Should genetically modified food be labeled?
Live Free or Die Alliance Facebook followers overwhelmingly say yes
Bite into a crisp, delicious apple or top off your BLT with a freshly sliced tomato and, if you’re like most New Hampshire snackers, one thing is certain: You have no idea where those fruits have been.
That is, did they spring from natural seeds and traditionally cross-bred techniques, or are they from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), engineered in a laboratory? It’s tough to tell because the Granite State doesn’t require food producers to label their goods as having been genetically modified.
Is it time for that to change?
Those in favor of food labeling worry that genetically modified foods might be harmful to ingest and encourage negative agricultural practices. In contrast, opponents say no scientific evidence exists that such foods aren’t healthy to eat, adding that genetic modification leads to larger yields of hardy livestock and produce important to combating world hunger and keeping food prices low.
As state lawmakers headed toward a mid-August work session on House Bill 660, “requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods and agricultural commodities,” the Live Free or Die Alliance’s Facebook followers made it clear they believe genetically modified foods should be labeled as such.
On June 24, we asked our 14,333 Facebook fans whether New Hampshire law should require labels. Within a day, the question received 384 responses, including “likes,” comments and people sharing the question on their own Facebook pages.
The sentiment was nearly unanimous – 96 percent of respondents – in support of labeling, with 2 percent each opposed to labeling or providing an answer that was judged either nonresponsive to the question or too ambiguous to tally.
Nearly a year ago, we asked a similar question -- whether New Hampshire should be the first state to require labeling of foods consisting of GMOs. At that time, we received 312 total responses; 80.5 of respondents favored the Granite State blazing the GMO-labeling trail. Conversely, 12.5 percent opposed the idea, and 7 percent were judged nonresponsive to the question.
Those supporting the labeling of genetically modified foods said citizens have a right to know what they’re putting in their bodies, especially if it might be harmful. “Food labeling is important so people can make informed choices,” said one respondent. “Live free or die isn't just a motto. Label foods so if we don't want GMO we can be free to make the choice.”
But others warn of falling prey to food hysteria and junk science. “Everything you have ever eaten or will eat has been altered genetically in some way by the farmer, and has been so for thousands of years …” said one opponent of GMO labels. “I think this whole anti-GMO craze is just as scientific as being an evolution-denier, or a global-warming denier. To be anti-GMO is to be on the wrong side of science, facts and reality.”
The aforementioned findings are not the results of a scientific survey, but more akin to citizen testimony, where respondents are (to the greatest extent possible) identifiable by their real names. As New Hampshire's Town Hall, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Live Free or Die Alliance is free and open to all, offering a unique and important mechanism for more than 14,000 community members to express their views.
However, the collective opinion of the citizens who follow the LFDA on Facebook and taken part in our relevant discussions is unmistakable: Even in the Live Free or Die state, people are looking to government regulation, or at least education, to help them make their own informed choices about what they eat.
John F.J. Sullivan is editor-in-chief of the Live Free or Die Alliance (nhlfda.org).