Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Peter DeFazio, of California and Oregon respectively, are pushing a new bill called the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. Either companies label their products that contain genetically engineered ingredients or the FDA will slap a “misbranded” classification on the product (Satran, “Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Taken On By Congress In Right-To-Know Act”).
There are a number of levels on which to examine this development: first, will the food activism movement’s reputation as part of the leftist, idealist, even hippie agenda prevent conservative politicians from backing this bill? Or will the importance of empowering the consumer take precedence over party lines? Glancing over to the conservative side of this issue (a perspective that I am now realizing has been markedly neglected throughout my exploration of new food activism), a blogger at “Young, Hip, and Conservative” would like to point out that liberals don’t “deserve credit for accepting science that compliments their worldview” and are unwilling to accept positive scientific breakthroughs about GMOs (Michael, “GMO phobia is pseudoscience”). To me, this blogger is only affirming the damaging political divide currently wreaking havoc on our democratic system and seems to only be interested in opposition. One can only hope that this bill can withstand such extremism and go under consideration in as objective a manner as possible.
Second, what does the Right to Know actually accomplish? I’m envisioning a significant portion of Americans suddenly and inescapably faced with the knowledge that they are buying r-BST dairy products. If you can’t afford an alternative or live in an area with limited resources, awareness could even prove to be damaging. While I am lucky enough to have access to both information and organic products, I can’t pretend to understand what it is like to be denied choice in the foods you eat. However, I would argue that empowerment through understanding (and labeling) is the first step to agency. I’ll end on Joel Salatin’s eloquent rally against the practices of companies like Monsanto: “A culture that views animals and plants as inanimate piles of protoplasmic structure to be manipulated … will view its citizens the same way. And other cultures the same way.” In the same vein, the Right to Know bill is built on the principle of treating people like humans and not like consumers, and hopefully will hold companies accountable to this idea.
Satran, Joe. “Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Taken On By Congress In Right-To-Know Act.” The Huffington Post 25 April 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/25/genetically-engineered-food_n_3149418.html
Michael. “GMO phobia is pseudoscience.” Young, Hip, and Conservative. 26 September 2012
Maisto, Michelle.“Is GMO labeling a he-said, she-said debate?” Forbes19 December 2011
“New bill would require genetically modified food labeling in US.”RT 26 April 2013 http://rt.com/usa/mandatory-gmo-food-labeling-417/
Image taken from www.nongmoproject.org