blurry grocery aisleSpeaking of food, health, and surveys, a new survey on GMOs came out this past week, right on the heels of Congress passing what’s been called a “non-labeling GMO labeling bill” and “DARK Act 2.0.”.

President Barack Obama is poised to sign the so-called DARK Act, a GMO labeling bill critics say notches a win for the food and biotech industries but will still leave consumers in the dark about whether or not their food contains genetically modified ingredients.

And that’s precisely what consumers don’t want (to be left in the dark), as the new survey – part of the Annenberg Science Knowledge survey project – confirms. As the Washington Post reported,

Altogether, 88 percent of participants said they thought products containing GMOs should be labeled, and 91 percent said they thought people had a right to know if they were buying or eating products containing GMOs. This is in keeping with multiple surveys conducted by other organizations that have indicated wide support for GMO labeling.

Unfortunately, the bill on Obama’s desk wouldn’t completely answer this desire. The labeling is far from straightforward. Companies could opt for “disclosing” GMO info through a QR code, for instance. And as for all those who don’t have or choose not to use smartphones?

Tough luck seems to be the answer.

The survey also found that most people (58%) admit to having a limited understanding of GMOs even as about half disagreed with the statement that “scientists have not found any risks to human health from eating genetically modified foods.” But where the Post suggests this reflects consumer ignorance, there are, in fact, documented risks to both human and environmental health, and plenty of safety questions remain.

But this is a different matter from labeling. Labeling is about delivering information clearly so consumers can make informed choices. So long as we’ve entrusted (or given up) the provision of food to others – whether small, community-supported farms or mega-corporations – we deserve to know as much as we can about how that food was made. Whether we act on that information or not, buy or not, is another story.

But we can’t make decisions without accessible information. We know that and we value that.

It’s similar with dentistry. Patients, as consumers, ultimately make their own choices based on a wide variety of factors. They may default to getting the amalgam fillings that their insurance will pay for, for instance, but they still deserve to know in advance what’s in those fillings (50% mercury, a known neurotoxin) and the possible consequences of having them placed.

Without disclosure and knowledge, there can be no informed consent.

Image by Consumerist Dot Com, via Flickr

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