GMO labeling not about choice

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Proposition 37, the California ballot measure that called for mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs, was defeated by voters last week, 53.1 percent to 46.9 percent.

If approved, California would’ve been the first state to require such labeling. There is a right to know what’s in your food, but a Los Angeles Times endorsement urging a “no” vote on Prop 37 said it best: “there is little if any evidence that changing a plant’s or animal’s genes through bioengineering, rather than through selective breeding, is dangerous to the people who consume it.”

Foods that contain genetically modified components do not “increase the levels of known toxicants in foods and introduce new toxicants and health concerns,” as the proposition language suggested.

And don’t just take my word on it — that’s coming from the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Dietetic Association, and the National Academy of Sciences. Foods with biotech-derived ingredients pose no more risk to people than any other foods (including organic). Plain and simple, a mandatory label implies a difference where none exists.

I know it’s a tired rebuttal, but farmers and researchers have used selective breeding in plants and animals ever since they figured out they could. Through traditional breeding, today’s cattlemen breed for calving ease or sound feet or more milk. Today’s plant growers breed for disease resistance, stalk strength, drought tolerance and increased nutritional quality.

We should stop improving varieties simply because we now have new technology? I don’t think so. What about the greater science benefit that we could gain from biotechnology? From advanced molecular biology?

In fact, DNA technology is used today in conventional breeding and the selection process of non-GMO crops, too.

I don’t think we can conclude, as The Center for Consumer Freedom did, that there is no such thing as the “food movement.” Neither can we pooh-pooh the importance of transparency, ethics and honesty. But this might be the one battle — if it now moves to Washington, as some have suggested — that agriculture should fight like it did in California, because much of the anti-GMO sentiment has been based on faulty science, emotion, a mistrust of big corporations, and even conspiracy theories.

Are labeling proponents fighting for food safety or the environment, or are they fighting against big business? That’s no foundation for sound policy.

Is there a need for labeling? Not for products that haven’t been shown to cause harm.


By Susan Crowell

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

7 Comments

  1. Maggie says:

    Sorry, but the assumption this article is based is total garbage. I have two degrees in Biology, so maybe that’s why I can see inserting genetic material from another species is NOT anything like selectively breeding for genes that are naturally part of the species genome. Big duh! And the second major silly comment is that labeling ingredients is only for dangerous things. Oh dear! How can an intelligent person say that? If that were true, all labeling would be dropped. Labels are to provide information so that consumers may make informed choices. This author wishes to rob consumers of the right to choose unless she thinks something is dangerous. Well, guess what? Peanuts might not be dangerous in your opinion, but to someone with a bad allergy, they can mean death. And I may want to avoid high fructose corn syrup and you may not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to see it in the ingredients just because you don’t care. Maybe sugar isn’t dangerous, but I want to lose weight, so I look at labels to help my dietary goals. If the GMO stuff isn’t dangerous, then why the big push to hide it?????

  2. Nadia says:

    if GMOs are so great why not be proud of this technological advancement and label it as such? If there is absolutely no difference between GMO’s and organic…… why go through the trouble of genetically modifying? It’s your right to not want to know… I guess.

  3. Jill says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvGddgHRQyg

    Watch this documentary, maybe you will change you mind about trusting big corporations.

  4. Blake says:

    I was with your argument for a while, but then it turned nonsensical. Your last sentence is particularly inept. “Is there a need for labeling? Not for products that haven’t been shown to cause harm.” By that logic we we do away with ingredient labeling on goods, nutritional labeling on goods, manufacturing labeling on goods, country of origin labeling on goods. By your argument all of the labeling on all things would be removed if the product hasn’t caused harm yet. Labeling is about information and you deserve to buy a product that was grown in Siberia if you want, has a high protein content, or was made without GMO’s. It’s pretty simple. Some people don’t want to eat food created with GMO’s for their own reasons and should know what food is or isn’t created that way. Last I looked protein laden Siberian coffee beans have not caused harm.

  5. Scott Smith says:

    Anti-GMO sentiment is based on faulty science, emotion, a mistrust of big corporations, and even conspiracy theories. Editor Susan Crowell….

    Hey Susan. You forgot the one about righteous indignation over being deceived about having a patented unique DNA protein inserted into the food chain, an immune system stimuli which caused, and continues to do so, untold physiological response.

    The crying shame in the GMO labeling debate is the fact that there is NOT A SINGLE PUBLISHED CLINICAL HUMAN HEALTH FEEDING STUDY showing GMOs are safe, so all your editorial anti-science caterwauling is just plain old ….weak.

  6. Maggie says:

    “Is there a need for labeling? Not for products that haven’t been shown to cause harm.” OK, this is my last comment, I promise. I have absolutely no patience with statements this dumb. Yes, that is judgmental, and I am sorry. But for heaven’s sake, think about what you said in that article. You are saying that unless an ingredient is PROVEN to be unsafe, there is no need for labeling. So answer this: if something has been proven unsafe, why would it be in my food anyway???? Labeling is for information, and we deserve to know what’s in our food and make our own choices. Hello??? If you have a great product, you have nothing to hide. Hiding ingredients is a sign of guilt and fear on the part of the GMO people. Shame on them!

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