Transgenics and Food Labelling: An Acid Debate

Food Labelling

Transgenics, (genetically modified foods), have shaken the food labelling practices. Now, it’s time for a debate on how to label foods ─ and the need of doing so, even.


The Australian Government recently approved a new food labelling system which includes origins of growth, processing and packaging of all foods. Locally processed foods will from now on include a new label with a traditional green and gold logo, as well as a bar chart with the local ingredient’s actual proportion. What may seem like a good idea has, nevertheless, raised many concerns on many international organisations, starting in Australia’s own vegetables and potato growers’ industry body, AUSVEG.

The proposed new labelling method is criticised for identifying Australian manufactured food products only, falling way short from an actual Country of Origin labelling system. Andrew White, Deputy CEO of the said body, complained about the lack of compliance with consumer’s wants:

[quote]“It is incumbent on the Government to go further and meet the demands of consumers, who have repeatedly indicated they want to know the origins of the food they are buying and eating, and that their food is safe.”[/quote]

But does a good labelling system actually solve the “safety” problem at all? And, more importantly, what are the safety concerns we’re dealing with?

The recent emergence and spread of transgenics has shaken the food industry, and packaging has grown more and more concerned with the best labelling practices. Most customers consider it necessary for food products to include labels, especially when dealing with genetic modification processes.

Some, though, consider GMO to be harmless and link the generalised hysteria with a lack of scientific education:

“Every major international science body in the world has (…) [come] to the consensus conclusion that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods”.

The transgenics debate has become stagnant over two fixed positions, and its arguments have shifted towards food labelling, where two other main arguments have arisen: the need, or absurdity, of labels. The clash is still unsolved. Do food labels help people to eat better? Do people have the irrevocable right of truth? Do labels actually harm us?

The answers to all these questions might be much more complex than it seems. Not even the pros can settle down with a definitive solution: even with a shared destination, (the avoidance of processed foods), the means couldn’t be less so. At the end, it’s all a matter of people’s habits: do we, or do we not, focus on labels?

It’s still unknown how much knowledge consumers have about labelling practices and food hazards, and that might just be the definitive factor.

Both transgenics and food labelling are actual hot topics all over the Internet, and they don’t seem to be coming to a close; but consumer interest, even amidst a whirlwind of confronted interest and manipulations, is undeniable.


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