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Genetically Engineered Animals: On the table, but not on the label!?

Technology has allowed us to do things never before possible in nature:  but is it safe, and are we ready?

As of January 2009, you will now be able to purchase and consume products from genetically engineered animals – without one mention of that fact on the label.

Whether you welcome or dread your first GE dish, we all have one thing in common–we won”t know when we eat it. Our friends at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have decided that products from genetically engineered animals will not be labeled as such.

The FDA says that it will not require labeling of products from genetically engineered animals because those products are not “materially different” from conventional ones. Ironically this ruling follows a recent Consumers Union poll which found that 95% of respondents favored labeling of milk and meat from genetically engineered animals. A spokeswoman for the FDA defended its decision, stating, “…the FDA doesn”t require that a pork chop label specify [the breeding method of the pig].”

Translation: the FDA has decided genetic engineering is just another way to breed animals and therefore, it doesn”t make the meat, eggs or dairy from those animals any different from the meat, eggs or dairy out of grandma”s barnyard.

I would beg to differ. Consider a tale of two pork chops: one from a pig bred and birthed the good old fashioned way, and the other from a pig whose DNA has been interspliced with roundworm genes in order to increase the Omega-3 fatty acids in the meat. Are we really to believe that they are “not materially different”?

The FDA has expanded its laboratory to include our farms, our environment, and ultimately ourselves. When faced with this new technology, other countries have opted to label GM foods–allowing consumers to make their own choices. The European Union requires that all GM foods be labeled as such, and UK consumers are actively defending their right to keep non-GM food available.

As a parent, I have real problems offering my family up for test subjects in this experiment of modifying the molecular structure of these animals. I am not condemning the pursuit of technology–this is about my ability to decide what technology ends up in my body and in my children”s bodies. I have the right to know if my food was conceived as nature intended. If you want to test GM products and animals, be my guest. But use your own body and family–not mine.

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