There are 10.1 million acres of soybean growing in Iowa this year, and nearly 25 million acres of corn. Considering that nearly all of both crops are grown from genetically engineered seeds, the state is not only a leading producer of these key commodity crops—it’s awash in GMOs.
That makes an editorial that ran in yesterday’s Des Moines Register on the topic of GMO labeling all the more powerful. The editorial board of the state’s paper of record says “corporate America is fighting a losing battle over the GMO issue” and that Congress needs to pass laws addressing standards and disclosure “and let individual consumers decide.”
That’s the argument the pro-labeling crowd has been making for years and with increasing persuasion. Although a GMO labeling initiative has yet to succeed at the ballot box, Vermont now has a state-level law, and Maine and Connecticut have passed laws that will go into effect when there’s a coalition of Northeastern states requiring labeling.
There isn’t any right to know in the United States Constitution, however, as food companies and biotech firms will tell anyone who will listen. Despite the deep-rooted suspicions of anti-GMO activists, there have yet to be any reputable studies showing that consuming genetically modified crops is linked to health problems. Not only has the industry avidly, expensively opposed state-level labeling initiatives, but it’s pushing for a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., that would preempt any local laws requiring labeling.
But as the Register’s editorial board notes, corporate interests have lost similar battles before. “Consumers wanted to know—and now product labels tell them—how much sugar is in their foods,” they write. “Consumers have been pressuring restaurant chains to post the calorie counts for their various products, and those chains are coming around to understand the consumers’ wishes.” Even food giants such as General Mills have moved away from GMO ingredients—albeit in rather small ways—in some iconic products, like Cheerios. Just today, NPR reported that other firms are making similar changes with little fanfare.
A federal labeling standard may be a ways off, but the Register can see that despite the sea of corn and soy, change is happening now.