Genetically modified crops are designed to be resistant to pests and herbicides and sometimes are aimed at increasing nutritional value, but the lack of research on these crops concerns some members of the League of Women Voters concerned.
“Nobody knows at this point what the long-term effects are of eating [genetically modified organisms], what it does on the inside of our bodies, what it does for all the animals,” said Nadyne Rosin, a member of the league's study committee on national agriculture policy.
GMOs are just one of several agriculture topics the Sussex County chapter of the league is researching. The group held a meeting Nov. 12 at the Beebe Medical Arts Building to introduce the latest study and its initial findings.
Lewes farmer Laura Hill, who maintains 2,500 acres, said there are many misconceptions about GMOs and the use of antibiotics in animals. Just because there is no research, doesn't mean GMOs are bad, she said.
“When you put [label] on that says non-GMO, it implies that anything with GMOs is bad," she said. "Much of the information out there is not based on science, it's based on emotion.”
Labeling is also an issue the league is attempting to tackle. League member Janet Denmen said a food label is the most important tool for a consumer because it allows them to make healthy and informed decisions when purchasing food. Consumers can often dictate the market, she said. When people stopped buying foods with transfats, she said, companies responded by eliminating transfats from their foods.
Food allergens also need more attention, said study committee member Joan Stern. About 30,000 people annually end up in the emergency room due to a food allergy. Of the 160 food allergens identified by the Food and Drug Administration, she said, only eight are required to use their common names. The eight are the most common – milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
Stern said it would be advantageous to have more information rather than less on a product's label.
“Even if you are a conscientious consumer you may not be able to find out what's in that product,” she said.
Other topics the local league plans to investigate include use of antibiotics with animals, agriculture finance issues, water pollution and aquifer depletion and the use of herbicides and pesticides. The group will continue its research over the next two months before reconvening in January to develop consensus on the issues. Their opinions will be forwarded to the national chapter, which will review comments from chapters throughout the country before establishing an official position on the topics.