GMO Food

Scientific American: "Mandatory labels for genetically modified foods are a bad idea"

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Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

In its latest issue, Scientific American denounces the activist disinformation campaigns that have been trying to impose mandatory labeling on foods containing ingredients derived from biotech crops. The worry is that some 20 states are currently considering such scientifically ignorant labeling mandates. The editorial (behind a paywall) notes:

Instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people's health. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared to conventional breeding techniques-which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another-genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, less likely to produce an unexpected result. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not.

The editors at Scientific American also point out that the anti-biotech activists know all too well that consumers would misconstrue any biotech labeling as a warning labels. The editorial also notes that had California's Proposition 37 mandating GMO labeling passed last year, it would have substantially increased food prices without providing any safety benefits whatsoever.

Private research firm Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants estimated that Prop 37 would have raised the average California family's yearly food bill by as much as $400. The measure would also have required farmers, manufacturers and retailers to keep a whole new set of detailed records and to prepare for lawsuits challenging the "naturalness" of their products.

The SciAm editors further note:

Antagonism toward GMO foods also strengthens the stigma against a technology that has delivered enormous benefits to people in developing countries and promises far more. Recently published data from a seven-year study of Indian farmers show that those growing a genetically modified crop increased their yield by 24 percent and boosted profits by 50 percent. These farmers were able to buy more food-and food of greater nutritional value-for their families….

Ultimately, we are deciding to whether we will continue to develop an immensely beneficial technology or shun it based on unfounded fears.

Finally, the editorial properly excoriates Greenpeace and other activist groups for promoting "misinformation and hysteria" against the development of vitamin A-rich Golden Rice. Consuming Golden Rice could help prevent blindness and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of poor children every year.

For more background, see my column, "The Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops."

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  1. Finally, the editorial properly excoriates Greenpeace and other activist groups for promoting “misinformation and hysteria” against the development of vitamin A-rich Golden Rice. Consuming Golden Rice could help prevent blindness and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of poor children every year.

    That’s because Greenpeace and other groups like it are really contemptuous of people and human civilization in general. Humans are a plague on Mother Gaia. They don’t give a shit that millions of people would suffer if they outlawed GMOs, all they know is that it is corporate and not natural so it must be bad.

    1. Scientific America normally toe the line for Green Peace.

      So this is actually a big deal.

      I seem to remember they got a new editor or something.

      1. I was a subscriber to Scientific American for 3 decades before they became an overtly political magazine in the aughts. It would be a much bigger deal to me if they would stop trying to be Limbaugh/Maddow wrapped in a sciency cloak.

        If they would just stick a toe in the political waters every once in a while when there is some big public misconception about science that would be great. But they have spent the last decade or more trying to wrap every team blue political agenda in some kind of magical science wrapper, wrecking their credibility. At the same time they dilute the quality of their science reporting. Lose-lose.

        1. Same here. I quit subscribing several years ago after the umpteenth issue of climate change pearl clutching.

          1. Of course, it could be that they just got a really good deal on a set of stock photos of the arctic and styled their magazine around those…..

    2. Greenpeace is just in the pocket of Big Parsley.

  2. The best way to deal with this is just to completely pop the biosphere’s cherry.

    Dump genemod crop varieties everywhere you can, until it becomes technologically impossible to assert that anything anywhere is perfectly genetically pure.

    Greenpeace is engaged in one long exercise in obsessive-compulsive purity seeking. The best response to that is to despoil everything. Then they’ll either give in, or go insane. So it would be a win either way.

    1. The developers of those GMOs would not make any money then.

      Bankrupting Monsanto would not be a good thing for the future development of environment protecting and life saving GMO technologies.

      I guess you could make random GMO varieties. Just inset DNA from another organism that doesn’t do anything. and spread those around.

      1. I guess you could make random GMO varieties. Just inset DNA from another organism that doesn’t do anything. and spread those around.

        Damn it! Another thing I’m not doing because I failed to accumulate my Bond villain billions.

      2. I guess you could make random GMO varieties. Just inset DNA from another organism that doesn’t do anything.

        In other words, sex.

        1. Actually, if you look through the genome of pretty much any organism it is chockablock with DNA from other organisms, much of which doesn’t appear to do anything. Retroviruses can grab random DNA from one host and plop it into another host as an accident of their replication cycle. Over tens and hundreds of millions of years, this really adds up.

          For some cool and rather accessible tales of this kind of transfer, I refer you to microbeworld.com and the TWIV and TWIM podcasts. They’ve covered it several times recently.

          Long story short, we already have tons of foreign DNA that didn’t get there from sexual reproduction in our food. And in us!

          1. Darwin’s Radio

            1. Darwin’s Radio

              Bear is so hit or miss. That was a miss.

          2. And organisms like maize still have very active retrotransposons that modify its genome as we speak!

    2. The best response to that is to despoil everything. Then they’ll either give in, or go insane. So it would be a win either way.

      You know who else wanted to despoil everything?

    3. This is how I feel about contaminating Mars.
      If we could develop a GMO bacteria lived off of toxic dust and produced carbon dioxide in abbundance, I would join a guerilla terraforming effort and send a sealth packet of the shit there ASAP.

      1. If there is any place on mars where earth life (bacteria) can survive then it probably is already there.

  3. Deniers gonna deny.

  4. I would be fine with the labeling if Greenpeace was forced to adhere to truth in advertisement laws on their money raising brochures and public pronouncements with the qualifier, ‘Greenpeace, a society of genocidal Luddites.’

  5. Greenpeace is a cult. They’re almost on par with PETA. They don’t give two fucks about anything but their cultish obsessions, let alone poor people in developing countries.

    1. Words from one of their founders:

      In 2005, Moore criticized what he saw as scare tactics and disinformation employed by some within the environmental movement, saying that the environmental movement “abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism.”[30] Moore contends that for the environmental movement “most of the really serious problems have been dealt with”, seeking now to “invent doom and gloom scenarios”.[31] He suggests they romanticise peasant life as part of an anti-industrial campaign to prevent development in less-developed countries, which he describes as “anti-human”.[32][33]

      I’m guessing he’s no longer on the Christmas card list.

      1. So a bit like MADD too.

    2. re = “cult”

      i suppose. in the Amway sense particularly… in that their ‘cultishness’ is primarily geared towards perpetual fundraising and spending as little as possible on their various pet issues, constantly declaiming the failure of their efforts as the fault of the “massive corporate interests” that control the world. ironically its the millions of proggies deluded by GP that create real political pressue, not actual GP efforts. i heard somewhere they still raise the majority of their funds from “anti-whaling’ campaigns and from antinuclear propaganda, when in fact whaling is basically nonexistent and nuke plants seem to have been frozen since the 1980s. someone noted they make more money from their “anti- whaling business than the global whaling industry does. Ginning up scares then milking them for money seems to be the primary MO.

  6. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods.

    These groups’ opinions are all poisoned by political considerations. They have no credibility on climate change, so why do they have any credibility on GMOs? I’m not going to cheer just because they happened to err on the right side this time.

    1. “I’m not going to cheer just because they happened to err on the right side this time.”

      Damn you and your good point…

  7. The $400 cost estimate comes only if producers only use non-GMO food. The producers of GMO food seem to have little confidence in their food if they think that nobody will buy it if its labeled GMO.

    http://www.noprop37.com/files/…..new-45.pdf

    1. They have little confidence in Whole Foods shoppers is probably more like it.

    2. A nigh-20 year campaign of demonization (“frankenfood”, e.g.) might have something to do with it.

      Why are foods labeled by State command with “contains X”? “Because X is dangerous (at least in some quantity)”, in the public perception. See California and its labeling of every-damned-thing as “causes cancer”.

      That that’s [“GMOs are harmful”] false has nothing to do with the real market impact of mandated labeling; the perception will remain “it must be bad or they wouldn’t be forced to label it”.

      (Nobody forces foods to be labeled “organic” – by whichever meaningless definition one chooses – which is why the positions cannot be reversed as “but ORGANICS are labeled and it’s gooood”.

      Decades of conflation of “heirloom varietal*” and “organic”, as well as the aforementioned scaremongering, have made “organic” a valuable brand, even when it provides no verifiable benefit in itself.

      GMO demonization is the same in reverse.

      * Those local organic tomatoes you like so much? They’re not good “because organic”. They’re good because they’re an heirloom variety that doesn’t ship or store well, that also happen to be grown organically.)

    3. If i produced healthy food and was forced to put a scary sticker on it that said unhealthy I would fight it as well.

      Thank you for the concern concern troll.

  8. Speaking of Greenpeace propaganda, the IPCC has been selectively leaking a lot of dire predictions lately.

  9. All foods are genetically modified. At least I havent seen any Bandersnatchi on menus recently.

  10. No to making them label GMO foods. Allow producers of non-GMO foods to put labels on their products indicating such. Would be great for marketing towards foodie idiots.

    1. I don’t think they’re prohibited from doing so now, though they might need a disclaimer – ala the “no-rBST” labels on dairy – pointing out that science does not currently support any benefits to being GMO-free.

    2. If I made a product I would love to force my competition to label their product how I wanted them to.

      The GMO labeling campaign is nothing more then cronyism at its worst.

    3. “Contains low-yield, famine inducing ingredients”

  11. It’s nice to see the scientific community get mad at the fearmongering of the greens onces in a while.

    I would like to point out that the scientific half of the environmentalist movement is NOT INNOCENT however. They have in the past deliberately encouraged fearmongering in order to “raise awareness” of environmental issues. They helped create and support and give credibility to groups like GreenPeace and Friends of the Earth, even though these groups often distributed misinformation and preyed upon irrational fears.

    Essentially, they created a monster, and it has gotten out of control. The monster being not GMOs, but the irrational, fearmongering, popular Green movement.

      1. I get a “This” from Ron Bailey. Yes! 🙂

    1. even though these groups often distributed misinformation and preyed upon irrational fears.

      Don’t forget the use of violence and threats.

    2. “”It does not matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true.”
      ? Dr. Patrick Moore, President of Greenpeace Canada 1981

      Funny, i thought that was an Orwell quote from 1984

      Ive had a number of instances where some proggy envirotard drops some kind of po-mo literary theory on me when i try to get them to confront “facts”. Anytime they’re cornered with ‘too much contrary information’, they will make clear that these petty phenomena called ‘data’ or ‘reality’ are at best only useful insofar as they can advance an ‘enlightened consciousness’… they are perfectly comfortable with the idea of brainwashing people to believe they’re being poisoned and the sky is falling if it simply gives them more sheep to fleece. and they dont consider that sinister… they consider it benevolent. righthink doubleplusgood.

  12. While I have no specific examples in regard to Scientific American, I would be shocked if they extended this same logic to all mandatory food labeling. If this were a fast food labeling bill, I assume they would reject these very same arguments in favor of mandatory labeling.

    1. SciAm is not perfect, but they’re not CSPI.

      They’re not professional scolds.

  13. IMHO the law should mandate the insertion into all food species of a codon that when sequenced correctly reads :;

    THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS GENES

    1. Aside from a few items like Fish and maybe the rare specialty mushroom there really is not one food product sold in your grocery store that has not been genetically modified by people.

      1. Commercially available brazil nuts are often gathered from the wild, but they’re also farmed. I’m not sure if there’s any way to tell which you’re buying.

        But yeah, nearly everything else you buy is genetically modified.

  14. Eh, labeling seems like the least relevant thing to get worked up about. All people should have all the information about a product before deciding whether to buy it. All information should be free. The idealized free-market itself is built on the idea that all information is public. Do I think whether something is GMO or non-GMO matters? God, no, but if it does matter to some people, they should have access to that information.

    Government can, for the most part, suck itself off in Hell as far as I’m concerned, but I wouldn’t be too unhappy if I saw mandatory labeling go through. It won’t affect what foods I buy, but I do my research. If someone else only wants to buy expensive, non-GMO food, they’re wasting their money, but there’s no law against being an idiot.

  15. That’s all well and good that GMO’s are safe. So is vitamin A but I expect to see it on the label and GMO’s should be no different. Sorry Monsanto, you’re going to lose this one.

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