I wonder why, in a time when we search for information and build knowledge in so many aspects of our complicated lives, there is so much resistance to seeking, or providing, basic information about the nature of the food we eat?

In Maine, L.D. 718 “An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock,” would give us a chance to look a little more deeply into what is in the food we eat.

What could be wrong with labeling food items, or seed packets, regarding organisms that — as mounting evidence shows — might be harmful to us, to the plant and animal life around us, and to the planet?

We label hot drink containers so people know they contain, well, liquid that is hot. I looked at the label on a can of soup at the supermarket, and it listed 23 ingredients (11 of which were additives and chemicals), and it showed the amount of calories, salt, fat and cholesterol in a serving.

Even water bottles are labeled for possible content of elements such as magnesium or calcium.

We have come to expect a certain amount of information so we can make appropriate choices. Even when the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t quite caught up with early scientific studies and therefore hasn’t yet recommended caution about particular substances, we want to know what is in our food so we can plan accordingly.

Why wouldn’t we want to know if our garden seed was genetically engineered?

We can find out if it is organic, open-pollinated or hybrid — all of that is helpful information. But genetically modified seeds are not labeled as such, and the manufacturers are adamant that we do not need this information. Why?

Why can’t we choose garden seeds based on correct labeling, so we can buy seeds that wouldn’t eventually affect our neighbors’ gardens and land, and perhaps change the life systems in the surrounding area, as some research has begun to acknowledge?

Why is access to this information considered unnecessary?

We have a long history of coming up with laboratory-based, human-engineered substances that are crude quick fixes meant to address complex issues in the natural environment. They rarely solve a problem for long, and they very often leave a legacy of poison, disease and long-term change and degradation in the land, the air, the water.

That does not bode well for genetically modified organisms, given some studies that are already available. As we watch for further research, it seems prudent to label these engineered organisms and products so that we can make our own decisions.

Mary Anne Libby is a librarian and lives in Mount Vernon.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: