Biotechnology

Judge Rules that Really Stupid Vermont Law May Be Able to Force GMO-Labels on Food Companies

Legislators and judge fall for anti-biotech disinformation campaign

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AttackofKillerTomatoes
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

In 2013, the idiots, uh, distinguished solons of the Vermont legislature passed a law requiring food companies to label their products containing ingredients derived from modern biotech crops. The "findings" used to justify the legislation is simply the litany of scientific disinformation that has been peddled by anti-biotechnology extremists for years now. Amusingly, the legislative findings note:

As indicated by the testimony of Dr. Robert Merker, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer, the FDA has statutory authority to require labeling of food products, but does not consider genetically engineered foods to be materially different from their traditional counterparts to justify such labeling (emphasis added). 

When a regulatory agency affirmatively declines to regulate something that it can regulate whenever it wants to do so that should, at least, suggest to legislators that there is no substantial issue. Never mind.

The food manufacturers oppose the legislation arguing, among other things, that it violates their First Amendment rights by forcing them to engage in speech. In point of fact, the anti-biotech activists are not consumer advocates at all. What they are really aiming at is to confuse consumers so that they will misunderstand and treat labels identifying products as containing ingredients from biotech crops as warning labels. They are explicit in their true goals.

For example, Internet quack Joseph Mercola asserted: "I believe GM foods must be banned entirely, but labeling is the most efficient way to achieve this. Since 85% of the public will refuse to buy foods they know to be genetically modified, this will effectively eliminate them from the market just the way it was done in Europe."

Andrew Kimbrell from the Center for Food Safety has said, "We are going to force them to label this food. If we have it labeled, then we can organize people not to buy it." Kimbrell also said: "Once supermarkets begin doing this [eliminating GE ingredients from their store brands], that's the end of genetically modified foods in the United States!"

Jeffrey Smith from the Institute for Responsible Technology, has stated, "By avoiding GMOs, you contribute to the tipping point of consumer rejection, forcing them out of our food supply."

And the Organic Consumers Association's Ronnie Cummins argued,"The burning question for all of us then becomes how – and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2 percent market niche to the dominant force in American food and farming? The first step is to change our labeling laws."

So what is the alleged purpose of the Vermont GMO-labeling law? The legislative boilerplate:

§ 3041. PURPOSE

It is the purpose of this chapter to:(1) Public health and food safety. Promote food safety and protect public health by enabling consumers to avoid the potential risks associated with genetically engineered foods, and serve as a risk management tool enabling consumers, physicians, and scientists to identify unintended health effects resulting from the consumption of genetically engineered foods.

(2) Environmental impacts. Assist consumers who are concerned about the potential effects of genetic engineering on the environment to make informed purchasing decisions.

(3) Consumer confusion and deception. Reduce and prevent consumer confusion and deception and promote the disclosure of factual information on food labels to allow consumers to make informed decisions.

(4) Promoting economic development. Create additional market opportunities for those producers who are not certified organic and whose products are not produced using genetic engineering and to enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

(5) Protecting religious and cultural practice. Provide consumers with data from which they may make informed decisions for personal, religious, moral, cultural, or ethical reasons.

As I pointed out in my article, The Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops, every independent scientific body that has evaluated biotech crops has found them safe for people and the environment. So, there go PURPOSES 1 & 2. As I have already shown above, the real purpose of GMO-labels is to deceive consumers. No PURPOSE 3. Is picking and choosing between producers really what you want your government to do? Bye-bye PURPOSE 4. Finally, folks seeking kosher and halal foods are already well accomodated in the market, but I suppose some folks treat organic foods as a kind of sacrament. Of course, consumers who are bamboozled by the activist disinformation campaign against biotech crops have the perfect way to avoid foods of which they disapprove: Buy anything labeled organic. So much for PURPOSE 5, then.

In any case, the judge ruled:

Because the State has established that Act 120's GE [GMO] disclosure requirement is reasonably related to the State's substantial interests… Act 120's GE disclosure requirement is constitutional.

However, the fight is not over. The case will now go to trial, where, let us hope, scientific evidence not activist lies will prevail. Or better yet, as the Washington Post editorial board has suggested, why not adopt the bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would establish a voluntary labeling system and prevent states and localities from going any further to indulge the GM labeling crowd.

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  1. I’ve heard of this Vermont. Even know someone from there.

    1. Fucking Vermont hicks. Especially the hill folk. They’re practically French Canadians, the savages.

  2. The food manufacturers oppose the legislation arguing, among other things, that it violates their First Amendment rights by forcing them to engage in speech

    Tobacco Warning Labels.

    Didn’t the first amendment go out the window a long, long time ago in this regard?

    1. P: Perhaps so, but at least the labels warn factually that smoking tobacco is a truly big health risk.

      Disclosure: I was once a three to four pack per day cigarette smoker. I quit 25 years ago.

      1. Three to four pack? Holy shit. Were you by any chance a character on The X-Files?

        1. Life… is like a box of chocolates – a cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that no one ever asks for, unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So, you’re stuck with mostly undefinable whipped mint crap, mindlessly wolfed down when there’s nothing else to eat while you’re watching the game. Sure, once is a while you get a peanut butter cup or an English toffee but it’s gone too fast and the taste is fleeting. In the end, you are left with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts, which, if you are desperate enough to eat, leaves nothing but an empty box of useless brown paper.

          1. My cousins–big fans of the show–referred to him as “Cancer Man”. Which was kind of stupid but kind of stupidly funny too.

            1. I think that was actually his official name.

              1. No, it was officially “The Smoking Man”.

                1. Crap, you’re right. “Cancer Man” was the guy that ate cancer and bathed in iodine.

        2. I knew a 5 pack a day guy. He’s still alive. Whatever genetics he has, I hope I have them too.

          He could pull a cigarette down in 2 drags.

          1. I’ve known chain smokers who were 80+ years old; obviously some people just don’t have the cancer susceptibility. My worst was a pack of Marlboro Reds a day in college.

            I’m just glad I don’t have the addiction gene or whatever it is, so I can enjoy a few smokes at night after getting stoned but never need a cigarette.

            1. Last cigarette I had was a menthol after 2 bottles of wine. Permanently eliminated any desire I have to smoke.

              1. Jesus, now I might not want a smoke later. Ugh.

            2. But were they carting around an oxygen tank?

              1. As an EMT, that’s my favorite. Man. You can cause some really ugly burns that way.

  3. ,”The burning question for all of us then becomes how ? and how quickly ? can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2 percent market niche to the dominant force in American food and farming?

    As quickly as a crop plague from the 1600s?

  4. When a regulatory agency affirmatively declines to regulate something that it can regulate whenever it wants to do so that should, at least, suggest to legislators that there is no substantial issue.

    No, no, Ron, you don’t get it. When the government alphabet agency says something is bad, that’s it; it’s bad. If the government alphabet agency says it isn’t bad, that doesn’t mean shit.

    Understand now? Neither do I.

  5. Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from evil.

    1. DwT: I will be quoting this for a long time. Thank you.

    2. Hey, not bad, Arthur C. Dork.

    3. I like that quote too.

  6. Please, please, please food companies, refuse to ship products to Vermont.

    1. “Hey, ‘eating local’ is a thing with you idiots, right? I hope you enjoy the price jumps.”

    2. FOOD DESERTS!!!

      1. They have what, maple syrup and Ben and Jerry’s, right? That’s a balanced diet…

  7. Sing it with me: “Dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb.”

  8. On a related note, the NY Times had a reasonable piece this weekend from a former anti-GMO activist who changed his mind about GMO’s once he ACTUALLY WENT TO A FARM IN INDIA to see how these GMO’s are helping prevent starvation and ruin amongst the third world.

    How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food

    No one claims that biotech is a silver bullet. The technology of genetic modification can’t make the rains come on time or ensure that farmers in Africa have stronger land rights. But improved seed genetics can make a contribution in all sorts of ways: It can increase disease resistance and drought tolerance, which are especially important as climate change continues to bite; and it can help tackle hidden malnutritional problems like vitamin A deficiency.

    We need this technology. We must not let the green movement stand in its way.

    The comments are, of course, hilarious. But I love how he felt guilty because he “decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s.” Never mind the stupidity of that statement, just revel in his schadenfreude.

    1. Dude, just be amazed that they were able to even slightly break themselves out of ideological jail. Maybe the global warming bullshit is next.

    2. T: I welcomed Lynas to the reality-based community back in 2011.

      1. R: Glad to see he’s come around and stayed that way. I wish others would take the same scientific outlook about Global Warming, in that they examine the issue from a scientific reality standpoint, not a “WE MUST STOP USING FOSSIL FUELS FOR ANYTHING BEFORE WE ALL DROWN” standpoint.

        I find that those who are anti-GMO are using the same fear-based arguments about Global Warming, when neither arguments are very much based from a scientific standpoint. Yes, the climate is changing. It always has. But to say we know exactly how much and why and that it’s definitely man causing it as ignorant as stating that GMO’s cause brain cancer.

        That’s what makes me so confused about Lynas. You would think he would change his mind about BOTH problems based on his conclusions from Lomborg.

    3. So GMO food is Mark Lynas?! It’s worse than I thought!

  9. Ron’s a little feisty today.

    1. We all have those days. We wake up and down some rot-gut whiskey, testosterone surging, aching for a fight. I mean you just want to flex and bump into people, mad doggin’ them if they dare to make eye contact. Damn I’m hard.
      *punches wall just to feel something*

      1. Ooooh, I should stop for a bottle of bourbon on the way home from work today. Thanks!

        1. What’s your brand friendo?

  10. Great article I ran across yesterday:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re…..105348.htm

    A team of philosophers and plant biotechnologists have turned to cognitive science to explain why opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has become so widespread, despite positive contributions GM crops have made to sustainable agriculture. They argue that the human mind is highly susceptible to the negative and often emotional representations put out by certain environmental groups and other opponents of GMOs.

    1. I read an article about the so-called spread of deadly peanut allergies. One scientist compared the whole phenomenon to the mass hysterias that would occur in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  11. OT: Android Lollipop sucks

    And I want to murder interface designers who like to move things like the End Call button for no apparent reason.

    1. OT: Android Lollipop sucks

      Can. not. be. worse. than. Yosemite.

      1. At least Yosemite doesn’t set out to kill your cellphone battery every morning by noon

        1. A co-worker had the same problem.. I think he ended up doing a factory reset and it is much better behaved.

      2. Working fine for me.

    2. No, you suck lollipop. Or lick.

  12. We should boycott Vermont for stupidity until they repeal this stupid law.

    1. We could refuse to go “skiing” there.

  13. I think, if you put the killer tomato cartoon on the tomato packaging, my kids might eat them.

    If you could make it taste like bacon, I *know* they’d eat them.

    And if you could make them taste like bacon and lettuce, with a little mayo, I think you could nip the whole watermelon movement in the bud with one stroke.

    1. If you can grow watermelons that taste like bacon, I may never eat anything else again.

  14. They already note the amount of sugar on the label, and everyone ignores it. Morbid Obesity causes a lot of morbidity and mortality (type 2 diabetes anyone)? Unless it requires a big, ugly label, I don’t see what is wrong with adding “Contains GMOs” or “Does not contain GMOs” somewhere on the nutrition or ingredient section.

    That said, if GMO is safe, what is wrong in “truth in labeling”? Personally, I’d like to know if what I’m eating might be loaded with RoundUp because they sprayed it across everything and it only killed the natural weeds.

    It’s like you don’t want to say whether or not something contains peanuts or gluten.

    I’d like to be able to decide what to eat. I can only do that if I know what the ingredients are, and where they came from. Who are you to decide what information I should have?

    Margarine is trans-fat (I forget if it is safe or not), so I’d like to know if something is using that or butter.

    There are “beefsteak tomatoes”, but right now it isn’t literal.

    1. That said, if GMO is safe, what is wrong in “truth in labeling”? Personally, I’d like to know if what I’m eating might be loaded with RoundUp because they sprayed it across everything and it only killed the natural weeds.

      Sure. We should mandate that all organic products have a very visible lable that says “Grown in feces”.

      1. Or more specifically we should have a label for Organic that says “Organic DOES NOT mean NO PESTICIDES”.

        1. Or “Wash thoroughly, may be covered in E-Coli”.

          1. Or “ORGANIC: MAY CONTAIN SALMONELLA”

            1. I can do this all day:

              “Salmonella has been shown to survive up to 300 days in organic fertilizers, also known as ‘Manure'”

              1. I thought they autoclaved it.

        2. Or how about labels stating bluntly =

          Organic food requires 30-50% more energy and labor to produce the same amount of food, resulting in a higher carbon footprint and greater land-mass requirements

          and

          Organic food is not any more healthy than conventionally grown produce

          How can Truth hurt?.

          1. How about “ORGANIC: MAY CAUSE STARVATION IN THIRD WORLD NATIONS”

      2. How about organic: “Grown in bullshit”

        That about sums it up.

    2. The roundup probably doesn’t get sprayed when the plant is near harvest.
      It’s used to control weeds, which are the biggest problem in the spring before the plants get established. By the time you get to harvest, the crop out-competes the weeds, so you probably wouldn’t need to bother.
      Although Roundup breaks down readily in in the environment anyway. By the time it gets to your plate I doubt there is much left.

  15. Dude at The Federalist busts Ron’s Balls, if gently:

    ” Fifteen years ago, an article in Reason took a look at claims like this from the first Earth Day in 1970. The specific quotations have been helpfully excerpted here and have been bounced around a lot on the Internet and on conservative talk radio for the last few days. It is a comical litany of forecasting gone wrong.

    The author of that old Reason article, by the way, was Ronald Bailey, who has since turned alarmist, in the style of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and who is the one asking what it would take for us to accept the reality of global warming.

    He should remember what he reported back then and recall how thoroughly and irrevocably the environmentalists burned up their scientific credibility.”

    Disclosure = I enjoy trying to start fights

  16. Could food producers get by with a label that says something like this:

    May contain ingredients from genetically modified organisms (GMO, for those of you who only know the scary initials) and if this frightens you, go pay twice as much for the relatively tiny selection of stuff that claims to be Frankenstein free but is probably grown on a mound of cow shit.

  17. “The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.”

    Junk science or nah?

    1. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine= Junk science.

      Quackwatch lists the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) as a questionable organization, and its certifying board, the American Board of Environmental Medicine as a dubious certifying board.[4] They are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.[8]

    2. You can’t tell it’s bullshit by the “Environmental Medicine” title?

      What the fuck is “Environmental Medicine”? It sounds like paranoid environmentalists making unqualified health recommendations.

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