What’s the Most Important Thing Food Labels Should Tell Us?

The importance of food labels is a discussion that has been gaining importance over the past couple years. Voters agree that people have a right to know what they’re eating–if food is organic or if it contains genetically modified ingredients. While GMO labeling is at the center of the debates, there are other suggestions that many believe are worthy of noting on food labels.

Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota has three things he would like to see labeled.

“First, deforestation, yes or no?” he says. In other words, were trees cut down to grow this food? This has been happening in Indonesia and Malaysia to make room for palm oil plantations. According to Foley, he can’t think of a “bigger hammer to the environment” than deforestation.

Second, Foley continues, “How much water did it take, and from where?” Farmers around the world have been draining rivers and underground aquifers to water their crops at the expense of the land. “And No. 3, how much fertilizer did it take, and did you manage to keep it from running off?” Fertilizer runoff from farms has choked lakes and estuaries from China to the Chesapeake Bay. It contaminates our water supplies and damages the ecosystems with its excessive nutrient levels.

Another opinion from Tracie McMillan,author of The American Way of Eating, only wants to know if the people working the farms were paid a fair living wage. McMillan went undercover and worked in the vegetable fields of California to investigate fair wages for her book.

It would be great to see food labels on a grade basis of how farmers and the land are treated, but it is also important to keep labels simple and easy to read. There are several issues that probably should be labeled on food that would greatly influence what food we buy and how production of food is treated. But for now, the food label debate is still ongoing.

What are some things you would like to see on food labels?

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