The law, set to take effect by 2016, will require that retail food products deriving from GMOs be labelled as such, thus giving consumers a chance to make informed decisions as to what they put in their body. (More details about the new law here.)
Over the past decade, similar laws have been enacted in various countries, mostly in the European Union. In fact, the US is one of the only “first-world countries” that does not require labelling of GMO products. This despite the fact that most Americans surveyed are actually in favor of GMO labelling.
The main reason there’s been delay of mandatory labelling laws in the US (see this story highlighting the plight for labelling laws in 25 US states) is due to lobbying efforts by a powerful conglomerate of food and agrochemical corporations, led by one in particular – Monsanto.
The company’s profits derive not only from the sale of GMO food products, but also from the seeds, herbicides and pesticides that are needed to ensure that such crops can thrive.
While the jury is still out as to whether or not GMOs are in our best health interests, the underlying moral issue is that scientific experiments have now leached beyond controlled labs, and into indifferent and unsuspecting human population samples, worldwide.
Indeed, there is a lot at stake in this emerging food monopoly.
According to recent estimates, as much as 80 per cent of all agricultural crops in the US are now GMO – either intentionally through commercial exploitation (implementing monoculture practices in order to supply the mass market), or even unintentionally, via crop contamination (when a GMO crop naturally pollinates a non-GMO crop, the subsequent yield being GMO).
This means that most processed foods (canned, boxed or packaged in a factory) that derive from American harvested corn, maize, wheat, canola, potatoes and soy, for example, have a high probability of being GMO products – though you would never know from the label.
So, you ask, what’s the big deal about GMOs anyway, and what does it really mean for us here in Thailand?
One undeniable fact is that the US’ food and drug regulations, or as in this case, lack thereof, invariably impact policies for food, drugs and by default, health for the entire planet.
Unlike the US, Thailand does have a GMO labelling law. However, this law is loosely enforced and vague enough that many GMO-derived products don’t require labelling.
For one, a label is only required if one of the top three ingredients of the product has more than 5 per cent of its weight ratio deriving from genetic modification.
This means that secondary ingredients can be 100 per cent GMO and no label would be required. Furthermore, the law only applies to GMO corn and soy products; thus all other GMO products are not covered by the law.
The law also doesn’t apply to smaller food producers who supply directly to consumers.
And it is this group of people – those who assume that local produce is the safest bet – that are at risk of unknowingly becoming the next guinea pigs in the Thailand GMO experiment.
To find out more about the history, present and future of GMOs in Thailand, including what produce and products have a known and suspected connection with the grand GMO experiment, click here for Part Two.