GMO Food

Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods Would Be "Extremely Misleading to Consumers," Argues Washington Post

WaPo editors counter anti-biotech activist's disinformation campaign

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Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

As part of their disinformation efforts, anti-biotech campaigners continue to argue that consumers have a "right to know" that the foods they are eating have been developed using modern biotechnology. The anti-biotechies hope that consumers would mistake such labels as warning labels and thus avoid buying such foods. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires labels on foods that describe nutritional differences or warn against such things as the presence of allergens. Since there is nothing to warn consumers about, foods using ingredients from biotech crops do not require labeling.

The editorial board of the Washington Post has published a sensible opinion article today arguing "we don't need labels on genetically modified foods."  From the Post:

Mandated labeling would deter the purchase of genetically modified (GM) food when the evidence calls for no such caution. Congress is right to be moving toward a more sensible policy that allows companies to label products as free of GM ingredients but preempts states from requiring such labels. …

Promoters of compulsory GM food labeling claim that consumers nevertheless deserve transparency about what they're eating. But given the facts, mandatory labeling would be extremely misleading to consumers — who, the Pew polling shows, exaggerate the worries about "Frankenfood" — implying a strong government safety concern where one does not exist. Instead of demanding that food companies add an unnecessary label, people who distrust the assurances that GM food is safe can buy food voluntarily labeled as organic or non-GM.

This isn't just a matter of saving consumers from a little unnecessary expense or anxiety. If GM food becomes an economic nonstarter for growers and food companies, the world's poorest will pay the highest price. GM crops that flourish in challenging environments without the aid of expensive pesticides or equipment can play an important role in alleviating hunger and food stress in the developing world — if researchers in developed countries are allowed to continue advancing the field.

A House bill introduced last week would facilitate a voluntary labeling system and prevent states and localities from going any further to indulge the GM labeling crowd. It would also empower the Food and Drug Administration to require labels on GM products that materially differ from their non-GM cousins in ways that can affect human health. Yes, food industry interests back the bill. That doesn't make it wrong.

Correct.

See my article, The Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops, for more background.

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  1. The comment section of this WP article is pretty upset.

    1. Mmm, salty ham tears.

    2. Let me guess: This is all Jeff Bezos’ fault?

      *checks comments section*

      Boom, there it is, second one down. Pathetic.

  2. Can they also label Brussels sprouts as genetically modified? Brocolli?

    Or does selective cross breeding not count?

    1. To whoever wrote the bill’s credit, they added the line “that may affect human health” to limit the absurdity a bit. The problem is that the FDA would have the sole discretion in deciding what foods it thinks should have the label, which I think it obvious would continue the trend of the FDA choosing winners and losers.

      1. does eating brussells sprouts not affect my health? I mean, does it say negatively?

        1. Well, (a) it doesn’t say negatively affect human health and (b) all food affects human health.

          Not much of a restriction, IMO.

  3. From wapo:

    EIGHTY-EIGHT percent of scientists polled by the Pew Research Center in January said genetically modified food is generally safe to eat. Only 37 percent of the public shared that view.

    Well, if the consensus says it’s safe…

    GMOs came up during a meal with my hippy-dippy mother and her froo-froo renters, reprising old faves like the Monsanto lawsuits, the “terminator gene,” and the Indian farmer suicides. I ignored it until I overheard one I hadn’t heard correlating obesity with GMOs. I jumped in to point out the much more prevalent correlation between obesity and sugar consumption. I may as well have thrown a dead cat on the table. You know how you can tell when a belief is more of an article of faith than a matter of scientific certitude? When questioning it is a faux pas.

    Speaking of crazy stories I didn’t follow closely, I listened to the Ace of Spades episode about Amanda Knox. I had no idea there’s a truther movement attached to proving her guilt.

    1. I may as well have thrown a dead cat on the table.

      A GMO dead cat or a conventionally-farmed one?

      1. A Schroedinger’s cat.

    2. I had no idea there’s a truther movement attached to proving her guilt.

      Witchez needs huntin’, bro.

    3. Just because Momsanto are the very definition of regulatory capture, doesn’t mean they are conspiring to poison their customers. Its like the old Bill Hicks bit about Judas Priest. “I’m tired of being a rock star, let’s tell our fans to kill themselves.”

    4. GMOs came up during a meal

      So they do cause vomiting, eh?

  4. Congress is right to be moving toward a more sensible policy that allows companies to label products as free of GM ingredients

    Does this actually need to be allowed?

    1. (impersonating FDA) RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!

    2. FDA has pretty strict guidelines about what kinds of labeling claims food producers can make.

      There are some basic formulation standards for labels like “fat-free”, “sugar free”, “low-salt”, etc; and there are some category certifications related to labels like “all-natural”, and it required 10 years to get a bill passed which actually defined what “Organic” even *means*… (and still no one was happy with the result)

      “GMO -free” i’d think poses some significant problems – and would probably be better avoided. because it requires everyone in the supply chain having to certify to the producers whether their inputs have ever had any GMO component. i.e. – it would require mandatory industry labeling of GMO, if not consumer labeling. also – the claim implies there is some actual *measurable difference* in the end product. If I gave a “GMO Frozen Pizza” to a scientist and he was unable to determine any actual difference between it and some other Frozen Pizza, i fail to see how any label is actually “educating consumers”. You might as well “allow” people to label their foods “Cyanide-Free!!”, or “The Pope’s Favorite!”” or “Helps Prevent Death”

      1. As stated above, the current consideration at least avoids that nightmare by having the qualifier of “affects human health” on it. Since GMO’s don’t affect human health, it’s basically only relevant to a vindictive bureaucrat.

      2. Dr Jim’s Old-Tyme Sugar Water.

        Now with more ingredients than plain water!

        1. on this =

          soda companies started marketing “REAL Sugar!” as a ‘benefit’ about 10 years ago.

          I think Coke recently got in on the act when they came out with a “1/2 Stevia, 1/2 cane sugar-sweetened” version, and are calling it “Natural”. …. “Coke LIFE”

          I was doing work w/ soda companies back when 7UP tried to market their product as “Natural” It didn’t go well.

          From a scientific POV….HFCS is just a chemical derived from a plant. Stevia is a chemical derived from a plant. One is caloric, and the other isn’t. Why is one “natural”, and the other not? And is the “cane sugar” not refined and processed to make it usable in soft-drinks?

          See = earlier point re: “relying on the stupidity of consumers”.

          (please do not interpret any of this as support for CSPI and their idiotic crusade against sugarwater of various types)

          1. I don’t know what the process for extracting HFCS looks like, but somehow I doubt it’s as simple as “crush the plant, boil the juice” process for cane sugar (I know, there are a few more steps than that, but still, it’s really straightforward)

            1. Well, I looked it up. It is straightforward – but not something that could be done at home or without access to a chemical industry to provide the enzymes to convert glucose to fructose.

            2. I wasn’t suggesting there was some kind of “process equivalence” between cane sugar and HFCS.

              (I *was* noting that – for functional use in a packaged soft drink – ‘cane sugar’ would likely have to go through additional layers of processing that would reduce its *hippy-friendly appearance* somewhat)

              The broader issue was pointing out that “chemicals derived from plants” seem to be given different treatment by consumers…based on nothing but *perceptions* about ‘naturalness’

              the issue with Stevia is actually more pertinent. I think it would be fair to call it more “natural” than, say, Aspartame.

              However, take out the issue of whether ‘caloric content’ matters, and you’re basically in the same boat with HFCS then. Because they’re both derived from plants and require similar levels of processing. So suddenly what was “natural” for one processed plant is “un-natural” for another processed plant….because why? Because perceptions.

              1. Everything is based on perceptions. How could it be otherwise?

    3. footnote =

      true story = During the “atkins diet” craze, i once met with a company that was attempting to market a “No Carb” Bottled Water.

      I asked them directly if it wasn’t intellectually insulting to market the absence of something that *did not* naturally occur in H20 as an “added benefit”…

      To their credit (as actors?), they seemed genuinely surprised by the question. (i guess everyone else up to that point had been excessively polite about the issue)

      They then suggested it was similar to how OJ marketers highlight “Vitamin C” in juice drinks….(which i then pointed out was the opposite of what I’d asked, as vitamin C is a natural feature…)

      …or how Milk/Dairy producers market ‘Vitamin A&D” (*which is added to dairy milk by law)

      Pressing the issue, I said, ‘the claim seems to rely on consumers not really knowing what “Carbs” are”…

      ..finally one of the partners saw his opening and said, “Just like everyone else is doing with Anti-Oxidants!” I laughed, because it was true. They sort of left it with, “If people can’t exploit the stupidity of consumers, well then *how is anyone supposed to make money!?”

      While i remained skeptical about their product viability, their larger point that “most food-labeling is about exploiting consumer ignorance *anyway*” had some genuine truth to it.

      It was a memorable entry in the “food industry analyst” diary.

      1. Fat Free Water!

        1. Where can I get this miracle beverage????

          1. Available in most municipalities.

            I, sadly, also have ‘iron fortified’ water.

      2. “It was a memorable entry in the “food industry analyst” diary.”

        If you look closely, you’ll find “No Trans Fats” on some of the darnnest food labels.

        1. “”you’ll find “No Trans Fats” on some of the darnnest food labels.”

          Cisnormative-lipid-bigotry

      3. I’ve found the distillers touting their vodka as “gluten free” is equally strange. I am no expert, but if you end up with gluten your vodka, have you not done something wrong?

    4. Does this actually need to be allowed?

      Of course. Freedom means asking permission and following orders, remember?

  5. . It would also empower the Food and Drug Administration to require labels on GM products that materially differ from their non-GM cousins in ways that can affect human health.

    I know I don’t support the FDA having the discretion to choose what it believes are foods that might “affect human health,” but otherwise I have no problem requiring manufacturers to tell you what their product is.

    Unfortunately, I think most people still view gm-food as a bad thing. I cannot understand why. Personally, I like that my food is cheap compared to the crap sold at Whole Foods, which is probably a bad example because I’m pretty sure most of the crap at Whole Foods is the same stuff at Harris Teeter or Kroger.

  6. Of course you people would be all for big agribusiness running regulation free. After all, we’re already being poisoned by the excessive fluorine in the water supply so who cares about extra poisons in the food supply, right? It’s amazing how you can’t be bothered to think about what all this crap might be doing to the children. What do you think is really causing the autism and cancer epidemics?

    Wake up and get educated people!

    1. B+, not enough “Petrodollar” or “Monsato”

      1. Damn, I knew I forgot something.

      2. I dunno, I think this one should get an A-, even without mentioning the Koch brothers. I bet that if it went into the WaPo comments it would get lots of likes.

    2. “What do you think is really causing the autism and cancer epidemics?”

      Hitler?
      The answer’s always Hitler, isn’t it?

      1. Autism – better diagnosis. Cancer – better diagnosis, and longer lifespans (ie, you gotta die of something and when you have heart disease and infectious disease under control that leaves cancer).

        1. In a discussion with an MD last summer, the guy mentioned that the folks at his HMO were quite proud of the fact that cancer was now the leading cause of death, but that piece of info scared most people who didn’t understand statistics.

          1. Cancer as leading cause of death == keeping you alive until the genetic dice finally come up snake eyes.

            1. If that’s worth another couple of good years, I’ll take it.

        2. Autism – better diagnosis.

          Well, maybe. I would say a different and broader definition, and all kinds of incentives (monetary and otherwise) to “discover” that a kid has autism.

    3. I thought fluoride was just corrupting our essence.

      1. So did some general or other…

  7. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,
    Go to tech tab for work detail ????????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  8. So where’s the label for organic food advertising, “Possibly made with human feces?”

  9. This position feels so un-libertarian to me. The position is: You can’t give people truthful information because they do not know how to process it. Also, you assume that the only reason to know is a purely safety concern and not some generalized favoritism to simple foods.

    Just a few days ago, this same author — Mr. Bailey — wrote the following statement regarding 23andMe (despite concerns that people will not be able to properly understand statements like 75% increased chance of cancer when the risk is in fact very low):

    “I respond to those wishing to deny genetic information to people who want it that ignorance is never better than knowledge when it comes to making choices, especially the hard choices that reflect your values.”

    1. maddarter|3.30.15 @ 6:22PM|#
      “The position is: You can’t give people truthful information because they do not know how to process it.”
      Which is a lie, so we’re off to a good start

      “Also, you assume that the only reason to know is a purely safety concern and not some generalized favoritism to simple foods.”
      Which is another lie; no one here cares what you eat, I just have no desire to pay to inform you if the food was packed by someone with blue eyes, for example.

      “Just a few days ago, this same author — Mr. Bailey — wrote the following statement regarding 23andMe (despite concerns that people will not be able to properly understand statements like 75% increased chance of cancer when the risk is in fact very low):
      “I respond to those wishing to deny genetic information to people who want it that ignorance is never better than knowledge when it comes to making choices, especially the hard choices that reflect your values.”
      Yes, that information has value in making health choices, unlike this information. And I knew your cover of ‘it’s not about health’ was a lie from the git-go.

      1. I see no reason for the harsh tone. I might be mistaken about some things, but not lying. And I do not think mistaken. The argument is that if people are given truthful and accurate information about whether the food contains GMOs, they will draw mistaken conclusions about the safety of the food. (Of course, a label could have a statement that there is no evidence of safety concerns).

        Regarding the cost, there could be some cost, although I would not think the inclusion or non-inclusion of GMOs would be hard to label, and companies do seem to change food labels rather regularly. A requirement could be phased in. In any event, this is a different argument from whether the concern is about whether truthful information can be provided or not. Maybe I missed it, but the article does not talk about the cost of compliance.

        Regarding the quote, Mr. Bailey did not say “health choices”, but rather “choices that reflect your values.” As noted before, I think there could be a real concern that people could overreact to a 75% increase in risk or 200% increase, especially if the risk before increase is, for example, 1 in 10,000.

        For what it’s worth, I do not feel strongly about the issue, but there does seem to be a certain non-libertarian paternalism that people cannot decide for themselves whether food is safe or not based on accurate information about the presence of GMOs.

        1. “I see no reason for the harsh tone. I might be mistaken about some things, but not lying. […] The argument is that if people are given truthful and accurate information about whether the food contains GMOs, they will draw mistaken conclusions about the safety of the food.”
          Fail. That’s a lie.
          The argument is the label is of value to those who, for whatever reason, find it valuable. Using the government to extract payment from others for your fave fantasy is in no way favorable to libertarians. You want foods only packed by left-handed people? You find a way to pay for it

          “Regarding the cost, there could be some cost, although I would not think the inclusion or non-inclusion of GMOs would be hard to label, and companies do seem to change food labels rather regularly.”
          Fine. If it’s so cheap, why, pay for it yourself. I don’t care.

          “Regarding the quote, Mr. Bailey did not say “health choices”, but rather “choices that reflect your values.”
          Irrelevant, unless you think pedantry is important.
          Cont’d.

          1. Cont’d.
            “As noted before, I think there could be a real concern that people could overreact to a 75% increase in risk or 200% increase, especially if the risk before increase is, for example, 1 in 10,000”
            What in hell are you talking about? If it is GMO food, the risk found so far is zero in every sample size. The risks in the DNA data are all over the place, but factual.

            For what it’s worth, I’m calling bullshit on your claim of disinterest. You’ve spent two lengthy posts trying to sell a government labeling program for worthless information; I say you’re lying.
            And here’s the proof:
            “people cannot decide for themselves whether food is safe or not based on accurate information about the presence of GMOs.”
            Since there is NO danger from GMOs, you’re pitching a fantasy. Please go eat your organic, shit-covered foods and leave us alone.

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