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Vox Pop: Consumers had this to say about GMO labeling...

By Adi Menayang & Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

On the heels of President Barack Obama signing into law a federal bill requiring the disclosure of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on packaged food and beverage products, we at Beverage Daily and FoodNavigator-USA asked consumers at a downtown Chicago farmers market what they thought of GMOs.

GMOs have steadily fallen out of favor among US consumers, pressuring some manufacturers to rid their products of genetically engineered ingredients. For example, General Mills removed GMOs from its flagship original Cheerios cereal. Similarly, dairy giant Dannon announced in July that it would bring more non-GMO ingredient options and clear labels to its yogurt products.

In order to see just how much GMOs mattered to US consumers and affected their purchasing decisions, we surveyed a number of consumers who visited the Thursday farmer's market in downtown Chicago's Daley Plaza.

The questions were straightforward:

“What are GMOs?” and “Do you think about GMOs when you go food shopping and you’re looking at label?”

We also brought with us a few common food products by companies who have already added a GMO disclosure label to comply with Vermont's GMO labeling law​, such as products by Mars Inc., Campbell's Soup, and General Mills, though Vermont's law was eventually nullified by the new federal one​.

The sample size of our respondents was of course too small to reach sweeping conclusions, but even with only a handful of randomly selected consumers selected in a very specific type of place (a farmer's market), opinions on what GMOs are were very diverse. Of all the people we approached (20), five people declined to participate because they felt they did not know enough about the subject of GMOs.

Two-year deadline for federal GMO labeling legislation

The law requires the USDA to establish a national standard for GMO labeling within two years, and pre-empts state GMO disclosure laws including Vermont’s law which went into effect on July 1.

While it requires mandatory disclosures on food labels, however, there is some flexibility over the form they can take - a compromise industry associations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the International Dairy Foods Association​ say they can support.

However, anti-GMO activists - and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders - remain staunchly opposed, primarily because it will allow companies to use QR codes or other symbols instead of forcing them to state on pack that a product uses GMOs - as the law in Vermont requires.

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GMO's Good for who?

Posted by Pedro Zorza,

Since most of the GMO's used in the US are to enhance the amount of herbicides which can be put onto crops. This allows the chemical corporations to sell more herbicides and allows for the companies to patent seeds. There are serious questions about the long term effect on our health. The animal studies completed by the chemical companies are about 60-90 days. Really? No health problems?? Why not longer?? How about the longer term effect on the soils? water table? No studies on this...?? Why not??

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Proof and reality

Posted by Mark,

Two follow up comments...1. We are increasingly finding that perception is reality. Without a doubt, people filter/select information to reinforce their perceptions. The recent change is that for better or worse, social media widely disseminates these perceptions which influence others reality. 2. It seems to me that GMOs are considered guily of all the crimes below until they are proven innocent. It is not clear to me what proof will be sufficient.

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GMOS have not been shown safe to your health

Posted by GMOScience,

GMOs have been commercialized in spite of reservations of governments' own scientists who were concerned about the creation of allergens and toxins by the very crude process of plant transformation. Independent scientists have indeed reported these findings after commercialization. Unfortunately, our government disproportionately emphasizes economic benefits of biotechnology at the expense of almost every public good- public health, ecology, farmers' right to farm, justice, economic equity. Pesticide Corporations who recklessly brought us these risky foods by lobbying captured our government. So, anyone who believes these products to be safe is dangerously naive. The claim of safety is entirely based on Pesticide Corporations' studies, most of which are confidential and unavailable for scientific scrutiny- our government has Independent studies reporting harm are suppressed done absolutely no independent testing, and in fact, scientists reporting health harm are viciously attacked and such studies are methodically and systematically suppressed.

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