Feature

Food: Is honest labeling the best policy?

Whole Foods plans to become the first retailer in the country to label all goods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

There are two kinds of supermarket shoppers these days, said the Springfield, Mass., Republican in an editorial. Those who fill their carts with things that taste good, and those who want to know the nutritional information of “every single gram of everything contained in any substance they might put into their mouths.” The second kind will be celebrating this week after upmarket emporium Whole Foods announced that it would become the first retailer in the country to label all goods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its 339 stores by 2018. “This is an issue whose time has come,” said Whole Foods co-chief executive Walter Robb. “Customers have a fundamental right to know what’s in their food.”

How can anyone argue with that principle? said Karin Klein in the Los Angeles Times. The biotech industry and corporations like Monsanto and DuPont recently sank millions of dollars into defeating Proposition 37, the California initiative requiring labeling of any foods containing GMOs. But now, thanks to Whole Foods, customers will rightly get the transparency they deserve, so they’ll know whether the DNA of their dinner “has been tinkered with in a laboratory.” About 70 percent of processed foods already contain GMO corn and soy, and in coming years, other genetically modified produce or even fish and meat might reach supermarkets. The new policy—which will put pressure on other stores to follow along—just gives customers control over their diets. Best of all, the new labeling is not being forced by heavy-handed government regulation, said The Dallas Morning News. Instead, we have a perfect example of the free market giving consumers what they want without “forcing it on the rest of the marketplace.”

There’s a reason why Whole Foods is mockingly referred to as Whole Paycheck, said Melissa Leon in TheDailyBeast.com. The store caters to affluent consumers who are willing to pay double for their organic and GMO-free goods. The rest of us want food that is both healthful and affordable. Genetic modification protects soybeans and corn from pests, reduces their price by up to 10 percent, and allows hungry populations around the world to grow crops on previously inhospitable land. Most scientists agree with the Food and Drug Administration that genetically altered foods are safe. Stick all that on the label, and consumers will really be able to make an informed choice.

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