Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

GMO Continues Over GMO Labeling

    Initiative 522 failed to pass in last year’s election, but proponents of GMO labeling have their sights set on the 2016 ballot.

    This initiative pushes for the labeling of raw agricultural products and processed foods that have been genetically modified. If passed, Washington state will be the first in the country to enforce such a requirement.

    Because the bill failed to pass, the debate continues about GMOs—among politicians, scientists and Seattle University students.

    Senior Kylie Kenzer feels that GMO labeling is necessary to allow consumers to know the nature of their food. According to Kenzer, studies done on rats have found signs that consumption of genetically modified products could lead to a number of diseases and health issues such as cancer, liver problems, congenital defects, and even death—though experiments were never fully conclusive, she said.

    The Institute for Responsible Technology, an educational institution on the study of GMOs, has pointed out several flaws of using genetic engineering for food. The article explains how people often develop allergic reactions to genetically modified foods and how certain disorders such as autism, digestive problems and even reproductive problems have been on the rise, possibly in correlation with an increase in GMO products. The website goes on to say that more research needs to be done in this field to make a definite conclusion.

    But while there have been negative outcomes through the use of GMOs, the product itself shouldn’t be at fault, says Seattle U student Max Echterling. It’s the misuse of this technology by big companies that is making people look at it in an unfavorable way.

    “I don’t agree with companies like Monsanto using GMOs to exploit farmers, but I think legislation should be made to target these companies’ practices and not the technology they use,” he said. “GMOs are just another way of doing what breeders have been doing since the beginning of civilization through artificial selection. Any produce we eat today is the result of thousands of years of genetic modification, but that doesn’t make that produce inherently bad.”

    Last year, the I-522 supporters failed to steer all the public toward voting yes. Almost 55 percent opposed the labeling and the other 45 percent voted in favor of it. Nearly $22 million was raised in opposition—the top contributors were Monsanto, Grocery Manufacturers Association, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience.

    A large reason for the support of GMO labeling deals with the nutritional value of foods. Some websites have pointed out that such foods could also have toxins in them that are detrimental to the human health, but such claims are not in line with the Food and Drug Association (FDA) which states that genetically modified foods are actually regulated the same as any other foods.

    According to Echterling, one reason why the I-522 GMO labeling bill failed to pass could be that people didn’t see the value in it. Labeling could even have a negative effect, he said.

    “If we started labeling GMO food, it would make a lot of people that don’t really understand the science of GMOs equate them to something that is negative, because why else would they have to label them?” Echterling said. “Since a lot of scientific research is funded by the government, the public perception of GMOs is really important in determining how much funding will end up going towards this new technology. I see so much potential in genetic modification that it scares me to think its progress might be hindered by a public perception rooted mostly in misunderstanding.”

    Another reason the initiative wasn’t popular could be because of some of the complex wording within the bill.

    In the future, GMOs could be used to achieve positive results, not only in the field of agriculture, but also one could see the creation of renewable and carbon neutral gasoline from sugar, Echterling said.

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