Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 11:00 AM
The latest incarnation of the movement to label genetically modified food ingredients appears at first blush to be a consumer-oriented effort to provide full disclosure about what we eat.
A second glance, however, reveals it to be not so much about consumer education as an all-out attack against a single company, Monsanto, which has developed and marketed a variety of genetically modified products and seeds. The website of the Organic Consumers Association vilifies the company on many fronts.
In itself, it is what it is. If that group wants to exercise its free speech rights, so be it.
But as a public policy, one has to question the wisdom and the practicality of forcing every food provider to label any ingredient that is genetically modified. While it is certainly possible in theory, testing every ingredient used to make any given food is bound to create a huge burden for the smallest farmers' market participant or the largest food processor.
It is no secret that genetically modified crops are widespread in the U.S. and some parts of the world. Seeds developed by Monsanto -- and other companies -- have proved to be a boon to those farmers who have chosen to use them. The higher yields and the reduction in pesticide use they allow make them both profitable and beneficial to the environment.
Proponents of the genetically modified label reject that and are attacking on several fronts.
They want to gather 1 million signatures in an effort to force Congress to require the labels. Failing that, they want to force local and state governments to require the labels.
They also want to convince grocery stores to label foods.
Oregonians no doubt are experiencing a sense of deja vu. In 2002 they rejected by a 70-30 margin an initiative that would have required all food sold in the state to be labeled whether it contained genetically modified ingredients. During that campaign, the argument centered on the practicality of using different labels in different states.
That concern still remains. That proponents want every state, county or city to require labels would present a vexing challenge to every producer, small and large.
The fact of the matter is that a government-approved label already exists that tells consumers whether food has genetically modified ingredients. It is the organic label. Only crops certified as organic can carry that label. Anyone buying milk, corn flakes or any other food with the green organic label affixed can be assured that no genetically modified ingredients are present.
For consumers who wish to avoid genetically modified foods, no other label is needed.
Posted By: Bridget On: 5/25/2011
The articles I've previously read on your site have been neutral on the GMO subject, something I find refreshing as the subject typically evokes very strong opinions one way or the other. The bias in this piece is very disappointing to read. To any logical, well-informed person, the jury is still out on the safety of long term use of GMOs. There are many conflicting research studies, and until the biotech companies release their information for INDEPENDENT, peer-reviewed study, the jury will stay out.
As for claims of "higher yields and reduction in pesticide use", a recent and very comprehensive study by the IAASTD, involving over 400 scientists, concluded that GE would have little impact on world hunger and that agroecolological approaches hold more promise (see www.agassessment.org/) as well as the 2 most recent reports by the UN's Rapporteur for World Hunger, Prof Oliver de Schutter (you can get these by Google) who concludes the same.
@ JPlovesCOTTON - if you "depend on the US government to get sound nutrition and safety information on food labels", frankly I just feel sorry for you. Perhaps you're unaware that when the FDA crafted its policy of 'substantial equivalence', its Deputy Commissioner for Policy was Michael Taylor, previously an attorney for Monsanto, and after his stint at the FDA, he was then made a VP of Public Policy at Monsanto. The FDA did not *approve* GMO foods, instead they essentially decided that they *didn't need to approve GMOs* under direction of this obvious corporate insider. This is only one of many examples of the 'revolving door' between government and industry, whose only concern is getting your money, not keeping you safe. Your ONLY option for sound nutrition and safety information is to educate yourself, not rely on a blatantly corrupt government.
Posted By: Tom Gibson On: 5/24/2011
Title: More GMO Disinformation
I was saddened to see so many factual mistatements show up in this Capital Press editorial. GM seeds have proved to be a boon to some farmers and a bane to others. Thier high cost is sometimes justified by the market if ideal conditions exist for the cultivar but study after study has come out showing that there may be health problems for humans and animals with GM foods and humans that eat animals that have been fed GM crops. Also, repeating the lie that GM crops mean that we can use less pesticides when the reason they were developed was so even more could be used (What do you think Round-Up Ready was developed for, so you could use less?) and much more is being used is just plain silly.
Food is part of our health care system and no one has the right to keep secret essential facts about the production of anything related to their health. People have the right to know that a product contains an poorly documented technological marvel that changes the nature of the product. Farmers that choose not to believe unverified statements by people marketing such marvels should also not have to suffer having their crops contaminated by GM crops, especially ones that are wind pollinated like beets and corn. The government shouldn't be protecting large campaign contributors like Dow and Monsanto, to sacrifice the livelihoods and possibly the health of small farmers that don't have the kind of money to throw at campaigns and newspapers that depend on advertising for revenue. This editorial is just a shameless unpaid advertisement for a segment of the agriculture industry whose motives are clearly based on short term profits and not the long term sustainability of this trade.
Posted By: JPlovesCOTTON On: 5/20/2011
Title: What I need in a label
I agree with this editorial whole-heartedly. I depend on the US government to get sound nurition and safety information on food labels. I don't want superfluous things like GMO on there because that's not something that impacts safety & health. GMOs are only allowed to be sold after thorough testing has been undertaken. Manufacturing a product where peanuts are, that's a safety & health issue and needs to be there. Other things should be voluntarily labelled as the market would like. Nothing keeps folks from doing GM testing & producing GM free foods & developing a marketing label for it but to have it on the US mandated labelling would provide a false suspicion the food presents a problem.
Posted By: seakat On: 5/19/2011
Title: The actual problem is
A great percentage of the population don't even know they're eating genetically modified food, because they aren't labeled. Then there's that truth in labeling thing...