gmo foods and labeling

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Here in Washington there’s a ballot measure to require labeling of foods with GMO ingredients; I-522. I’m voting against it. I have no connection with Big Agriculture, Big Food, Big Genetics, or any other scare group. I’m also not angry, I’m relatively sane, and believe reasonable people can disagree with me.  I don’t have a TV and I’ve seen none of the ads on either side of the issue, though I can imagine what each is saying. Here are my reasons for opposing it:

  1. I don’t think you should require labeling unless there are really sound reasons for doing so, such as health issues. Twenty years of research strongly indicate there are no health risks associated with eating GMOs. In fact, there is a good reason to think conventional breeding is more dangerous. GMOs make pinpoint, testable changes, while conventional production of hybrids is more scattershot. (You can find some really crappy,  poorly designed “research” showing damage from eating GMOs. I recommend sticking with the findings of the World Health Organization and the AAS.)
  2. Some people argue that we should require labeling because there is ecological and environmental harm from using GMOs; such as the production of “super weeds” and GMOs contaminating other crops.  If farmers overuse any particular herbicide, weeds will grow resistant. Farmers using lots of glyphosates (used with many GMO crops) will find an increase in glyphosate-resistant weeds. This doesn’t mean a new strain of weeds is marching across the world, destroying everything in its path. As for cross-pollination, it happens with or without GMOs. In the case of GMOs, some other plants might gain some degree of insect or herbicide resistance. This is an issue to watch and study, not something to cause panic, and certainly not worth a label on food packages.
  3. Some would like to label GMOs because they don’t want to even tangentially support companies like Monsanto. This company probably does the same market-grabbing, competitor-smashing, crappy stuff that many or all big corporations do, but it’s not totally evil. Non-evil traits: Human Rights Campaign 100% rating as Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality, 2013 Top 50 Companies for Executive Women, 2010 Working Mother 100 Best Companies for working moms. I’m not a big fan or strident enemy of Monsanto, but allegations of corporate malfeasance are no reason to put labels on food. By the way, I don’t believe the stories of Monsanto causing farmer suicides in India.
  4. If we are going to label foods for non-health-related reasons, GMO contents would not be high on my list. I’d rather know if the food I’m buying is produced by companies with unfair labor practices, or I’d like to know the carbon footprint of producing a particular food. But I don’t think we ought to label foods for all these things. Such problems aren’t restricted to food, and there are other avenues for learning this stuff. Food companies can voluntarily label their non-GMO food, just like companies can label non-gluten food if they want to.

That’s why I’m not voting for I-522. As I said, reasonable people can disagree. I know there are other issues; some believe using GMOs is supporting monoculture vs. biodiversity. I don’t have time to address everything, nor to do I know everything, but I believe I have enough info to make a decision about putting labels on food.

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9 thoughts on “gmo foods and labeling

  1. gl.

    i’m not against GMO foods as a rule (my one exception is the whole “license our seeds in perpetuity and we will sue you if pollen from our crops ends up in your non-licensed fields” thing), but i recognize people have very strong feelings about it for the reasons you have discussed. i am, however, not keen about using ballot measures in this way.

    • dangblog

      If you look into it, you’ll find that seed companies have never sued a farmer simply because their seeds blew onto that farmer’s field. There was a case where a farmer collected seeds from GMO plants that had crossed over to the edges of his field. He then tried to make an entire crop from those patented seed types. He was successfully sued. But the story that people are being sued due to wind-blown seeds or pollination is false.

  2. gl.

    hmm, it lost part of my comment. i think the big question is: what is the default? should we assume all food is GMO and only label non-GMO foods, or vice versa?

    • dangblog

      According to the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, about 70% – 80% of the food we eat has genetically modified ingredients, but I don’t know how they came up with that figure.

      • dangblog

        I didn’t answer your question. I don’t think you should assume either one, and I don’t think we need to label either one. For me, I’ll focus on other questions; like the amount of calories, the amount of non-food additives, freshness, and so on.

      • gl.

        i generally believe more food labeling/more info is better. i’ll bet some people would think you shouldn’t have to label non-food additives, either.

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