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How Much Do Food Labels Matter?

                              It doesn’t feel like winter until the temperature dips below freezing and I whip up a big batch of chili that makes my house smell heavenly—but is still healthy. Instead of ground beef, I use ground turkey which cuts, among other things, the fat and calories. And because I like to know it’s organic and antibiotic-free meat, that usually means a trip to Whole Foods. It’s not cheap, but there are some health splurges I’m willing to make and this happens to be one of them. My chili recipe is heavy on cholesterol-fighting kidney beans and I needed two cans, so, on this particular day, I decided to save some time and pick them up at the same supermarket. What Whole Food had to offer cost a few cents more than what I usually get (hmmm), was in a small box (interesting, no can) and had a label stating that this was not a genetically modified food (wow!). No GMOs? Australia, Italy, the United Kingdom and 61 other countries require labeling of genetically engineered foods. But while the overwhelming majority of Americans say they’d like labeling (and our Family Circle Facebook poll even showed 99% of you want labeling), the numbers don’t work out that way in voting booths. This winter, Washington state’s Initiative 522 (which would have required genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such) failed to be passed with 54.8% of voters saying no thanks to GMO labeling. Perhaps concerns about additional costs and unclear legislation turned the tide in a different direction?

It may surprise you to know that we’re probably already consuming a fair amount of modified foods. “Most soybeans, corn, canola and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time. That means everything from your breakfast cereal to your taco shell to your soda could contain GMOs. Experts continue to debate over whether you should or shouldn't be concerned about GMOs. They also go toe-to-toe over whether you should or shouldn't care enough to see them labeled. There are certainly pros and cons, with a great rundown here. If you choose to go the non-GMO route, there are options out there to make it easier. Whole Foods, for example, has pledged that by 2018, all products in their U.S. and Canadian stores will be labeled to indicate whether they contain GMOs. And already, a great number of them do—like those red kidney beans that I did end up buying. Increasingly, it seems that we live in a world where you need to vote with your dollars. It happens with what we listen to: Opposed to that racy song they’re playing on the radio? Don’t let your kid download it for $1.29. It happens with what we watch: Upset about all the violence in flicks these days? Make sure the next $100 you drop on family movie night goes to a comedy. And it appears that it’s happening with what we eat. Are you concerned about GMOs? What percentage more in price, if required, would you be willing to pay for non-GMO foods? Post a comment below and share your thoughts.

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