You’re walking through your local co-op grocery store in that browsing mode you sometimes fall into when you are waiting for the soil temperature to rise enough to go seeding. A smart-looking, brightly coloured label catches your eye on a bottle of orange juice.
“This product does not contain strychnine,” it says, below a stylized image of a butterfly and plant, complete with the world “Verified.”
You say to yourself, “I didn’t know some orange juices had strychnine in them. Apparently this company’s doesn’t, according to the label.”
No human food products, or any food products, except for a couple designed for gophers, contain this chemical. Saying a product doesn’t contain something, especially something harmless by all measures, puts that question in your mind, though.
We are seeing these types of labels on a lot of products. And, while they don’t proclaim an absence of poison, they do proclaim an absence of genetically modified organisms.
I have seen it on orange juice, milk, flour, a whole grains cereal product, pearled barley and a couple of produce wrappers.
In Canada, there are regulations around this sort of advertising in food. Where there is a competing product containing GM content ,a label stating that one is free of it could be allowed.
Thing is, few foods contain GM products, and even fewer contain the proteins from GM ingredients, and you need proteins to get DNA because that is the only part that is modified, even if that was a thing, which it’s not.
When it comes oranges, there are no GM versions. So they should have a label that expresses that this way:
“Like all oranges, the oranges in this product were not produced using genetic engineering.”
But they don’t.
Instead, they fall back on using a paid verification company’s logo and website address. It isn’t very handy in the store when one is trying to not poison the family or when I need some premium pink rock salt or drinking water — yes you can find GM-free-labelled salt and water.
Absence claims are designed and allowed to protect people from things like peanuts, if they are allergic to them, not to create mistrust in our food.
I feel like I should label them with something … maybe “liar.”