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by Slow Food USA Associate Director of National Programs, Angelines M. Alba Lamb

This weekend I sent my partner to the grocery store for the weekly shop. He ventured out in the snow, and in exchange I put the apples in their bowl and the cornbread box in the pantry. As I was putting my favorite box of veggie burgers into the freezer, I noticed a label I’d never paid attention to: “No genetically modified ingredients.” Did all my food have this label? I took the cornbread back out, and read all 6 sides. I learned that if I ate one piece, I would ingest 3 grams of protein. I learned my favorite corn bread used corn flour, corn, and baking soda. But I didn’t learn where the corn came from. Was it genetically engineered, like 80% of all corn grown in the U.S.?

Why didn’t my cornbread have the same label as my veggie burger? Because companies don’t have to disclose genetically modified ingredients. Some do but most corporations don’t. They didn’t disclose any ingredients until later in the 20th century. Cigarettes didn’t get warning labels until 1966, years after evidence was found of their ill health effects. Ingredient boxes and health warnings appeared after people, just like you and I, demanded that their government do everything in their power to protect consumers. Protecting consumers means informing consumers. If you pick up a cigarette, knowing that it can cause cancer, then that is your right. If you choose to eat genetically engineered corn despite the label, then that is your choice. But we don’t have a choice with genetically engineered food.

Just Label It – a national initiative to secure labeling for genetically engineered food- is demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require all food that is genetically engineered, or made with genetically modified ingredients, be marked like my veggie burgers. They need you and I to add our voices and send a message to the FDA consumers want this labeling. Add your voice by sending a comment to the FDA letting them know how important this issue is to you.

Right now the soymilk smoothie you are sipping on could have been made with genetically modified soy. The alfalfa sprouts topping your salad could have been engineered in a lab. And you have a right to know and a right to choose if you want to put that into your body or feed it to your family. We don’t know yet how genetically engineered food interacts with human bodies. There isn’t enough research. But don’t you want the chance to make that decision for yourself? I sent a comment to the FDA because I want all of my food, including my corn bread, to have the same label like my veggie burgers. Join Just Label It and me and send your own comment.