GMOs in the spotlight

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With Vermont only a single promised signature away from passing the country’s strongest GMO labeling bill, the GMO issue is a hot subject at the moment.

Genetically Modified Organisms are found in over 70 percent of prepackaged food in the United States without being labeled. But what are GMOs and why should they be labeled?

The morning of April 30, Kaja Tretjak was invited into an Intro to Sociology class to build on the class’s current topic of social change and to talk about the labeling of GMOs.

Tretjak was on campus as a candidate for a full-time position in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and was welcomed by a full room of both students and professors awaiting her discussion.

“GMOs, genetically modified organisms or sometimes we just call it GE foods, are really at the center of a huge debate around the world and you guys here in Vermont actually are kind of the center of this debate,” said Tretjak. “There is a law that is being passed by the Legislature right now that is the first law in any state that is going to require the labeling of GMOs.”

Tretjak explained how it is difficult to understand the long-term effects of eating GMOs because they have not been around long enough to conduct long-term experiments.

A lot of research has been conducted but it seems no consensus has been reached on the harm GMOs could have on the body. Some of these studies have also been funded by GMO-producing corporations and are believed to hold a bias.

Exploring the subject from both sides of the debate, Tretjak used the scientific research regarding the issue to start a classroom discussion that had students drawing their own conclusions.

To show some of the possible benefits of GMOs, Tretjak played an older video that put a positive spin on genetic engineering.

A woman protesting GMOs in England was asked why she was protesting and she explained, “I think that if there is any risk involved whatsoever in the food we eat why would we take that risk?”

“If they are so safe, why can’t you just label them?” asked another one of the English protestors interviewed in the video.

After watching this video, which aired on the Discovery Channel with the purpose of informing the pubic about GMOs, the class turned its focus on the very real debate unfolding in Vermont. This question is one that is being answered by Vermont in the passing of the GMO labeling bill. With a huge population of organic farmers it is no surprise that Vermont is at the forefront of the GMO debate.

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