Give Food Consumers the Right to Know
By José Andrés
In today’s world, it’s no secret that my guests in my restaurants want to know what’s in their food and where it came from. As a chef, I know it’s my obligation to tell them.
A few decades ago, it was not so easy for American consumers to know about the ingredients found in the food they were eating. But more and more, our government has started to give us this information – information that helps us understand everything from the basic nutrition facts about sugar and fat, to the presence of allergens that could possibly make us sick.
Just like how our cooking and the foods that we cook with are progressing, the transparency of it all is, too. But not quickly enough.
Unfortunately, our government has chosen to refuse the American consumers with the right to know whether their foods were grown with genetically modified organisms or not. In July, the House passed a piece of legislation that would block state GMO labeling and make it virtually impossible for the FDA to develop a national GMO labeling system that is fair for all parties involved. And so it is no surprise that the food leaders of the is country have dubbed the bill the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act,” because it certainly is one that will keep all of us in the dark when it comes to knowing what’s in our food.
There are consumers in 64 other nations that have already been given this liberty. In those countries, where GMO labeling is enacted, the price of food has not gone up, as some food companies in this country have warned they would, and a simple label on the back of a food package is not viewed as a warning.
We’re not asking to put an end to using GMOs, because this is not a debate about their dangers or the technology behind them. We don’t know enough about them to make those kinds of calls just yet, but we’re getting close. This is about transparency, and giving our consumers all of the information they need to make a decision about what they eat and what they feed their families. This is a trend that should be welcomed by Congress, not something they are frustrated with, because the more we know about the food that we are eating, the better decisions we can make, making our societies healthier and our culture richer as a result.
Nine out of ten voters have already told us they want mandatory GMO labeling – regardless of age, income, or political party. As a chef, I know it’s important to listen to my guests and respect their wishes. Not doing that would be a failure to my businesses. Congress should do the same, and stop failing the American people by refusing us the right to know what’s in our food.
This op-ed originally ran in Politico on Oct. 15, 2015
About the author:
José Andrés is President of ThinkFoodGroup. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2012, and “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation in 2011.