The Great GMO Labeling Con

As a consequence of the Washington state legislature voting on resolution 522 this week, there has been much talk in the media about GMO labeling lately. For most advocates of GMO labeling, the whole idea behind the resolution (and similar resolutions elsewhere) is about people’s right to know what’s in their food.

But is it? Or is “the people’s right to know what’s in their food” argument a red herring, given that those who advocate GMO labeling are also those who stand most to gain (i.e., organic producers) from a combination of rousing up a food scare surrounding GMOs and compulsory GMO labels?

An article in Forbes last week superbly summarized the political economy of GMO labeling:

“Genetically modified organisms are one of the most dangerous and radical changes to our food supply,” he has said. Hirshberg has become a millionaire many times over selling pricey organic foods promoted with labeled marketing claims like “No Yucky Stuff,” which falsely suggests that more affordable conventional products are somehow unsafe and inferior. “Because GMOs are not labeled in the US, they might be causing acute or chronic effects,” Hirshberg has also written.

That’s what Orwell would call The Big Lie. The National Academies of Science of almost every country, World Health Organization, American Medical Association and nearly every other medical and food oversight organization in the world along with a host of scientific and scholarly societies have all concluded that GM crops are as safe as any other and pose no special risks to humans or the environment. There is not one proven or suspected case of “acute or chronic” effects from GMO consumption.

Let’s be clear. The leaders of the ‘right to know’ movement are out to dissimulate, demonize and destroy. These organizations play the ‘right to know card’ as a subterfuge to scare people about the safety of the food system and to divert attention from the sustainability benefits of GM. Are there tradeoffs in adopting crop biotechnology or large-scale agriculture? Of course, and there is room for healthy dialogue. But make no mistake here: Rational discussion and transparency are not on the mainstream pro-label groups agenda.

There you have it: pure rent-seeking–a transparent ploy to get more people to buy what they sell. As a general rule, whenever you hear someone advocate something for your own good and not theirs, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself how they might benefit from what they advocate.

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