Let’s face it, so many of us battle an addiction to junk food. As a kid, I loved Hostess chocolate cupcakes. In college, Cap’n Crunch fueled many a group study session. As an adult, I mostly eat healthy foods – except for chocolate chip cookies. And an occasional ice cream. And . . .
For many Americans, junk food – foods high in calories, sugar and fat but low in nutritional value – is the staple of every day’s diet. And it shows.
There is no denying that we face an obesity epidemic in our country. Nor is there any denying that pervasive obesity is having an belt-busting impact on health care. Health care costs attributable to diabetes alone – according to the American Diabetes Association – account for 1 in every 10 health care dollars annually. That doesn’t even count lost time from work, reduced productivity and other economic consequences of the disease.
So, what is wrong with the idea of regulating junk food as a means to better health? When New York City Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed outlawing jumbo-sized sugary soda drinks, he ignited a firestorm. The proposal had nothing to do with outright banning Coke or Mountain Dew, but libertarians barked anyway at the idea of any government encroachment into personal choices.
What about my personal choices? Dietary decisions are a significant cause of obesity, which leads to higher rates of chronic disease, which leads to greater demand for health care, which leads to super-sized health care costs. Widespread obesity in our country, in short, affects us all.
Can you imagine grocery shopping and having the supermarket manager tell you that the labels had been removed from all the products on the store’s shelves? Unthinkable! Unimaginable!
So why then is there such intense opposition to the idea that product labels should include disclosure of any genetically engineered ingredients? After all, public opinion overwhelmingly favors GMO labeling. A 2011 New York Times poll found 89 percent of Americans want labeling of GMO products. Separate polls conducted last year by MSNBC and ABC reached similar results: Nine of ten Americans favor mandatory GMO labeling.
Accurate product disclosure allows consumers to make informed choices. When it comes to food, we should be concerned and aware of what we are putting in our bodies and in our children’s bodies. Who could argue with an idea so obviously worthwhile?
Agricultural and chemical company interests and their allies oppose GMO labeling, that’s who. And these companies, led by industry bogeyman Monsanto, have the money, the political and lobbying muscle and the financial interest to fight against the popular will.