on the left is noticeably less fatty, for instance, than the meat on the right.
Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic

  • The Plate blog says about 80% of our food supply is genetically engineered. Why might agribusinesses and consumers prefer GMO foods?
    • Genetic engineering can make a product more widely available, benefitting consumers and agribusiness. According to our encyclopedic entry on agriculture, “A gene from an arctic plant, for example, could be added (spliced) into the DNA of a strawberry plant to increase the strawberry’s resistance to cold and thus extend its growing season.”
    • Genetic engineering can prevent a plant from contracting a fatal disease. A recent debate in Hawaii, for instance, outlined how only genetically modified papayas survived a deadly virus. This saved the papaya crop, making the fruit available to consumers and protecting the profits of farmers and other agricultural workers.
    • “Businesses sell farmers genetically modified seeds that resist certain pesticides and herbicides produced by the company. With these seeds, farmers can use toxic chemicals without harming the crop.” This is the famous—and famously debated—”Roundup Ready” system.
    • Some consumers prefer GM fruits and vegetables because they do not rot or bruise as easily as non-modified foods.

 

  • Why are some consumers objecting to GMO foods?
    • According to The Plate, “Concerns are mounting that, because our bodies don’t know how to process these new foods, GMOs are responsible for many modern health maladies, like celiac disease and obesity. Science has yet to definitively pin any of these ill-effects on GMOs, but people are naturally worried.”

 

  • The suggested labeling system would be voluntary. Why are some food industry groups objecting?
    • “If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will disrupt food supply chains, confuse consumers and lead to higher food costs,” says Grocery Manufacturers Association President Pamela Bailey. (The specific law she’s talking about is in Vermont.)

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Food Debate Shifts As U.S. Considers ‘GMO-Free’ Label

Nat Geo: What countries require GMO labels on food? map

Nat Geo: General Mills Says ‘Cheerio’ to GMOs

Nat Geo: Food Education collection

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