Science & Technology

Portland Alt-Weekly: Vote No on GMO Labeling! Will Wonders Never Cease?


CarbonNYC [in SF!] / photo on flickr

Sanity has broken out at foodie hipster ground zero: The Portland Mercury is urging its readers to vote no on a ballot measure which would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The editorial is framed by a bunch of we-swear-we're-not-evil positioning, including calling Monsanto and Coca-Cola "shadowy multinational corporations" and declaring that "industrial farming" is "problematic."

But then there's this spot-on analysis of what such initiatives are really about:

And yet, after much debate, we're coming down just on the "no" side of this issue.

The essential problem is dishonesty. Measure 92's proponents argue it's all about helping consumers make an informed choice. They insisted in our interview they have no problem with GMOs, and no other motives, ulterior or not, besides the spread of information.

But this campaign—like identical efforts that narrowly failed in California and Washington recently—is quite clearly a bid to get food companies to abandon GMOs, a backdoor attempt at altering our agricultural landscape.

See, the science we possess on GMOs indicates they're almost certainly safe to eat. Indeed, the Yes on 92 representatives who attended our endorsement interview acknowledged purchasing and eating GMO products all the time. But there's a clear motive for wanting "conspicuous" labeling on those foods, and it's not to remind consumers that GMOs are harmless. Without sufficient context, a label is likely to sow doubt or apprehension in shoppers who assume it's a warning, and that there's a reason they should be warned….

There are more straightforward ways of trying to change America's problematic farming trends than a labeling measure that takes pains to protest it's not actually out to do that.

The paper also notes that there are already foods available with reliable GMO-free labeling for customers who feel strongly about restricting their own consumption, rather than focusing on what other people buy and sell.

The Mercury is practically establishing a pattern here (a trend of two, anyway) since it took a bold stance in favor of floridated water this spring.