As you may have heard by now, President Obama passed the GMO labelling law that have been passing through Senate and the House this month. This law requires labelling by the presence of a QR code that can be scanned with any smartphone.
In my own opinion, I was against such labelling because it was just superfluous and bringing not much information, except the technique by which this food was produced.
Don’t take it wrong, all our food has been recently or less recently genetically modified. That’s as old as humankind learned to seed and harvest crops in the Neolithic era. We have been crossing varieties based on the trait of interest, making some of the most common staple food looking way different than their original wild type cousins.
Type of foods that are “naturally” GMOs? Corn, watermelons, apples, tomatoes, eggplants, carrots, kale….they look way different, so different that we could call them “Frankenfood” as they are a far cry of their genetic relatives. Yet, we are not afraid about it, because we consider these fresh produces as natural.
In one hand, we have the classical genetic engineering based on random mutagenesis (using a radioactive material to generate ionizing radiations such as gamma radiations) and hybrids by cross-pollination. These one are present in both conventional and organic production but are fairly random and takes a lot of time to obtain the desired trait and also messing up with other genes that we may consider important such as flavor. This is for example one reasons everyone complain about tasteless tomatoes. We have selected traits for their robustness to mechanical stress and loose in the meantime genes encoding for their flavor.
In the other hand, we have modern technology in which we can edit a gene in a precision, allowing us to either reduce the use of pesticide (EPSP gene giving the resistance to glyphosate present in Roundup; Bt Brinjal and cotton against a type of caterpillar), protects against a pathogen (GM papaya giving the resistance to the papaya ringspot virus) , enhance the storage and shelf-life of a fresh produce (Arctic apple that do not brownish once at air), reduce the amount of a potent cancer-causing agent (Simplot potato with reduced acrylamide levels) or enrich a staple food with essential micro-nutrient (Vitamin A and golden rice). However, like new technology, fear and skepticism has been accompanying the launch of these produce, some activist groups even calling on their safety of these produces, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of the safety of such modern technique. Recently over 100 Nobel Prizes (most of them with a Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology or Chemistry) have signed a plea to Greenpeace to stop their anti-GMO stance and hinder scientific progress (http://supportprecisionagriculture.org/nobel-laureate-gmo-letter_rjr.html).
Interestingly, those that have shown the most virulent attack against GMOs have been organizations funded or representing the organic food industry, a business that became so big that it rivals with Big Ag (Big Organic versus Big Ag), using the GMO fear and “GMO-free” slogans to increase their market share. Yet, they use techniques that are considered de facto as genetic engineering as their intention is to create an organism with traits that are not present naturally. Take for instance the “organic seedless watermelons” (https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/01/20/why-organic-seedless-watermelons-could-be-considered-gmos-or-chemically-created-mutants/) that are simply GMOs.
You cannot say you are defending consumers if you are beliefs, “gut-feelings” and junk science instead of using facts and critical thinking to set your arguments (Bill Nye was at first reluctant against GMOs and after understanding the science and the process accepted and promoted the use of GMOs. Another instance is Mark Lynas or Peter Moore, both former Greenpeace members that made a change of mind after understanding science).
You cannot yell and demonize “Monsanto” for a technology that is used by all seed companies (why Bayer, Syngenta, Dupont, Pioneer and others don’t get their share too?) when you have a skin in the game and benefiting directly from promoting fear mongering (The Organic Consumer Association, the Institute of Responsible Technology or the US Right To Know are unlikely getting their revenues from selling girl scout cookies and from lemonade stands).
With the recent move of President Obama to sign the bill into law has no unveiled the mask and shown that the recent move of anti-GMO was more than just a “goalpost” fallacy move. At least one of them blatantly admitted their call for GMO labelling was only a tactic to phase out GM foods from the grocery market.
In a letter sent out yesterday, anti-GMO activist Jeffrey Smith admits what we have suspected all along.
“Labeling GMOs was never the end goal for us. It was a tactic. Labels make it easier for shoppers to make healthier non-GMO choices. When enough people avoid GMOs, food companies rush to eliminate them. Labeling can speed up that tipping point—but only if consumers are motivated to use labels to avoid GMOs.”
Here’s that segment of the actual letter.
And noting that President Obama’s signing S.764 restricts states from requiring stringent (and meaningless) GMO labels, he writes:
Although this is clearly a defeat in our campaigns for getting mandatory labeling in the United States, we are still winning the bigger, more important effort to ELIMINATE GMOs from the market altogether.
In other words, the whole edifice of moral claims that “we have the right to know what we are eating” has just…
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