When I visit my parents, we watch a lot of Food Network. It’s just about the only thing we can all agree on, and it’s also just about the only time I see television commercials. Last time I was up there (in June), this was in heavy rotation:

I believe Nabisco when they say Triscuits don’t contain any genetically modified ingredients. In fact, I know they’re telling the truth. The reason I know that is that Triscuits are made of wheat, and there is no commercially available GMO wheat. You couldn’t buy a GMO wheat cracker if you tried.

I don’t know whether to call this greenwashing or fearmongering. The commercial itself certainly doesn’t seem very ominous, more like cutesy. But why is Nabisco paying for a commercial to tell me something about Triscuit that is also true of all other wheat crackers? I’m sure they would never try to mislead me into thinking that their competitors are using GMO wheat. Right?

I’m getting to the point where I consciously avoid buying food that is labeled GMO free. It’s a useless label even when there is a GMO version, since there’s no evidence that non-GMO food is healthier. Useless at best, absurd at worst:

GMO-free salt

Image from the Genetic Literacy Project.


  1. says

    I remember how we laughed with my friends when during our trip through USA we have read the labels on bottled water and there were such pearls of wisdom as “ˇ0% fat” and “0% cholesterol”.

    I see the woeful ignorance of American public has not stagnated but progressed since then.

  2. kestrel says

    @Charly, #1: Although I do agree with your point that Americans can be staggeringly ignorant, the food label you are talking about is not actually an argument for that, IMO. Every food sold has to be tested in a laboratory, and the laboratory does analysis of what is in the food. Because they analyze everything in a similar fashion there are places on the label for fats and cholesterol. Even if they don’t actually have those ingredients…. So I don’t think you can hold up that little table that is on every package as evidence of ignorance. It’s all that other stuff that’s on the label: for example, a shampoo that is labeled as “Gluten Free!”. Of course since hopefully no one is going to eat the shampoo, it should not make any difference *how* much gluten is in there.

  3. Jazzlet says

    i can’t speak for Charly, but in th EU we are well used to nutrition labels as they are compulsory on foods above a fairly small weight, and that there will be foods that have zero fat or gluten. However a manufacturer choosing to emphasise that in a flash on the label is another matter, although sadly it is happening here too. I too try to avoid products declaring themselves free of something they would not have contained in the first place and also anything that declares itself GMO-free.

  4. says

    @kestrel, those were not some generic labels that get slapped on any product indiscriminately, those were labels printed specifically for those brands of bottled water. There is zero probability for cholesterol or fat in water unless deliberately added. Thus it does not make sense to test for those two things in water at all. And even if the results were spat out by some generic automatic testing – which I honestly doubt, since it would make these tests needlesly expensive – it makes subseuquently no sense to have those results being printed on the label for a product where they do not apply.

    I have limited experience with testing of food, but I have experience with plastics in automotive industry. And whilst there are indeed universal sets of tests that every plastic has to meet, there is for example no requirement for testing for formaldehyde emissions from polypropylene or nylon, because those two polymers cannot under normal conditions release formaldehyde. On the other hand, testing of formaldehyde emissions is a must for polyoxymethylene, because that one does release formaldehyde. Performing that test indiscriminately on all plastics would be pointless and would drive the costs needlesly up.

    @Jazzlet, nutritional tables with 0 fat or glutten are fine and sensible on foods that can containing those ingredients when prepared according to some recipes, but do not when prepared specialy in order to be gluten free etc.

    But all this just does not apply to water just like in the example in this article “NON GMO Project” just cannot apply to salt. It is non sequitur labeling.

    And bottled water here in CZ definitively does not contain information about gluten, fat or cholesterols – I just looked – it only contains information relevant to water – which is the content of various soluble inorganic ions.

    I may be bashing USA a bit too much, but I am of the opinion that the country as a whole is a huge clusterfuck and for these last twenty years they are exporting bigotry and ignorance on massive scale. I am fed by it and I pity anyone sensible who has to live there.

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