Several years ago I had never heard of GMO food. Today, increasing consumer interest has led some companies, like Whole Foods Markets, to voluntarily adopt GMO labeling requirements on all of their products by 2018.

GMO food is defined by the World Health Organization as “food with DNA that has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally.”

Whether we know it or not, most of us have eaten genetically modified “GMO” food since it became common in 1994. A common example is Bt corn, found in a wide range of products containing corn syrup, such as most baked goods and juices.

As the public becomes more aware of the extensive use of GMOs in food products, discussion is increasing exponentially. A quick internet search of “GMO food” reveals the extent of the dialogue which includes efforts across the country to pass legislation requiring consumer labeling of products produced with GMOs.

What are the concerns with GMOs?

Many highlight unknown long-term health impacts of genetically modified foods. Some studies suggest that the increasing prevalence of food allergies may be due, at least in part, to our increased consumption of foods containing GMOs. Additional studies raise other health concerns that merit further attention.

In addition to public health worries, there are concerns about impacts on the world’s food supply, including evidence suggesting GMO crops may harm pollinators like bees and butterflies which are essential to food production. While yet others speculate that over time the use of GMO seeds, which are protected by intellectual property law, may restrict the world’s seed supply to ownership by only a few large corporations.

All of these concerns are troubling and merit further study. However, there’s a compelling reason to act today on GMO labeling. And that reason is rooted in an unlikely place: capitalism.

The success of the American economy, the strongest and most innovative in the world, lies in capitalism. As a capitalist society we believe that our economic prosperity is tied to a simple formula: companies that respond to the needs of the consumer prosper, while those that don’t, fail.  This model assumes that consumers have enough information – including information about whether their food contains GMOs – to make informed choices about their purchases.

Providing consumers with GMO labeling is good for competitive markets and supports informed consumer choice. Most important, it’s good for the public which has the right to know and to choose what’s in the food we eat and feed our families.

Now is the time for the legislature to act on GMO labeling.