Labeling Genetically Modified Food Is A Solution In Search Of A Problem
    By Hank Campbell | July 3rd 2012 12:00 AM | 33 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    While I agree with your point in the article; GMO's should NOT be labeled as a warning.  I disagree with the lack of labeling on principle.

    This is a classic case of where producers are able to substitute whatever they wish in the product line and continue to charge consumers as if they were all comparable.  Whether this be related to taste, or costs, or whatever.  This is not an issue about safety, but rather about information before making a purchase.

    For example, it is my prerogative to determine whether I wish to purchase a product manufactured overseas or produced locally.  It isn't a matter of safety or anything else.  It's simply an economic choice.  Similarly, I resent the idea that GMO foods are being introduced primarily to improve the profits of producers without passing any cost savings on to consumers.  Therefore, I also reserve the right to be kept informed and determine where I spend my money.

    As I said, this isn't about safety.  It's about honesty and transparency in accounting for how goods are produced and the decisions consumers can make about their purchase.

    In my view companies already have far too much leeway in bringing things to market such that the consumer is unaware of the choices being made on their behalf.  For example, many of the economic problems we face are rationalized by claiming that people wish to buy cheap goods and consequently companies are forced to move jobs overseas, etc. to be competitive.  However, in practice, much of the problem is the failure to properly inform consumers about the ramifications of their purchasing choices.  Perhaps they would continue to make the same choices, perhaps not. 

    In the same vein, I wish to see more information and not less.  So, in my view, GMO foods need to be labeled.  Not as a warning, but as a part of general consumer information so that we can make better decisions regarding how we want our money to flow through the economy.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    While I agree with your point in the article; GMO's should NOT be labeled as a warning. I disagree with the lack of labeling on principle.
    You're one of maybe 3 people in the world who will take this stance.  The people behind this legislation are not pursuing transparency for food, they are pursuing warning labels for science. 
    Campbell, You are one of the illiterate nutcases in the US (including the hard core criminals heading criminal corporations and who have sleazed their way into the US congress) who are assaulting the health of the public and the environmental lifelines the public depends, on. Your corporate greedy suckup kind should be jailed, no more "free speech" for you until you improve your illiterate little american brain. Resign now.

    Hank
    Thank you for proving my point that the people behind this 'movement' are the kinds of social authoritarians who want to persecute and jail those who don't subscribe to their fringe, fundamentalist beliefs - especially when all of the evidence is against them.

    Shouldn't you be running a cult somewhere in South America?
    No, you have it 100% reversed.. the difference is I care about the health of children and their future.. you and your illiterate cult member gang in the sleazy US congress and the immoral criminals who head your holy and do-no-wrong US corporations don't give a damn..it's all about your cult money..I bet your favorite buddy is Madoff..America is no democracy..that's the con..it's a corporate police state with no culture except money for your your personal pocket, the future of children be damned and the end justifies any means, but that's what you want isn't it?

    Fringe? You are calling > 90% of Americans in favor of labeling "fringe".
    What is more authoritarian than forcing consumers to eat something a few corporations profit from, which has zero benefit to the consumer and poses unknowable risks?
    Anti-science? I have a degree in biochemistry who was employed for a period of time sequencing DNA, who chose medical doctor--is that enough of a scientific background to satisfy you? organic chem, biochem, physics, physiology, clinical medicine, pharmacology + many other ologies-- I believe GMOs should be labeled! The question you should ask yourself is "why all the resistance to labeling" ? If the stuff is so wonderful, why not proudly advertise it as such?
    You arguments are juvenile Mr. Campbell.

    Thor Russell
    3 people, hardly! A major point of computer systems is that it enables such tracking. I would like more info/labelling on food products I buy etc so I can also encourage or punish companies/organisations/systems by the choices I make when I buy things. You could make a case that this would have more effect on things than walking to a polling booth every 3-4 years. 
    Its a growing worldwide trend as far as I am aware. Farmers in NZ are being absolutely forced to do more detailed livestock tracking etc against their will (they generally hate change using computers) by their international customers who will refuse to buy otherwise. International customers in that case want to know what went into their food etc.
    Thor Russell
    Gee, Hank, I don't know. I'm with Gerhard on this, so you are claiming now there's only one other person in the whole wide world?
    Gerhard said it quite well - better than I could have. For me, it's so the purchaser can make informed decisions. I generally agree wholeheartedly with your what I would call libertarian assessments, but there is a line here between allowing information to be known, and laws dictating what people can and can't buy or eat. I suppose I might even be against forcing labeling, as the purchaser can choose only items that the producer chooses to label, but salient information about products should be available so the purchaser can discriminate, for whatever reasons, between them. Supplying basic information about a product need not be costly and probably approaches 0 in marginal cost for the manufacturer; this shouldn't affect product competitiveness, so I have a hard time with "too costly".
    "Unneeded" can only be evaluated in terms of goals and assumptions.. I agree that labeling foods as GM should not be done as a warning that the food is less safe - there's no evidence to that effect. But what if I wish to eschew GM foods because I really resent the legal tactics Monsanto used on essentially innocent bystanders (another point made by Gerhard)? What about the reasons I can't even think of now (the unknown unknowns)? One big problem with rational decision making whereby the costs and benefits of alternatives are weighted by probabilities, is that it assumes that all possibilities are foreseeable - they're not (simple things like o-rings and flammable insulation on wire cost the lives of many in the US space program). But that doesn't argue for giving up on rational decision making. Having more information may help the consumer.
    Just as I don't like the government assuming I'm so stupid that they need to tell me what to eat and drink, I don't want them deciding I'm so stupid that I shouldn't have information because I might not understand it or misinterpret it...

    I wanted to address the errors in the statements you have made, but most of your article is erroneous. Your stats are way off the mark. Susan Finston is hardly an unbiased voice on biotech and the "science illiterates" you are speaking about include David Suzuki and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Hardly science illiterate I would say. If I had to choose who to listen to, it wouldn't be consultants and employees paid by the biotech industry and it wouldn't be some flaky writer who wants to insult my intelligence by trying to pass off fantasy as fact.

    Hank
    the "science illiterates" you are speaking about include David Suzuki and the Union of Concerned Scientists. 
    Absolutely correct!  They are advocates first and science is just a tool - any group that claims that science is out to save us when it comes to climate change and out to kill us when it comes to food is not a sane voice. 

    This persistent belief that they are not anti-science but rather anti-corporation is just spin.  Scientists do not suddenly become unethical or dishonest by working for a company rather than a politically-motivated government. And every scientist is working for someone who controls the money and funds what they want to fund.

    You represent the anti-science fringe in food quite accurately in your comment, and I thank you for that.
    Gerhard Adam
    Great!! ... So where are the papers that Suzuki and Finston have published that demonstrate the peer-reviewed dangers of GMO's?  I really would like to take a look.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I posted a couple of citations here : http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2012/06/08/the-gmo-labeling-debate-continued-i...

    Eagerly awaiting your scientific rebuttal.!

    For the record, I have not received any compensation at all for writing this OpEd, representing my own views and the data I have reviewed and nothing more. (My website – finstonconsulting.com – includes information about my clients and activities in the biotech and life sciences space, largely falling outside of agri-biotech.)

    Where is the data to contradict the EU's 20 years of studies demonstrating safety of GMOs? Why resort to rumor and innuendo? Let's disagree on the facts and not resort to ad hominem attacks!!

    And for those who agree on safety but still want labels 'just because,' please think about the public policy implications, costs and benefits.

    Consider as well whether it might be just as effective to follow the current practice where non-GM foods are labeled accordingly so that consumers with an aversion to bio-fortified foods can choose not to buy them and no one else bears the cost of their choices.

    My point is only that we should not make important decisions around food policy based on popularity contests or polls, as many ave suggested.

    Thanking you in advance for a civil discussion,

    Susan

    Susan Fink, the EU has largely banned the poisons you want to con Americans into accepting. Hungary burned an entire season's crop when it was contanimated by Monsanto poison, lest it poison their population and ruin their environment. you are a coward and corporate suckup. You are attacking the health of the public and the future of your own children for greed, along with similar monsters who have sleazed their way into Congress. How low can you get?

    I won't be getting into the whole debate on this. There is a myriad of information from respectable sources on this issue. I came across this report last month and it is only the tip of the iceburg but it is well-written and informative. http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and.... The autoors' credentials speak for themselves.

    Susan Finston has a history with the big Pharma and Biotech industry as a lobbyist and a promoter of Pharma and Biotech. That does not mean her statements are irrelevent, but it would indicate a bias in my opinion.

    David Suzuki is in the camp of not releasing genetically engineered organisms without more complete and unbiased testing. Again, his credentials are impressive in spite of Hank's assertion.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists has scrutinized peer reviewed studies. Again, a Google search will turn up some documents on this.

    Shiv Chopra, formerly employed by Health Canada (turned whistle-blower) has written a book that demonstrates government buy-in to biotechnology and cover-ups by multinational corporations on the inadequacy of testing and the concealing of negative results of that testing.

    My position is this: There is enough evidence given by many respectable sources to suggest that there needs to be more unbiased testing over longer periods of time. Until that time, GMOs are not on my shopping list and I feel that I have a democratic right to be informed on what is in my edible and inedible consumer goods and in the food supply of my animals. That, in my opinion, means labelling them.

    Hank
    Here is the problem. You claim an advocate against something is 'impressive' but anyone who notes that not a single study (Whatever "http://earthopensource.org/" is, notwithstanding) has found harm is 'a lobbyist and a promoter'. 

    Science is science.  I can be called 'a lobbyist and a promoter' of gravity because gravity is science. Doesn't bother me in the least.  Tens of thousands of biologists are apparently all lying while a hysterical crank like Suzuki generates money inciting hysteria in the gullible section of the public.
     
    Who would do this unbiased testing you claim does not exist?  Anti-science advocates you "believe". Be certain that if GMOs are not tested objectively, nothing on planet earth is; they are the most exhaustively tested products in history.  So don't turn on that light switch in your house because there is a remote statistical chance an electric arc could jump out and fry you.  And don't drink from a garden hose. And don't take a shower. 
    Gerhard Adam
    So don't turn on that light switch in your house because there is a remote statistical chance an electric arc could jump out and fry you.  And don't drink from a garden hose. And don't take a shower.
    ... and that's precisely the point.  I don't actually have to do any of those things, if I choose not to.  Regardless of whether such a choice is viewed as rational or not.  By not providing labeling of GMO foods, the producers are effectively saying that I shouldn't be allowed to have such a choice, because I might choose against their product.

    It doesn't matter whether the science is solid, whether it is suspect, or even if it is pseudoscience.  There's plenty of evidence that even the latter is labeled more accurately that is being proposed for GMO's [i.e. none at all].  I agree that labeling should not be in the form of "warnings", since that is clearly agenda driven.

    As a consumer I have a fundamental right to be kept informed about production, and consequently have the right to make my own choices, regardless of what may motivate me [including completely irrational reasons].

    I'm also tired of listening to all the whining from industry about how difficult and costly it would be to label GMO's.  In truth, if GMO's were proven to correct erectile dysfunction or help in weight loss, there would be more advertisements and commercials than one could tolerate.  So, the only reason for opposition to labeling is the perception that people wouldn't choose the product if they were given the choice.  It is that last phrase that is unequivocal in my view.  Industry is attempting to deprive people of a choice, by weaseling their product in through legalities and therefore people to be intentionally kept ignorant.  That's simply unacceptable, no matter what the product is.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    It's wonderfully optimistic that you don't see a slippery slope when it is right there; people are taking the excellent public relations campaign on GMOs ('it's about transparency') and the approval it generates and applying that to everything.  NYC is banning Big Gulps and two editorials in PLoS Medicine this week call for government oversight of the entire food industry.

    Their justification is that it is what the people want.  The one thing sure to be worse than GMOs and cheap food is no GMOs and expensive food. Food stamps only go so far at the Organic Market.





    Gerhard Adam
    Their justification is that it is what the people want.
    I'm not quite that noble or self-righteous.  it's what I want.
    It's wonderfully optimistic that you don't see a slippery slope when it is right there;...
    Perhaps, but to paraphrase many of your own arguments.  I don't see why I should have to compromise a good idea simply because some may choose to abuse it.

    Despite the fact that everyone decries governmental involvement, the simple reality is that industry has repeatedly brought this on themselves.  I'm currently listening to the Barclay's scandal.  As if these idiots didn't control enough money and resources, they've demonstrated again, that they are simply not to be trusted.  Then they complain when government gets heavy-handed about it.

    Almost every such law that we have is a direct result of government or individuals demonstrating that they are untrustworthy or incapable of "doing the right thing".  It's a shame, because 99% of the people are not guilty of such behaviors, but there it is.
    Mundus vult decipi
    FYI, Monsanto is simply a global terrorist organization assaulting the very future of the earth, on the level of the companies in Nazi Germany who processed the gold teeth of the concentration camp victims. That is no exagerration, Monsanto isn't the only criminal corporation, but simply one of the worst. Anyone excusing this type of terrorism by these type of corporate monsters is himself suspect of criminal activities.

    Hank
    Anyone excusing this type of terrorism by these type of corporate monsters is himself suspect of criminal activities.
    So every biologist in the world should be lined up and shot, eh comrade?  
    Read some books instead of pretending to be even literate, much less some kind of "biologist". Frankenfoods lay waste to future of the environment, wipe out pollinators and plant varieties and destroy health, pesticide plants ravage livestock that eat that poison, are like cancer on peoples' health like destroying the intestinal digestive bacteria with your frankenfood genetic pesticide plants, but you support the poisoning of your children, "comrade", so obviously there is nothing to say to your type. My advice is take some arsenic with your "FDA" friends, there's no evidence of health effects with that either is there?

    Hank
    If you are contending that arsenic, along with strychnine, is completely organic, well I agree.  GMOs lead to less pesticides and you want more chemicals, you just have a 'natural' fetish about the poison you want to ingest.
    Gerhard Adam
    Do you fail to grasp that your mind-numbingly stupid comments serve no purpose except to alienate everyone, including those that might otherwise agree with you.

    Such vitriol and hatred have no place anywhere.  You are a poor excuse for a human being, especially to lay claim to caring about anything [let alone to spew such thoughts with the feeble justification that it is "for the children"].  Go away.  You're simply annoying.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I'll agree and second that motion......

    So how much money do you get from big agri-business Mr. Campbell?
    This article starts off with a huge fallacy. Claiming "no instance of them (GMO's) being harmful or unhealthy."

    There are hundreds of studies which have been carried out by scientists NOT on the payroll of Monsanto, DOW, Dupont or Pioneer who have shown many health risks associated with GMO food.

    Start by reading Dr. Arpad Pusztai's work with GMO potatoes and mice. All mice fed GMO potatoes had internal organ damage, how can you claim there is "no instance" of GMO's being harmful or unhealthy?

    You sir are either paid by big agri-business or are ignorant of CONFLICT OF INTEREST and just buy all the "research" done by the likes of Monsanto et al.

    Fact is that people have the right to know if their food is genetically engineered or not unless you are a fascist. The only reason not to label is because you have an agenda and you are also afraid that people won't buy your crap if they know what's in it.

    Your point of "labeling should only be done if the food has safety concerns" is insane. If the food has "safety concerns" it shouldn't be on the market period. The food should be labeled so people can know what they are eating.

    There is no argument you can make against GMO labeling that makes any sense.

    This article = epic FAIL.

    Hank
    So how much money do you get from big agri-business Mr. Campbell?
    $0.  Now, how much money do you get from anti-science advocacy kooks for spreading fear and disinformation in order to help their fundraising?
    I find it sickly comical that you brand those who want GMO labels "science illiterates." This is totally the Monsanto PR line. We know best and those opposing us are merely scared little cretins. The fact is that Monsanto has aggressively suppressed research that dares to expose the weakness and dangers of their product. In fact it is GMO itself that is a solution in search of a problem. A recent report cites numerous scientific reports about the dangers of GMO "foods." http://organicconnectmag.com/wp/gmo-dangers-as-reported-by-genetic-engin...

    The overriding question is, if Monsanto and their brethren are so convinced GMO's are safe, why spend some much money and effort opposing it at every turn.

    Hank
    Your last sentence makes no sense.  The first is dismissed because, like every other link, there is no science, just scare tactics.  Monsanto opposes warning labels for GMOs for the same reason drug companies protest anti-science cranks insisting vaccines cause autism; it's dangerous, it's not supported by evidence and it's illegal.  

    As I have said before, legislation can be created to get around that last part. As long as it applies to all foods, I am for it.  But the first group out of business if there is accuracy in labeling is the entire organic food industry.
    Gerhard Adam
    I would agree that labeling should be for all foods.  However, in an unrelated vein, after reviewing the report regarding Fukushima, I've come to the conclusion that corporations shouldn't be trusted to do anything properly.  In short, they should be prohibited for doing anything without close supervision and ultimately be forced to regain the public trust that they have managed to squander.

    In addition, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that corporate officers should be held financially and criminally liable for the choices they make.  If they can't handle that, then they shouldn't be making those decisions.  I am totally fed up with these wealthy bastards getting richer while displaying some of the highest levels of incompetence and criminal neglect possible. 

    BTW ... the issue isn't about money, except in the sense that while they are collecting bonuses, the citizens are footing the bill to correct their mistakes.  Such behavior is simply intolerable and should be sanctioned and punished by the strictest standards possible, not rewarded as if these morons were innovators and pillars of our society.  They are the worse sort of parasites.

    To keep the point on track with GMO's, my position is rapidly becoming one of not particularly caring what the science says and instead focusing on the fact that scientists aren't the ones implementing this.  Since I don't trust the corporations, then I'm not prepared to grant them credibility in using the science.  It's really that simple.  As a result, my feeling is that for them to proceed, they should be 150% transparent and be accountable to virtually every whim and demand the public makes of them.  The public have earned it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I totally agree with you Gerhard, brilliantly put!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Tell us Mr. Campbell, what do you feed your family?

    Hank
    As I have said before, if I had my way, nothing that touches my family would be anything except food that was grown, killed, cleaned and processed by me alone.  Not some farmer in Asia who is lying 25% of the time - and anyone buying Whole Foods in the winter is getting lied to 25% of the time about 'organic' alone, much less everything else.

    However, I live in the real world so I do not personally manage all of our food.  But I have far more confidence in GMO food - which has been rigorously tested and monitored - than organic processed food, which is nothing but a paid license and a piece of paper stating they don't use synthetic stuff and has no chain of ownership at all.  

    So I am not sure of your overall point; there is a 100% chance I have killed and grown more food than 99.9% of the readers of this site.  My knowledge and love for nature gives me more confidence in GMOs, not less.  Because I understand what science and nature are.