Sunday, November 24, 2013

Let us (accurately) label everything

There is a call to label foods as to whether they contain ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs.)  Not to concern ourselves for the moment with the fact that all modern foods are GMOs, the result of centuries to millennia of human interventions, Craig Schiesley (speaking on the opinion page of the Daily Camera, apparently in his role as a vice-president of a company that stands to gain from such labeling), raises a particularly interesting question, why shouldn’t all foods, that is, anything people are expected to eat, be accurately labelled?
So where is this not done?  Well most obviously in the nutraceutical and nutritional supplement industry, in large part due to (successful) industry lobbying against product labeling and quality control measures.  In fact these groups succeeded with the passage of a 1994 Federal Law that allows nutritional supplements to “be sold and marketed with little regulatory oversight, and they are pulled from shelves generally only after complaints of serious injury.” 
 Two recent reports point out the problem quite dramatically, and one suspects in a way that the “natural foods” industry would rather ignore.  
The first is a scary report in the New York Times ( that summarizes an article by Newmaster et al  ( that reports that a high percentage of herbal supplements samples not only did not contain the herbs claimed, but often had replaced them with toxic alternatives.  
The second, a paper by Bruce Ames and co-workers some years ago (see, see also concluded that “99.99% (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce (quite naturally!) to defend themselves.”  Since many of these chemicals are, in fact, proven carcinogens while to date no GMO-derived substance has been found to significantly impact human health, shouldn’t the presence of these natural, but carcinogenic, chemicals be disclosed?   
Assuming for the moment that White Wave, Whole Foods, and other companies are sincere in the efforts in support of GMO labeling, when will they begin lobbying for the accurate labeling of “natural foods” as well?  

now published in the Boulder Daily Camera: