By: Zuri Sullivan
It has come to our attention that many people are concerned about deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in their food, and that more than 80% of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” according to a study conducted by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics. The study found that more people supported mandatory labeling on foods containing DNA than supported a tax on sugared sodas, a ban on the sale of marijuana, a ban on the sale of foods with trans fats, or a ban on the sale of unpasteurized milk.
Ilya Somin, a Professor of Law at George Mason University, discussed these findings in a recent blog post on washingtonpost.com. In his post, Somin addresses the dangerous intersection of widespread ignorance about science with mistrust of public policy amongst the American electorate. Our purpose here is to address some of the scientific misinformation leading to these concerns.
DNA is a molecule that stores all the information necessary for life. Along with a related molecule, ribonucleic acid (RNA), it is one of a group of macromolecules, or building blocks, that make up all known living organisms. Other groups of macromolecules include proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids (or fats). The information encoded in DNA, however, is required for building all of these molecules. In short, DNA is essential for life.
All living organisms, from single-celled bacteria to large, complex, multicellular organisms like us, are built from cells that contain DNA. Even fossils, like this 400,000 year-old skeleton contain DNA. All of the food that we eat, provided that it came from a living organism, contains DNA. Vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy, pizza—all of it contains DNA. The only thing in your refrigerator that doesn’t contain DNA is the refrigerator itself. If we were to label all foods containing, DNA, therefore, we’d need to label every single food. Not only would that be wasteful, but it would also be meaningless. In fact, I’d be in support of labeling any foods that don’t contain DNA. I’m not sure what that would be, maybe rocks or something?
The purpose of Because Science is two-fold. First, we think science is awesome and we want everyone else to think science is awesome, too. But more importantly, we want to help people to better understand the science that impacts their daily lives. While we felt a bit of an imperative to write this quick piece about following the publication of this study, we are always open to suggestions based on concerns or misunderstandings about science. So if there’s a scientific topic you’d like to know more about, send us an email and let us know!