Voters in the Oregon and Colorado were asked to vote on ballot initiatives that would require many foods made with ingredients derived from modern biotech crops to be labeled as such. Science won in Colorado with voters rejecting the mandatory labeling requirement by 68 to 32 percent. The Oregon vote is still too close to call, but the vote was now around 51 percent against labeling and 49 percent in favor. The final results in Oregon may not be known until Friday.
Both initiatives are egregiously unscientific, but the Oregon Measure 92 is particularly dishonest. Measure 92 misleadingly asserts that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…
…does not require or conduct safety studies of genetically engineered foods. Instead, any safety consultations are voluntary, and genetically engineered food developers may decide what information to provide to the agency. Market approval of genetically engineered food is based on industry research alone.
Of course, this is precisely the way in which new pharmaceuticals are regulated and approved. Companies keep providing information about each new crop variety to the FDA regulators until they have no more questions. In any case, this process is unnecessary. If a trait (pest resistance or herbicide resistance) is safe in one crop it is safe in all crops. There should be no need for approval for each new variety.
Another false Measure 92 finding and declaration is …
The genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended consequences. Manipulating genes via genetic engineering and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable. Mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes through genetic engineering in combinations that cannot occur in nature may produce results that lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.
The proponents of Measure 92 offer no examples of "adverse health or environmental consequences." Why? Because none have been reported. As I have noted elsewhere:
The World Health Organization flatly states, "No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved."
In 2010, a European Commission review of 50 studies on the safety of biotech crops found "no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms."
At its annual meeting in June, 2013 the American Medical Association endorsed a report on the labeling of bioengineered foods from its Council on Science and Public Health. The report concluded that "Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature."
And one other bit of misinformation is the claim that …
The cultivation of genetically engineered crops can have serious effects on the environment. For example, in 2013, 93 percent of all soy grown in the U.S. was engineered to be herbicide resistance. In fact, the vast majority of genetically engineered crops are designed to withstand herbicides, and therefore promote indiscriminate herbicide use. As a result, genetically engineered, herbicide resistant crops have caused 527 million pounds of additional herbicides to be applied to the nation's farmland.
Actually, the USDA released in May, 2014 its report, Pesticide Use in U.S. Agriculture: 21 Selected Crops, 1960-2008, in which it analyzed the trends in herbicide and pesticide use. The study found that herbicide applications peaked at 478 million pounds in 1981 and since drifted down to 394 million pounds in 2008, the latest year for which the agency has figures. Interestingly, Measure 92 fails to mention that pesticide applications peaked in 1972 at 158 million pounds and has now fallen to 29 million pounds. Why? Because of crops genetically engineered to resist insect and other pests.
Colorado's Proposition 105 is more succinct in its misleading assertions:
(3) U.S. FEDERAL LAW DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR THE REGULATION ON THE SAFETY AND LABELING OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD;
(4) THE LONG TERM HEALTH, SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF GROWING AND CONSUMING GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD ARE NOT YET FULLY RESEARCHED AND ARE NOT YET WELL UNDERSTOOD BY SCIENCE ….
Measure 92 would require that "Genetically Engineered" clearly and conspicuously appear on the front or back of the package of foods using ingredients from biotech crops by January, 2016. Similarly, Proposition 105 would mandate "PRODUCED WITH GENETIC ENGINEERING" APPEAR IN A CLEAR AND CONSPICUOUS MANNER ON ITS LABEL" by July, 2016.
Addendum: A referendnum in Maui County in Hawaii passed 50 to 48 percent to ban the growing of biotech crops in the jurisdiction. For more background on the scientifically idiotic campaign against biotech crops in Hawaii see my article, "The Fable of Hawaiian Frankencorn."