Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Market-Driven GMO Labeling Proposal

There is a substantial push underway to obtain warning labels for foods that may contain ingredients with a transgenic origin.  I personally believe that the real reason is not about informed choice, but instead a back-door attack on companies that profit from GM foods.  That's the real reason.  Here's my thinking.

First, the arguments for labeling are based on fear and misinformation rather than science. Next, labeling proponents say that the vast majority of Americans want labels. Science says no labels are necessary.

If people really want labels, then why not just label food that is not transgenic?   Science has no qualms with interpretation that non-transgenic food is perfectly safe.  Many companies do this already.  I see the "GMO- No Thanks" label every morning on my soy milk when I pour it over my Frankenberry.  It is a certification from the non-GMO Project.

The "Non-GMO Project" seal means that non-scientists
have already determined the stuff inside is acceptable. 
Because they think so.

This approach makes complete sense.  If consumers really want non-transgenic products, they can identify them and buy them.  They can do that now, as above with the "Non-GMO Project" seal of approval mentioned above.  There's your feel-good, scientifically bankrupt, stamp of approval.  Cool by me.

If pro-labeling forces spent as much time urging companies to label non-GMO products as they do trying to put labels on perfectly safe GMO products, perhaps they could increase market share for companies they like and those that sell products they believe are better.  People that need to know this information can get it that way.

It achieves the same end.  People that want a choice, can make a choice.

This is what they'd like to see. Even a neutral informative label will become
the basis of new fear campaigns.

This reality of rabid desire to label exposes the agenda of the labeling crowd.  It is not about knowing what is in the food, supporting non-GMO food producers, etc.  It is about warning labels, fear mongering and trying to penalize companies (namely Monsanto) that make the transgenic plants that cover 90% of farm acreage.  They can't argue outright banning from a point of science, so they attack modern conventional agriculture with legislation passed on fear.  Very dangerous.

My personal feeling is that the proposal will pass in California and food will have to be labeled as containing transgenic ingredients.  The effects will be:
-- Transgenic and non-transgenic ingredients will have to be separated and tracked.
-- Companies will have to retool to be competitive
-- New bureaucracies will be created
-- Costs for all foods will rise, disproportionately affecting the poor
-- Lawyers will get rich
-- Prices will skyrocket for non-GMO foods as ensuing fear tactics will reinforce the label's dyer warnings.
-- Court cases will rage on about appropriateness of labels
-- Joe Six Pack will be taught to fear good food and succumb to the lies of the anti-scientists that hate Big Ag.
-- Science will once again shake its noble head at human stupidity and gullibility.

You heard it here first!

Transgenic foods are safe, at least there is no real evidence of harm.  No warning label is necessary from a scientific viewpoint.  If you want a label, convince non-GMO companies to label their products.  That gives the same choice, voluntarily, without all of the adversarial bad feelings and court hassles.  So simple.

Unfortunately, that solution does not inflict new mandates and regulation on BigAg, so anti-GMO interests will never go for that.  It is not about choice.  It is about a political and business agenda that slanders sound science to make desired gains.


Mary said...

Actually, I think after the political drama dries up--like most labels it will be widely ignored by American consumers. Until the traits become health-advantage types, and then the companies will use it against the wishes of activists.

My 2 cents worth of predictions.

noteasytobegreen said...

I'm still on the fence on this one. Yes, I think consumers should know what's in their food...but I'm not sure we (including me, as a non-scientist) have the scientific literacy or objectivity to make educated, rational choices. What I do find ironic is that the people pushing hardest for GMO labeling already primarily buy certified organic, non-processed food. The labels would affect them least.

Seems strange there is so much fear about GMOs and their potential effect on human health when so many other things -- cars, lack of exercise, the standard American diet -- are much more likely to kill us.

Ben Edge said...

noteasytobegreen said: "What I do find ironic is that the people pushing hardest for GMO labeling already primarily buy certified organic, non-processed food. The labels would affect them least."

Your statement offers the most compelling argument that the label-proponents are not interested in "informed choice", they really just want to penalize GMO food products.

Anonymous said...

This blog is largely conjecture and does contain much in the way of factual information. Seeing that you are also in strawberry geonomics; I suspect your a being a bit subjective. It is nice to see some information form the other side of the fence @LagrangianShow

Kevin M. Folta said...

Well anonymous, if a scientific perspective is subjective, then guilty as charged! Certainly there are places that are clearly conjecture. I think that's clear. I don't have a crystal ball. Just some thoughts, we'll see.

Kim said...

Kevin, you state in your post:

"Transgenic foods are safe, at least there is no real evidence of harm."

How do you know this? Meaning, am I correct to assume that there have been no scientific studies that have proved this?...Just like there has been no solid scientific evidence that GMO foods are harmful...(I did read your discussion with Dr. Ena following that one post you wrote about re: GMO being on the ballot in CA)

I am asking as a curious consumer and concerned citizen who wishes to understand more about both sides of this debate...Thanks!