Offering the Freedom of Choice When it Matters Most
By Walker Lunn Founder, EnviRelation, LLC | August 25, 2013
In late May, 2013, people in 52 countries and 436 cities globally gathered in protest. Japan cancelled billions of dollars of purchases from the US. South Korea followed suit. The European Union may do the same. How is your hotel responding to this situation?
If you don't have a policy and practices regarding genetically-modified foods, genetically modified organisms (GMO's), or transgenic foods as they are sometimes called, the time may soon come when you'll need one. Your guests may have strong opinions about these foods and appreciate your effort to keep them informed. When you think about how your company may approach it, understanding how the European Union and the United States approaches have differed and why may help you find your path in handling a tricky topic and meeting your guests needs. It's also good to understand how transgenic plants are different than plants that have bred to have certain characteristics; in transgenic foods foreign DNA from other organisms is injected into the DNA sequence of the receiving cell and is adopted by the plant; traditional plant breeding simply crosses two plants through natural reproduction.
A study by the PEW Charitable Trust found that 47 percent of Americans surveyed opposed the introduction of GMO foods into the US food supply. At nearly half the population, it's safe to assume your guests may have strong feelings about GMO, whether they've voiced it to you or not. In Europe, opinions vary from country to country and in general are opposed to GMO foods. In recent news, Whole Foods Market has promised to label all genetically-engineered foods in its stores by 2018, and Japan has blocked the sale of wheat produced in the US to Japan after finding traces of GMO wheat. The Wall Street Journal reported that in late May protestors in 52 countries and 436 cities to rally against transgenic foods.
Generally, these products are regulated in two stages: first, in the growing of the foods, and second, in the marketing of these foods.
The growing of these foods is regulated typically to control unintended consequences of introducing genetically modified seeds into the environment. The concerns are that the plants may contaminate non-gmo plants in the wild. There are a number of potential risks; cross-pollination could result in the spread of the modified DNA. This could be bad because it reduces natures natural library of DNA variety and could make plants more susceptible to disease and widespread crop failure. Or, if it is later discovered that the modifications are dangerous, it could take enormous cost and effort to rid cropland of the modified plant strain. Some farmers are also concerned about these plants cross-contaminating their fields because of the patent rights of transgenic seed producers. These companies are known to vigorously protect their patents and litigate the unauthorized use of their seeds while requiring that farmers buy new seed each season instead of using seed from the plants they've grown. Many farmers fear the risk that their fields are accidentally populated by GMO plants. They fear the litigation and the lost marketability of having non-GMO fields.
The marketing of these foods is regulated because many people want to know what they are buying and eating, and to have a choice about it. Some people believe the science is conclusive and these foods are safe to consume. Others believe research that shows these foods are not safe for consumption. Whichever the case, proponents of regulating the marketing of these foods generally agree in labeling requirements. Many oppose them because they believe that transgenic foods are no different that conventional foods.