photo of a wheat field


The GMO labeling debate is a hot one, as it should be. People should care about what they put in their bodies, whether it’s genetically modified, or not. It’s refreshing to see that people are concerned about what they’re eating. It could be the world’s growing obesity problem that sparked the conversation. It could also be the infrequent, but highly publicized food-safety scares. Either way, genetically modified and engineered food is on lots of people’s minds.

To label or not to label?

The latest GMO labeling push largely began with Whole Foods’ decision to label any genetically modified product on its shelves. According to a press release on the company’s website, Whole Foods has pledged that all items will be labeled for GMOs by 2018. This pledge really shook up the food industry.

If you remember, California tried passing an initiative to require GMO labeling, but voters rejected it.  

Though the topic seems popular, there’s always two sides to a story. Cass R. Sunstein, former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulator Affairs, wrote in Bloomberg that labeling GMO products would, “confuse, mislead and alarm consumers, potentially causing economic harm, not least to consumers themselves.”

Who are we supposed to trust? What are we supposed to believe? Many pro-label activists cite health effects caused by eating genetically modified food, but the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Medical Association have both said that GMOs are safe.

Sunstein mentioned labeling could be confusing for customers. Heck,  it’s confusing enough reading all of the arguments out there.

Fear of the unknown

One story about GMOs really got my attention a few weeks ago. It was the story about golden rice. Have you heard of it?

Golden rice was developed to contain beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A. Millions of people living in Asia and Africa don’t get enough vitamin A. The lack of vitamin A can cause blindness and other health problems. The idea is that poor countries grow the golden rice and provide better nutrition for their people. Sounds like a noble cause, yes?

Some governments are stalling suppling their people with golden rice until more research is done on its safety, according to NPR. What’s more important, feeding your people or spending years studying a product that many scientists say is perfectly safe?

My argument

First of all, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I’m aware that many of the foods I eat on a daily basis contain genetically modified ingredients. That’s what happens when the majority of the food grown in the U.S. is engineered to resist pests, drought and floods. That’s why farmers use them. In reality, we’ve been fiddling with genetics for decades. Mendel and his peas, for example.

But why not give the consumer a choice? Many of the ingredients found in food are safe to eat, but we still list them on labels, right? That’s what this argument boils down to. Giving consumers the ability to choose for themselves.

According to the International Business Times, 61 countries around the world label genetically modified food. I’d like to see some information on the consumption rate of GMO vs. non-GMO food in those countries.

We detail things like sugar, salt and cholesterol on labels. All of a food’s ingredients must also be labeled, in detail, under a food’s nutritional information. Organic foods have labels, why not GMOs? It’s all part of giving the consumer a choice.

Here’s an idea, instead of labeling GMO food, why not require the labeling of non-GMO food?

The map

I made this map to show the current progress of states to adopt GMO labeling laws. Twenty-two states are currently considering GMO legislation. You can go ahead and click on your state’s marker to learn more about labeling legislation.

If you have any updates on your state’s legislation, please let me know in the comments below.

Please note: This map is a work in progress, changes will be made when more information is available.

View in a larger map

Will is Farm and Dairy's newest writer. He's recently moved to Lisbon, Ohio where he lives in a church turned community theater. He enjoys writing (of course), theater and hiking.
Will Flannigan
View all posts by Will Flannigan

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