The Right to Choose Safe Food: GMO Labeling

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(Source: jbnews.com)

In the case of the EU, GMO labeling started once the regulations on novel foods came into effect in 1997. The labeling only applied when modified DNA or proteins were detected. However, in April 18 of 2004, GMO labeling was strengthened through regulations on GMO and animal feed: the GMO label also applied to all food whose input involved GMO products. On July 1st, an event was held in Vermont to celebrate implementation of the state’s GMO labeling law. The law was passed on May 2014 and came into effect this July. Since Vermont is the second smallest state in the United States, creating separate labels and packaging just for goods in Vermont would not only be logistically difficult but also very expensive. It is estimated that the law is expected to will have big repercussions in the US food industry. across the country.

In the case of the EU, GMO labeling started once the regulations on novel foods came into effect in 1997. The labeling only applied when modified DNA or proteins were detected. However, in April 18 of 2004, GMO labeling was strengthened through regulations on GMO and animal feed: the GMO label also applied to all food whose input involved GMO products. On July 1st, an event was held in Vermont to celebrate implementation of the state’s GMO labeling law. The law was passed on May 2014 and came into effect this July. Since Vermont is the second smallest state in the United States, creating separate labels and packaging just for goods in Vermont would not only be logistically difficult but also very expensive. The law is expected to have big repercussions in the US food industry.

Korea’s announced revisions would apply to GMO labeling on beans, corn, cotton, canola, beet, alfalfa, potatoes However, processed goods that contain any of the 18  GMO products distributed around the world don’t need to be labeled.[ref]http://www.hansalim.or.kr/?p=41278[/ref] The EU on the other hand is labeling all GMO products sold around the world. Furthermore, it is also creating a system where food can be checked for GMO through a background traceability system. The background traceability system mandates those producing or importing GMO materials, ingredients, and food/ or any GMO contents) to pass on their product information to those buying their products in the food marketing system. Thus, you can trace the path of a GMO product from start to finish. GMO that is allowed in the market is given an individual ID number that you can use to check if it’s GMO.[ref]http://pignpork.com/upload/20131011090736.pdf[/ref]

Furthermore the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s announced revisions would exempt GMO based soy, corn, and canola oil since modified DNA or proteins are not detectable in the final product. However, in the EU regulations, even if genetically modified substances are not detected in the final product, if GMO products were directly used in production, then they must be labeled. Vermont’s law states that “if more than 0.9% of the total weight of the product contains GMO, then must be labeled as GMO.”[ref]http://jlb.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/10/20/jlb.lsu029.full[/ref] While not perfect, it is still much more rigorous than the Korean GMO labeling.

Finally, the announced revision doesn’t allow “Non-GMO” or “GMO-free” labels stating that they would confuse consumers. If consumer cooperatives or food stores indicate that an item is non-GMO, they will be punished. Until the GMO labeling expands, there should be a non-GMO and GMO-free label. Even the US, which is the leader in GMO, is sticking non-GMO labels on about 30,000 processed foods. Taiwan, Japan, Australia have also naturally adopted the non-GMO label.  

Every year, South Korea is importing 8 million tons of GMO. 70% of imported corn and soy (1.148 million tons)  is GMO. In particular, 870 thousand (76.9%) of the average 1.13 million tons of imported soy is GMO.[ref]http://www.m-economynews.com/news/article_print.html?no=8399[/ref] After Japan, South Korea is the largest importer of GMO goods.Given this situation, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety must move towards greater expansion of the GMO label. Aside from the various controversies surround GMO food, GMO foods must be labeled so that people have the right to choose what they ingest.