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Shouldn’t we be able to tell what’s up with our food at a glance?

We are bombarded by news headlines and promotional messages about how we need to make better choices for our health and nutrition. Consumers are always advised to “read the label” to understand what they are putting into their bodies.

And yet, when it comes to genetically modified organisms (GMO), the intent seems to be keeping consumers in the dark instead of informed.

The GMO debate has been going on for years when it comes to our food. Does a genetically modified food pose a risk to your health that a non-GMO food does not? Those in favour of regulated labeling of GMO foods claim evidence that it does. Those against rebut that argument with their own pile of evidence.

At the end of the day, each of us must make our own decision. We can only advise that you make it an informed decision, based on your own assessment of the facts.

The things you don’t know

Take a big food crop like corn. Corn and corn products, like the much maligned high-fructose corn syrup, hide in all sorts of products. Any number of packaged food items might contain corn starch as a thickener, corn syrup as a sweetener, and so forth. It’s no secret, it’s stated plain on the ingredients label. It must be disclosed there. That’s the law.

But there is no legal requirement to state whether that corn product came from GMO corn. Why does this matter? Well, one of the reasons corn and other staple crops have been genetically modified is to make them resistant to harsh weed killers like Roundup. Why? So crops can be saturated with herbicides without fear of killing them.

But this has sparked a debate over how much of these toxic chemicals are ending up in our diets and contributing to illnesses like cancer.

Is this a legitimate concern? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. If you do opt to avoid GMO foods, you can only rely on food sources that are clearly marked as non-GMO or organic.

Apples that never brown – is there something rotten?

red-appleWhy have we chosen to wade into this subject now? We recently came across this article from CBC News about a non-browning apple. Okanagan Specialty Fruits in B.C. has patented the Arctic apple. This apple won’t turn brown like other apples after it’s been sliced. The genes that produce the browning enzyme have been turned off.

After two decades of development, this apple is finally hitting store shelves, beginning with a trial in the U.S. – the first GMO apple to hit the produce section.

Should this bit of genetic manipulation concern us? Like anything else GMO-related, it’s a matter of opinion more than science. But company founder Neal Carter told CBC he doesn’t want to “demonize” the fruit by sticking a GMO label on it. That information will be only be available on the company’s website.

Shoppers who don’t know about this particular apple won’t know it’s GMO when considering whether to buy it.

But don’t we all have a right to know? Disclosure only through a website rather than at the point of sale is hardly the model of transparency.

We believe in GMO labelling for the simple reason that consumers should be provided with all the information they need to make an informed decision while standing in the grocery aisle.

But you don’t have to worry about your apples just yet. Retail in Canada for the Arctic apple is likely still several years away.

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