"This is an issue of obfuscation, lies and mistrust in the food system," admit anti-biotech crop activists.


Sadly, the headline is really what anti-biotech crop activists are actually trying to achieve in their campaign against modern biotech crops, not what they say they are doing. The New York Times today quotes Stonyfield Farms CEO and organic yogurt purveyor Gary Hirshberg as saying, "This is an issue of transparency, truth and trust in the food system." What he and other anti-biotech crop activists are trying to do is convince consumers that something is wrong with foods made using ingredients from biotech crops. Their nefarious plan is to get state and federal government agencies to mandate labels on such foods, e.g., "Warning: May Contain GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms.)" 

The Times identifies anti-biotech vandals, e.g., one Cynthia LaPier, who go around sneaking their own hand-made labels on foods in grocery stores. So what's wrong with labeling foods in this way? This is where the obfuscation, lies and mistrust being peddled by anti-biotechies come into play. In the United States regulators only require labels on foods that provide either nutritional or safety information. In the case of foods made using ingredients from biotech crops, neither applies. Every independent scientific panel that has ever evaluated biotech crops finds that the currently available varieties are nutritionally indistinguishable from conventional crops and that they pose no health risks to human beings. No nutritional differences and no risks mean no labels. 

By the way, organic labels are entirely voluntary and are basically used as a marketing technique to extract extra money from unwitting consumers. 

However, anti-biotech activists and, dare one add, organic crop and food production competitors know that some signficant portion Americans would innocently mistake required labels on foods made using biotech crops as some kind of safety warning and thus steer clear of them. Because they want to encourage this mistake in consumers, the goal of anti-biotech and organic foods activists can be reasonably characterized as profitably promoting obfuscation, lies, and mistrust. 

In the future some biotech crops will provide improved nutrition, e.g., soy beans improved to supply additional health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, at which time foods using these ingredients will be usefully labeled with this nutritional information. 

In a comprehensive review of the scientific literature and of the claims made by the organic foods lobby, Rutgers University food scientist Joseph Rosen concluded [PDF]: 

Organic food proponents do more than act as unreliable sources of information; they actually cause harm. … Any members of the media who rely on organic food proponents for information without checking the facts are complicit in defrauding their readers. And any consumers who buy organic food because they believe that it contains more healthful nutrients than conventional food are wasting their money.

It's clear that the organic lobby promotes disinformation to sell its products. It's about time that consumers and reporters wake up to that fact.