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OUR OPINION: Embrace rather than resist labeling

Our Opinion

The debate about GMOs is coming soon to a Legislature near you.

Last week, Vermont’s House and Senate passed America’s first law to require food companies to label foods that have genetically modified ingredients. The governor of Vermont said he’d sign the bill.

Expect the issue to be taken up in other statehouses as well as in Congress.

And here’s a thought:

Maybe the rest of the food industry should embrace labeling as the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food has done, secure in the knowledge that GMOs are safe and the industry has nothing to hide.

That kind of openness is by far the best approach to disarming the opposition and winning consumers’ full support.

Remember, GM ingredients are common in the United States, and Americans have eaten literally billions of meals that include those ingredients.

And “to date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population,” as the National Academy of Sciences has reported.

That finding has been echoed by all of the world’s most respected scientific bodies, including those in areas (such as Europe) that remain unfriendly to GMOs.

In February, the Coalition — a group of 30 industry organizations, including the National Association of Wheat Growers, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and American Soybean Association — endorsed a federal solution to the question of labeling GMO-containing food.

A federal solution would avoid “a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws” while “protecting consumers and providing food and beverage companies with a uniform set of standards established by the Food and Drug Administration, the nation’s foremost food safety authority,” the coalition declared.

The coalition wants those federal standards to be voluntary; in other words, not all manufacturers of food with GM ingredients would have to comply. And labeling activists clearly won’t be satisfied with that.

That issue aside, the coalition clearly is on the right track. Openness, willingness and full disclosure are the keys; for the fact is, neither farmers nor the food industry have anything to be ashamed when it comes to genetically modified foods.