Is knowing what's in your food necessary?

The future of food and farming in our state is once again up for debate, as the battle continues over what information should be included in food labeling.
BAKERSFIELD, CA - The future of food and farming in our state is once again up for debate, as the battle continues over what information should be included in food labeling.

This issue is part of a national push for more detailed food labeling. In November 2012, California voters rejected a proposition to require labels on products that are genetically engineered.

Now, two groups are rallying support to get a food labeling bill to the state legislature.

George Sanchez is browsing the aisles of Lassen's Natural Foods store, in search of items fitting into what he describes as a holistic diet.

"I just see it as a better lifestyle," said Sanchez.

He says knowing what's in the food his family eats, is important.

Sanchez said, "I just think that chemicals are basically what's causing a lot of the problems with people, additives and preservatives."

He says he tries to buy organic -- a label that's regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Specific guidelines dictate production and ingredients, contained in the three tiers of organic foods.

"100% Organic" foods may only contain certified organically- produced ingredients. An "Organic" marking means at least 95% of the ingredients are organically grown. The "Made With" category indicates at least 70% of the contents are certified organic products, but not all labels are as clear.

Local dietician Jordan Dennis said, "If you're looking for something that's organic versus natural, there is a big difference. So you really need to understand the labels so you're buying what you want to buy and what you're hoping to buy for your family."

The USDA only monitors the natural processing of meat and egg products, but there isn't a specific regulation or definition of other so-called natural foods. That's something Dennis says can be deceiving.

"It's very easy for a company to manipulate that word then on a package. When you see the word natural, especially when they write it in green letters and put a little leaf by it, you really think that you're buying something that's organic, or that was made with whole foods, but you might not necessarily be eating that," said Dennis.

The Food and Drug Administration recently said it won't rule on whether natural foods can contain bio-engineered ingredients.

Although Dennis says there isn't any nutrition difference in the foods, the debate continues over the distinction.

Dennis said, "That's an ethical decision, are you o.k. with eating something that science has influenced or do you want science to remain out of your natural food?"

Connecticut and Maine have laws on labeling foods that are genetically engineered. Earlier this week, supporters of labeling rallied in Sacramento -- asking lawmakers here to introduce similar legislation.
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