What if I told you 80% of consumers said they want a mandatory label on food if it contained DNA. Well, that’s exactly the case according to a survey done by the Oklahoma State University.
Many of us get information from the packaging of our favorite foods, and we trust the labeling to give us information that’s in our best interest.
Unless you don’t already know, all food contains DNA, it’s one of the basic structures that make up living things. So why is the vast majority concerned about putting an arbitrary label on our food?
Unfortunately, most people aren’t informed about the biological processes that make up our diets. The problem here isn’t how smart people are, it’s the lack of general understanding of biology. That’s why we need better communication about food science to the public.
Food labeling has been in the forefront of grocery shoppers concerns in recent years since the popularity of Organic foods arose in the 80s and more so in the past few years as a counter to the use of pesticides. Now, what if I told you 95% of people who choose organic do so to avoid the use of pesticides? Seems obvious right? Well, Organic farming uses just as much pesticide by the pound as conventional farming and even more fungicide.
Due to misleading labeling, consumers are given false ideas about what is in their food, and what is and isn’t safe to eat.
Now let’s talk about the fear of GMOs. When you see a “non-GMO project verified” sticker on something you may feel a little safer about the product. Just like if you see a sugar-free label on something, you can make an assumption that the brand knows what’s healthy for you. You might not have stopped to check sources to see if GMOs were harmful or not right? And if you did read the science behind it, how well could you really understand it? Did you know that there hasn’t been one credible study that found a connection between GM foods and harm to our health?
So there’s an awful lot of miscommunication out there on our food. What do we do about it? You can’t have a whole explanation of every label on all food packaging and expect everyone to read it comprehensively while researching for validity, we consumers just don’t have the time. And we expect honesty from those who sell us what we eat and feed our children. Naturally, we might not trust communication from “big food” companies, like Monsanto for instance.
Monsanto is an agro-tech company that develops food tech including organic crops. What many people who are anti-GMO believe, is that this multi-billion dollar company is using unsafe methods of breeding crops for profit. However, most people aren’t aware that the Organic Food industry makes about 35 billion dollars more than Monsanto annually.
Interestingly, there are only 10 crops grown in the US that are Genetically Modified, so that means Almost all the food with a non-GMO label in the grocery store doesn’t even have a GMO version.
So when companies feed us, we want something healthy and tasty. But healthy isn’t organic coconut oil, which by the way, has more saturated fat than lard.
How do we bridge the gap between innocent misunderstanding and nutritional knowledge? There’s a handful of science activists that inform people online and in public about the misrepresentation of organic foods and conventional farming including the organization March Against Myths, the Genetic Literacy Project, including names like Kevin Folta, The Credible Hulk, and Kavin Senapathy just to name a few.
We need to be more skeptical when listening to claims. When we are told Organic is better for the environment, we need to look into it, because an organic diet uses 40% more land on average than a conventional diet.
We need to know who we’re listening to, because about 9/10 of scientists agree that GMOs are safe to eat, and only a fraction of them are biologists. When people are told to believe scientists, it is sometimes brought up that there was also a scientific consensus that cigarettes weren’t harmful before they were linked to cancer. This is a myth, in fact, most of those who voiced opinions were skeptical about the safety of smoking tobacco.
Lastly, we need to stay up to date, because our opinions matter. In many places in the world: including the Philippines, India, and Vietnam, GM crops can help save the population and economy with innovations like Golden rice, which combats mortality rates from vitamin A deficiency.
Most want things labeled in their food, but with that label comes the responsibility of the consumer to know what it means. When something is labeled “natural” at the store, what is it implying? That it wasn’t made with chemicals? Well, for those who are scared of chemicals, in general, i regret to inform you that everything is a chemical. And just as Hydrogen-di-oxide is the chemical name for water, copper sulfate is a common chemical used as a pesticide in organic farming.
When communication meets food, it’s a basic need to eat, and we need the facts. It’s great that most of us are looking out for our health, but when 80% of grocery shoppers want DNA labeled, there’s a public knowledge problem. It’s the buyers’ responsibility to know what food packaging is communicating.