Experts in food and agricultural production recently gathered in Chicago to discuss transparency and consumer information at USFRA's Food Dialogues.
While GMOs weren't the intended topic of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance's most recent Food Dialogues, held at Kendall College in Chicago last week, genetically modified crops were still the discussion of choice for food and agriculture experts gathered on the panel.
Ellie Krieger moderated the panel, titled, "Transparency and Food: Our Responsibility to Make Information Available to Today's Consumer." While she often attempted to bring the discussion back to how to best provide information to consumers, it quickly became clear that GMOs – and GM labeling – was at the crux of the discussion.
Jim Riddle, Minnesota fruit farmer and organic research grants coordinator for The Ceres Trust, was the first to mention GMOs, describing the "culture of secrecy that developed in the 1990s" around the GM framework. "They assumed that people just didn't want to know certain things, or didn't need to know things like transparency and traceability," he added.
Panel moderator Ellie Krieger, author and Food Network host, noted that in looking for proper food labels, consumers seem to want very simple information about a very complex topic.
Jayson Lusk, author of “The Food Police” and Oklahoma State University agricultural economist, took issue with Riddle's statement, adding that Europe has no more choice than the U.S., and, in fact, has fewer food choices and higher food prices. "We have more choices here: organic certified, non-GMO verified. It's just not true that consumers don't have access to those products.”
For Lusk, it was a question of which labels should the government require and which should the market sort out?