Monday, September 29, 2008

Let Us Label, Or There Will Be Hell To Pay

Barry Estabrook, over at Gourmet's Food Politics, is telling us that genetically modified (GM) salmon may soon land on our dinner plate without us knowing it. Plop. Not that salmon will mysteriously appear, but that we won't know if the salmon we purchased at a supermarket or other fish counter had its genes modified to grow very big and very fast compared to its non-GM counterparts. We won't know because it won't be labeled as such. And the FDA prefers it that way.

The Center For Food Safety, in a letter responding to the FDA's September 18 draft guidance outlining the approval process for genetically engineered (GE) animals said:
"At a time when the FDA has inadequate resources to protect the food system and is reeling under allegations of conflicts of interest, this new proposal uses a secret approval process wherein no one other than FDA reviewers can see the data submitted before final approval. And, unlike drugs which can be recalled because they are labeled, FDA maintains that genetically engineered animals should not be labeled."

"Under this draft, the public cannot know if the review of a product met the highest scientific standards until after its approval, and then they cannot avoid the product in the marketplace because it is not labeled. The FDA feels it deserves the public's trust, but refuses to give us the tools to verify that it is doing its job fairly and adequately."

"While we support many features of the new animal drug process; it has major deficiencies for reviewing a technology as new as GE animals. Secret approval and lack of labeling indicates a complete lack of transparency and the potential conflicts of interest in an industry as small as the cloning/GE animal business cannot be reviewed without an open process. The FDA needs to request Congress to amend the new animal drug law so that the process is transparent AND it needs to require labeling so that the public can report any problems they discover with the product."
This lack of labeling applies to products made from GM organisms too, including sweeteners, fibers, pharmaceuticals, and supplements ... like fish oil.

There are a number of reasons why someone might want to opt out of consuming the products of genetic engineering - possible health risks to the GM organism, risks to the organism consuming the GM organism (us), risks to the environment, or ethical and religious reasons.

In fact, the Catholic Church considers genetic manipulation, and support of same, a mortal sin:
Pollution and genetic engineering, as well as drug dealing, abortion, pedophilia, social injustice and extreme wealth were now on record as mortal sins, those the Church deems most offensive to God and those that could land you a spot in hell without repentance.
- Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, second in command at the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body responsible for confessions and absolutions, Vatican Official: New Sins On The Horizon
A spot in hell. Without a label, what's an abstainer to do? The end of the FDA's comment period is November 18:

Tell Congress to Support Labeling and Safety Testing of GE Foods

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