The debate about GMO labeling, on-going in several American states with varying results, introduces an ethical battle with a wider significance: the battle for awareness for consumers, who should be able to choose their own food based on clear and transparent information. This is a battle for the right to knowledge. In the United States, this right is demanded by the vast majority of the population – 93%!* – of which 75% have declared that they would have some hesitation at the moment of purchase if foods were labeled as containing GMOs.
Naturally this need for transparency goes against the economic interests of the big food companies, who have so far managed to triumph, as in the case of California. Last November, in fact, Proposition 37, which aimed at defending knowledge and rights for consumers, was rejected thanks to the lobbying and financial might of Monsanto, Dupont, PepsiCo, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta.
Luckily campaigners who believe in the need for GMO labeling are not giving in, and are working towards obtaining results in Connecticut, Hawaii, Vermont and Washington and with Dennis Kucinich’s bill H.R. 3555, which has not yet been enacted.
Things are moving elsewhere as well, like in North Carolina, where a group of activists led by Samm Simpson, a volunteer from the Institute for Responsible Technology, is putting pressure on the government to introduce a law requiring GMO labeling. Their progress is being watched apprehensively from South Carolina, where in September 2011 the first American Earth Market was opened in Greenville. Organized by the Slow Food Upstate Convivium, the market is coordinated by Janette Wesley, a passionate supporter of a GMO-free diet for livestock, in an area where these crops are particularly common. In fact, many candidate producers were excluded from the market because of their use of GMOs, and the market’s selection process led to several producers rethinking their methods.
Slow Food has always campaigned against GMOs and gives its support to all these individual actions, whether working to create a system of transparent labeling or a market selling products that consumers can trust. Because they are good. Because they are healthy. Because they are better.
*Source: NPR Thomson Reuters 2010 Survey