A Fresh New Look at the Genetically Modified Foods Debate

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Articles about genetically modified crops tend to repeat the same tired arguments. But this L.A. Times story is worth reading.

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A French protest against genetically modified foods. Charles Platiau/Reuters

The Los Angeles Times has one of the better stories I've seen lately about genetically modified (GM) foods. I don't usually write much about this topic because there is so little new to say about it.

I've been writing about GM foods for 20 years now and I'd call it a stalemate. The industry says:

  • GM foods are absolutely necessary to feed the world.
  • Farmers love them.
  • They are harmless.

Farmers do like using them because they do not have to do as many pesticide applications or worry as much about weeds.

But the first and third points are highly debatable, as the article discusses.

I worry most about two aspects of GM foods:

  • They encourage corporate control of the food supply and large monoculture crops like corn and soy (never good ideas).
  • They do not give consumers choices because they aren't labeled.

The L.A. Times illustrates both points in one terrific graphic (click on it to view larger version):

GMO.jpg

The states are starting to act, but this is really the Food and Drug Administration's issue. It's time to get the FDA to reverse its 1994 decision not to label GM foods.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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