GMO Food

Mandatory GMO Food Labels Address Largely Supernatural Concerns and Are Meant to Confuse You

Activists hope that consumers will misinterpret GMO ingredient taglines as "warning" labels

|

PinkSalt
Bailey

"We're kosher and have to answer to an even higher authority," was the tagline in Hebrew National's amusing TV advertisement suggesting that God's production requirements for its hotdogs exceed those mandated by U.S. government regulators. The company follows kosher process standards and labels its meats to provide that information to consumers who adhere to the Torah's religious strictures on foods.

Hebrew National was also clearly implying to non-religious consumers that its Deity-approved wieners are somehow better (and safer) than conventionally produced hotdogs. However, at least one study reported that kosher chicken had the nearly double the frequency of antibiotic-resistant E. coli than conventionally produced chicken did.

One of the invidious tactics used by anti-biotech activists is to argue for government mandates to label foods using ingredients made from modern biotech crops. They hope that consumers will misinterpret them as "warning" labels. But as the Food and Drug Administration has pointed out numerous times:

The agency is not aware of any valid scientific information showing that foods derived from genetically engineered plants, as a class of foods, differ from other foods in any meaningful way. GE (genetically engineered) foods don't present greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.

So GMO labels, like kosher labels, would be essentially process labels since there is no nutritional or safety differences between biotech and conventional foods. Would GMO or non-GMO labels actually inform consumers or would it confuse them? Last November, a report on the process labeling of food issued by the Council on Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) addressed question. The study noted the proliferation of food process labels including   those for Certified Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, rbST free, Fair Trade, and Free of Genetically Modified Organisms.

These labels, like kosher labels, aim to address the supernatural* concerns of some consumers. But, as the CAST study observed…

…process labeling often has serious unintentional consequences. For instance, labeling the benefits of a process for new niche product can implicitly cast the conventionally produced product in a negative light. This type of stigmatization of the conventional product can be particularly problematic in situations in which no scientific evidence exists that the food produced with the conventional process causes harm, or even that it is compositionally any different. 

Of course, anti-biotech activist groups like Just Label It that are demanding government-mandated GMO labels actually intend to mislead consumers into thinking that biotech foods are somehow less safe or nutritionally different than other foods. 

Instead of mandatory labels, CAST recommends voluntary process labels:

[W]e recommend that mandatory labeling occur only in situations in which the product has been scientifically demonstrated to harm human health. Likewise, governments should not impose bans on process labels because this approach goes against the general desire of consumers to know about and have control over the food they are eating and it can undermine consumer trust of the agricultural sector. We believe that a prudent approach is to encourage voluntary process labeling under the conditions that these labels are true and scientifically verifiable and that, when the labels claim a product "contains" or is "free of" a certain production-related process, the product should also include a label stating the current scientific consensus regarding the importance of this attribute.

In an effort to be helpful, how about a voluntary label that reads something like: "Non-GMO Verified: Totally Useless Information." Simple and accurate.

It should, however, be noted that Campbell's Soups earlier this month called for mandatory GMO labeling. The company flatly states that foods made using ingredients from biotech crops are as safe and as nutritious as foods produced using other processes. I suspect that the company believes that GMO labels pasted on everything would for most consumers go in one eye and out the other with no effect on their purchasing decisions.

For your delectation, the Hebrew National commercial is below:

*supernatural: (Of a manifestation or event) attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

77 responses to “Mandatory GMO Food Labels Address Largely Supernatural Concerns and Are Meant to Confuse You

  1. There’s no animism like food animism.

    1. Gun animism takes the cake for me.

      1. Gun animism is really bad, but food animism is just so spectacularly off the charts. “If I just eat this way, I’ll live forever!” “It’s this type of food that is the cause of all negativity in my life, and if I stop eating it, everything will become wonderful!” “My child was being held back by this kind of food!” And so on.

        1. Acai berries cured my fibromyalgia.

          1. They “cured” my constipation, too.

          2. What about your candida?

            1. For a sec, I thought you wrote “Canada.”

              1. There is no cure for Canada. You can only hope to contain it with ample alcohol and hockey.

        2. You won’t believe this one weird diet trick! You’ll never eat this food again!

        3. “Eating this food will keep Warty and Episiarch away!”

    2. That’s just the genetically engineered salt talking.

      1. Salt is an inorganic compound and should be eliminated from your organic diet.

        1. That goes double for sugar and fat.

  2. I’ve been told by several orthodox Jews that Hebrew National (Conagra) “isn’t really kosher”. I don’t recall which organization certifies them, maybe triangle K?

    1. “Orthodox,” that’s your problem right there. That covers a lot of ground from the merely devout to the downright batshit fanatical. There are various degrees of Kosher, and special kosher-for-passover rules.

      1. Every time someone says we cant switch to voluntary regulation of food, I bring up the kosher ahencies.

      2. Is kosher-for-passover anything like gay for pay? Asking for a friend.

        1. Irish for St Patty’s?

          1. Mexican for Cinco de Mayo! Arriba! Andelay, andelay!

        2. Make sure to ask Tulpa about Passover Coke.

    2. Circle around a U.

      1. OU is highly respected, I thought.

  3. If GMO salt were offered for sale, I’d buy it out of curiosity.

    1. I have some GMO water you may be interested in buying. It’s really expensive to produce though, but you seem like a good guy, so I think I can make you a deal for, say, $7.50 a bottle. It’ll cut my profit margins to the bone, but like I said, you seem like a good person. /sarc

  4. Tim Robbins’ mother says Monsanto is evil, so I assume they are in bed with Big Joo, and this is all a scam to make money while poisoning my body and soul.

    1. And don’t forget stealing unbaptized “christian” babies to make matzohs.

      1. Don’t be ignorant. All we need is the blood. I’m not carrying around a dead baby when I can just drain its blood on the spot.

    2. “They sit in their CORPORASHUN buildings, being all… CORPORASHUNY, and they make money!”

      1. Don’t be a F.A.G.!

  5. You don’t actually expect honesty out of activists, do you?

  6. So GMO labels, like kosher labels, would be essentially process labels since there is no nutritional or safety differences between biotech and conventional foods.

    Faith-based beliefs lead to faith-based outcomes.

  7. Hebrew National’s Pigs in a Blanket (obviously not actually pig) are delicious. If they weren’t so expensive they’d be my regular breakfast food.

    1. That is as bad as egg free mayo.

      1. I prefer beef to pig for taste reasons, so I’m a happy camper. Also, they don’t call them Pigs in a Blanket, that’s just the only term I can remember for that type breakfast food.

      2. That is kind of funny.

        Hebrew National are some of the only hot dogs I can tolerate. Most just make me feel slightly ill after a few bites.

    2. Mental note:

      After this morning’s sausage binge, need to stop at grocery on the way home.

      Think I’ll ask the butcher if they have any genetically modified pork.

    3. I buy a box every holiday party and they’re the first to be eaten. So good.

  8. In an effort to be helpful, how about a voluntary label that reads something like: “Non-GMO Verified: Totally Useless Information.” Simple and accurate.

    Or, how about you certify that your product is free of GMO ingredients? Mfrs weren’t required to label their products contained salt; they voluntarily labeled that their product didn’t contain salt.

    This way, the oat-bran, acai, graprefruit, kelp, superfood, codfish oil swilling dopes can pack it into their Leafs and Priuses and have all the smug, commerce-based superiority that they can manage.

    1. What is up with everybody stereotyping people who drive Priuses? What is so uncool about getting 50 mpg? Of course my Prius is cooler than the rest because the stick figure family on it has a single mom holding a rifle…

      1. What is so uncool about getting 50 mpg?

        Other than being as dull as paint flaking off a barn, nothing. Really.

  9. They put a Non-GMO label on fucking salt? How brain-damaged would you have to be to think people need to be warned that a mineral isn’t genetically modified?

    1. Precisely the sort of person who looks for non-GMO labels in the first place?

    2. I figure eating GMO keeps my innards toughened up. By the time they try to inject me with alien DNA, I will have much practice in rejecting (or assimilating, who knows?) such things.

    3. Maybe it’s for the ones that have been consuming Michigan’s finest non-GMO lead water? And, you know, that label is technically accurate.

    4. How brain-damaged would you have to be to think people need to be warned that a mineral isn’t genetically modified?

      Pretty brain damaged. But I think it’s pretty obvious that the people putting the label on there aren’t the ones with the damage. They are just counting on the idiocy of their customers.

    5. I have seen high sugar candy labeled fat free.

  10. GMO warnings are about as useful as “Warning: Contains water.”

    1. You need to keep those harmful chemicals out of your body.

  11. How is any food labeled GMO free? We have been selectively breeding crops and animals for millennia to get the traits we want. What’s the difference between doing it over hundreds of generations or one?

      1. +1 “You take the ‘GMO-free’ sticker and put it on the food.”

    1. Corporations, duh.

    2. Selective breeding (artificial selection) is very different than genetic engineering of crops where dna from other crops/insects/organisms is combined with the foods DNA. GMO refers to the Genetic Engineered crops.

      1. No it isnt. Genes hop species naturally too.

        1. The best part is that gene mutations and crossing species is exactly what is required for evolution to be valid. The same people who are rabidly pro-evolution/anti-religion, are the most likely to be anti-GMO.

      2. GMO is genetically modified not genetically engineered. How do you think we got the grapefruit? By sweet orange and pomelo genes crossing. Again, outside of how it was accomplished how is that any different than adding wheat genes to rice? Or a million other things we have done over the last 20 years or so.

        1. When people say “GMO” they generally mean genetically engineered.

          I don’t know why people are so insistent on saying there is no difference between genetic engineering and conventional crop breeding. There is no way you were going to get fish genes into a tomato or BT genes into soy by conventional breeding. Grapefruits are a cross of closely related plants that can cross fertilize. It’s a new way to do things and that is good. Saying it is the exact same things as selective breeding downplays the value and potential of a truly new technology. We don’t need only to convince people that GMOs are not a big deal. But that genetic engineering is a fantastic thing that will make life better for everyone.

          1. Of course you can’t crossbreed a fish with an apple, but the end result is none-the-less the same. It isn’t magically dangerous because we manipulated the genes rather than bred to get the genes.

      3. Oh, good. I’m not the only one making this distinction.

        Genetic engineering is a marvelous thing. But it’s a completely different process from selective breeding and can achieve results that would never come about simply with selective breeding.

  12. Deepak Chopra recently weighed in on gut biomes and processed/GMO’d food…

    “[Your gut biome] doesn’t like anything that’s refined, manufactured, processed, GMO’d, because again GMO interferes with its ecology. It is the life of the earth. And when it gets inflamed, it sends out metabolites that cause disruption of the activity, both of the epigenome and of the gene directly.”

    1. I’m sure that at some point later in that story he explains exactly how GMOs mess with your gut flora.

    2. Todd Akin, is that you?

    3. Deepak Chopra is the biggest, boldest, most brazen con man in the world not named Kevin Trudeau.

      When he dies I’d like to personally check the corpse to make sure he’s really dead.

      1. Dr. Oz may give him competition for that title.

    4. Christ, that guy is fucking retarded (and/or mendacious). Your gut biome doesn’t like anything that’s “refined” or “processed”? What, like cooked food?

      1. Yeah. I like how he’s claiming to emotionally depth check his gut biome’s opinion on totally arbitrary terms and they mean exactly what you’d want them to mean if you were a head-up-your-ass food hippie.

        1. It gives new meaning to the phrase “gut decision”

  13. De gustibus non est disputandum. Don’t let that stop you, though.

  14. Do you even Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, bro?

    Actually it’d be interesting if they pulled in DHS for the raid partly in order to generate federal charges which could bypass the protections related to Section 230.

    “Section 230’s coverage is not complete: it excepts federal criminal liability and intellectual property law.”

    If Rentboy wasn’t generating illicit content, holding them liable would be like holding Reason liable for death threats made on its forum or something.

    1. God damn it. This isn’t even the right thread. Just pretend I posted this under one of Irish’s comments in the rentboy thread.

      1. Rent boys also need labeling to guarantee you get what you want.

  15. the product should also include a label stating the current scientific consensus regarding the importance of this attribute.

    Weird! I still see AHA labels over all sorts of food claiming that foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol can reduce your risk for heart disease, in the face of mountains of evidence!

  16. or, they could just be doing what everyone wants.

  17. I don’t think that labeling GMO products is really necessary, and doesn’t need to be mandatory. Consumer pressure will dictate whether or not the labeling will get done, and it already is. Whole sections of stores are devoted to prominently labeled ‘Non-GMO’ products. Sometimes they cost a little more, but often they’re the same price. Same thing happened with High Fructose Corn Syrup, people decided that they didn’t want it in their food and manufacturers obliged by offering products without it. So long as someone doesn’t come out with a law *prohibiting* a product from being labeled ‘Non-GMO’ consumers who want to make the choice to buy it or not will know that the products not labeled will have GMO ingredients.

    Maybe GMO foods are not bad, just as nutritious and all that. I personally won’t eat them if I can avoid it. They spray the GM vegetables with RoundUp, and they even spray non-GMO wheat with it prior to harvesting so that it dries out quicker. I don’t care what anyone says about how it supposedly degrades quickly, I’m not going to eat it.

  18. bragging about your hot dog meat not being frozen is stupider than bragging about the genetic non-modifiedness of your food. It’s ground up and stuffed into intestines. freezing wont do anything (noticeable) to it

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.