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Furthermore, producers and sellers of food that "Contains No GMOs" would have to test all of their food (to prove the negative). And they’d be sued time and time again if they don't test, if a test result proved false, or if they simply made an honest mistake on a label. Meanwhile, if a company knows it’s producing or selling GMO food, its costs are comparatively small to put a "Contains GMOs" label on its products.
But whether the costs borne by GMO and GMO-free producers would be a lot higher or only slightly higher, the logical outcome of this compromise would be that all of our food would cost more. And the benefits to consumers would be nonexistent.
Of course, consumers would "know" what's in their food—a key goal claimed by GMO opponents. But they should know this too: the result of the compromise would likely be more GMO food choices and less GMO-free food choices.
Unfortunately, the potential unintended consequences of this federal labeling scheme are so terrible and obvious that they appear to make for the perfect Washington compromise.
Not everyone agrees with my theory about a coming federal GMO labeling compromise.
"The only way industry will agree to federal labeling is if it’s watered down, essentially meaningless and preempts states from going further," says public-health lawyer Michele Simon, president of Eat Drink Politics, who supports mandatory GMO labeling and who wrote about GMO preemption earlier this year.
I think Simon is right about preemption. But I also think her preemption theory fits snugly alongside my own theory. The federal compromise I suggest may happen would also almost certainly preempt states—whether explicitly or implicitly—from adopting their own GMO labeling schemes.
I’m personally and professionally indifferent to choices by farmers and other producers, food sellers, and consumers between GMO foods and non-GMO foods. But I’m also fiercely opposed to laws that limit or skew their right to make the diverse food choices they want.
It’s why I’ve opposed mandatory GMO labeling and cheered voluntary labeling. It’s why I argued adamantly against the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act.” And it’s why I’m warning here against what I fear is a looming and foolhardy federal compromise on mandatory GMO labeling.