by Marion Nestle
Jan 30 2012

Isn’t it about time GM foods got labels?

I was fascinated to read Cookson Beecher’s Food Safety News’ analysis of current campaigns to label genetically modified foods (GMOs).

It brought back memories of the time I served as an obviously ignored consumer representative on the FDA’s Food Advisory Committee.  Back in the early 1990s, the FDA formed this committee to get advice on issues that might be controversial.  It asked us for advice about whether to approve GM foods and, if so, whether they should be labeled.

We learned later that the FDA was using the committee to give it a heads up on decisions that were already made.  The FDA had every intention of approving GMOs (I wrote about this in my book Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety).

I and the other three consumer representatives argued as strongly as we could that labeling was essential:

  • Consumers have a right to know
  • Consumers want to know (polls showed this overwhelmingly, even in 1994)
  • Not-labeling will induce distrust of biotech foods and the biotech industry
  • Not-labeling will end up hurting the biotech industry (in Europe, definitely.  Monsanto is no longer selling GM corn in France and BASF has moved its biotech operations to the U.S.)
  • Not-labeling will stimulate the organic industry (it did!)
  • The FDA allows plenty of process labeling (e.g., made from concentrate, irradiated)
  • Not-labeling will make the FDA look as if it was in bed with the biotech industry
  • Transparency is always the right thing to do

Too bad our arguments failed.  Eighteen years later, not-labeling has caused no end of problems for the biotech industry.  This issue is not going away.

The FDA has approved many GM fruits and vegetables but it is impossible to know whether they are offered for sale in supermarkets (as I discussed in Safe Food, Hawaiian papayas are the most likely candidates).

But most corn, soybeans, and cotton grown in America are GM.  So are sugar beets.

Campaigns to require labeling of GM foods are heating up.

  • Washington state is considering legislation
  • California may have a ballot initiative
  • 14 states, among them Oregon, New York, Maryland and Vermont, considered bills last year
  • Alaska passed a law requiring GMO labeling of fish and shellfish in 2005
  • 50 countries require disclosure of GM ingredients

The “Just Label It!” campaign is collecting signatures.  If this is an issue you care about, signing on is easy.

  • http://anh-usa.org ANH-USA

    Computer companies tell you what chip is inside, car companies advertise engine type, interesting how biotech companies go out of their way to hide their involvement with your food.

  • Mary

    I’m sure it looks tedious when I have to keep asking for the evidence over and over–but that’s because no one is coming up with it, and the goal posts keep moving.

    Y’all can help out the beleaguered Michael if you have the data. I don’t care who pays you–if you have evidence that there is improved health status, or allergy reduction, or any other benefits–such as increased biodiversity, animal comfort, or any of the other things you claim labeling will engender–that can be linked to labeling I’ll look at it.

    Any peer reviewed source.
    Any actual evidence.
    Really. I’ll look at it.

    Bueller? Bueller?

  • RB

    The United States is suppose to be democracy. A vital democracy depends on the free flow of accurate information to all the people and support of all the people by the government. When a government suppresses information or allows corporations to suppress information, it harms our democracy. Suppressing studies of harmful effects of GMO food is bad for democracy. Suppressing labeling of GMO food is unhealthful for a democracy. It is what one would expect in a communist country.

    Perhaps suppliers of non-GMO food should begin labeling them as such. I hope we still have freedom of speech.

  • Suzanne

    When reading social media comment threads on the web, two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there is little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilized than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: assorted examples include Monsanto’s GMO products, climate change, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, public health, and corporate tax avoidance. These comment threads are often characterized by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.

    Articles about the environment are hit harder by such tactics than any others. I enjoy reading public opinion in the comment sections of web-based articles. But it’s a discouraging experience, as instead of contesting the issues raised, many of those who disagree bombard commenters with infantile abuse, or just keep repeating a fiction, however often it is discredited. This ensures that an intelligent, civilized discussion is almost impossible – which appears to be the point.

  • Suzanne

    @Sherman and @Skeptical Vegan: I would ask you, as companies make huge investments in their patented products, why would they fear promoting them with identifying labels? Why is this not seen as another marketing strategy?

    I question the profit/employment motive of commenters as Monsanto, et. al. stands to gain financially by keeping their GMO products flying under the radar out of view of informed consumers.

    I look forward to doing my part in passing a GMO labeling initiative this November in California. I have one vote to contribute.

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ Daniel Ithaca, NY

    Label them! People have the right to know what their food is!

    Let the market decide.

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    “why would they fear promoting them with identifying labels? Why is this not seen as another marketing strategy?”

    GM seed is clearly promoted as GM to its intended consumer base, FARMERS.
    Its when it come to selling the resulting food to the public that resistance to labeling comes in because it IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH CURRENT food labeling standards which regard public safety and health. GMO simply do not warrant such a label. Other labels of choice based on environmental concerns, workers rights, animal rights, religion, ect are just that, by choice, voluntary. IF you really really want GMO labeling to be legally mandatory then you need to change THE VERY BASIS of labeling law and allow for many many other mandatory labels from other special interest groups. Otherwise you have NO LEGAL BASIS for such an imposition and need to seek out and support companies that support voluntary non-gmo labeling.
    The voluntary labeling of the end food product as “GMO” (as oppose to labeling other things “non-gmo”) would be more readily adopted by companies if there wasn’t so much fear-mongering going on.

    “I question the profit/employment motive of commenters as Monsanto, et. al. ”
    And I question it when health food companies and organic food companies disseminate propaganda against their competitors.
    Do you ever question the motives of ANY organic companiy or enviromental org that stands to make money from sowing fear?

    “out of view of informed consumers. ”
    if you are actually that informed they its not out of view. You dont have to rely on just labels, you can do deeper research. I’m vegan I’m used to this, many animal products are not clearly labeled so I have to contact companies and suppliers to find out. If you really care then its not that hard and i often get quite helpful responses. Im not ask anymore of others than myself, mandatory “vegan” & “non-vegan” labeling would make my life easier, but like GMO labeling THERE IS NO LEGAL BASIS and I’m not about to try to dishonestly shove it in there.

    I recommend reading my post on GMO labeling
    https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com/2011/10/29/food-labeling/

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ Daniel Ithaca, NY

    Thanks RB. For bringing some sense into this.

    “perfectly safe foods” says industry studies? Let people decide for themselves. Or is Monsanto interested in forcing their food-like- products upon the public?

    Sorry if it isn’t in the best interest of Monsanto shareholders, but I don’t want to consume GM products.

    Is Sherman working for/with Monsanto? a shareholder?

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    “Label them! People have the right to know what their food is!”

    It is not that simple, there are far far too many thing that different people feel they have a right to know than could ever fit on label. And some of these things are not that politically correct, such as extreme Christan going crazy over food whos production might have involved actual Muslims (oh the horrors).

    Food labeling law has specific standard of requirement, labeling IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH CURRENT food labeling standards. If you want labels to be based on a “right to know” then you are gonan have to go after labeling laws at the basis not try to shove a square peg into a round hole.

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    “Is Sherman working for/with Monsanto? a shareholder?”

    Read back through this thread, we have already dealt with the baseless accusations of shilling. Do you folks really understand how such repeated baseless accusation look from the outside, they come of as desperate attempts to cast doubt on ones opponent because you dont have a good argument yourself.
    Seriously, the next person that makes an accusation or implication of shilling need to present the evidence first or zip up about it and address the actual issues at hand.

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ Daniel Ithaca, NY

    what are you scared of Skeptical?

    are you afraid of information?

    GM products have not been proven to be healthy for humans or for our environment. I do not trust the industry funded backward science that starts with their answer first.

    Consuming wheat soy corn, etc in the United States–and especially animal products, assume ALL is GM unless it is labeled GM-FREE or you know your farmer.
    EAT LOCAL FOOD.

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    “what are you scared of Skeptical?”

    If you think I’m scared then you haven’t bother to read all my previous comments on this thread, i clearly explain my position.
    Accusing ones opponents of being scared is just as poor a debate tactic as implications of shilling.

    Go back read over the comments and address the real arguments.

    “GM products have not been proven to be healthy for humans or for our environment. ”
    You misunderstand the burden of proof. The onus is on the opposing to demonstrate harm. We cant prove negatives like that something is never dangerous because you can always say that even more studies need to be done , we can only demonstrate harm and show that in hundreds of previous studies we haven’t found that.
    Here are over 400 studies showing general safety and nutritional wholesomeness of GM foods, at least 30% of which are independently funded.
    http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/p/410-published-safety-assessments-on-gm.html

  • http://geneticallyengineeredfoodnews.com James T. Fisher

    The recent complete cave-in on the issue of GMO Alfalfa regulation – basically giving Monsanto and Forge complete freedom in the marketplace, is a serious blow to natural foods and American freedom to choose organic foods over so-called “frankenfoods.” Vilsack’s previous close ties to Monsanto may well be the reason of this regrettable decision to release GMO Alfalfa without regulation anywhere inside the USA.

  • rachel

    Quote from SV: “Here are over 400 studies showing general safety and nutritional wholesomeness of GM foods, at least 30% of which are independently funded.
    http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/p/410-published-safety-assessments-on-gm.html

    It doesn’t matter if they are independently funded, the biotech companies that own the patents for GMO foods, ex. Monsanto, will not allow their seeds to be used in studies that show them in a negative light, and will revoke their approval of studies which show results in a negative light. It doesn’t matter how they are funded, there are no truly independent studies where the GM biotech giants don’t have their hands crammed in the process and results. By LAW any independent study about specific GMO foods is required to have approval of the biotech company that owns them.

    Source: A Seedy Practice”. Scientific American 301 (2): 22. August 2009.

  • http://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    rachel, that information while once relevant is no long true. The policies have actually changed since publication of the article.
    http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/public-research-agreements.aspx

    Also these previous agreements still didn’t stop anti-gmo activists researchers like Seralini and Pusztai from publishing (flawed) negative studies.

  • rachel

    “The policies have actually changed since publication of the article.”

    Forgive me if I don’t fully trust Monsanto to abide by their own voluntary guidelines regarding independent research.

    Here’s an article from 2011,

    “Monsanto, in its defense, will point to an agreement with the USDA that gives the agency’s agricultural scientists access to its genetically engineered seeds for a wide range of research….Few if any of the agreements guarantee opportunities for every kind of independent research. The Monsanto agreement with the USDA covers research into crop production practices, for example, not research into issues such as the health risks of genetically engineered crops”

    Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/13/opinion/la-oe-guriansherman-seeds-20110213

  • http://LivingOrganic.org Amy Pearson

    Go the organic way by choosing to be GMO free. Get started by taking the GMO Survey at LivingOrganic.org.

  • Leslie Riggins

    Nice smoke and mirrors, Skeptical Vegan, but still just smoke and mirrors.

    These biotech companies are operating as fiefdoms unto themselves — they help the U.S. government decide whether their own products should be approved by being allowed to conduct their own environmental assessments and environmental impact studies.

    Now THAT’S an imposition.

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ John Zohn

    SkepticalVegan, it’s pretty obvious where your loyalties lie. Please don’t tell me that I shouldn’t have the right to know where the food I eat comes from. Please don’t try to tell me that there isn’t sufficient research done by peer reviewed scientists (not Monsanto’s biostitutes) that does indicate serious environmental and health issues with GMO foods. I find it hard to believe that you’re a real vegan and not just an advocate for GMO’s. Your credibility is zero with me….

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    Your right to know is in your right to ASK and be told truthfully. You have no legal right to demand labeling of GMO foods, based on current labeling law there is not rational or consistent basis. You are going to have to attack all food labeling at its base and not only demand gmo labeling but MANDATORY hala and non-hal labeling, vegan and non-vegan labeling, jain and non-jain labeling, labeling of all hybrid crops (mercola says hybrids are bad for u like gmos…oh no!), labeling of anything produced through atomic gardening like peppermint, mandatory fair trade labeling (but who determines “fair”), and on and on.

    You taking a very narrow and self-centered line with this “right to know” justification. IF you actually cared about all peoples right to know (rather than using it a just a line) whats in their food you wouldn’t be pushing a extremely vague and uninformative (what was the modification, ect) gmo label. Rather you would push for an entire overhaul of food labeling standards.

    As a vegan I care very much what is in my food so I do the research myself rather than demand labeling because I know there is no basis for it, I contact companies and suppliers and also support companies that use voluntary labeling systems that meet my desires. You can do the same.

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ John Zohn

    I am for a complete overhaul of the labeling process, but due to industry lobbyists, particularly Monsanto’s own, like FDA Food Safety Czar Michael Taylor- who is doing the bidding of Monsanto- an overhaul will never happen. As for being self centered, 80% of respondents showed interest in mandatory labeling of GMO foods in a California ballot initiative. You sound like you’re a lobbyist for Monsanto and these chat room pissing contests show where your true loyalties are. You’re on the wrong website if you’re against GMO labeling. As for asking what the contents of the food you’re purchasing, that takes a lot of work and you’ll get a lot of convoluted answers before you actually find out the truth. I believe I have a right to know where my food comes from. Your argument about what labeling is, should or shouldn’t be doesn’t fly with me or to many of us for that matter.

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ John Zohn

    For more details on the California Ballot Initiative you can go to this website by the Organic Consumers Association:
    http://organicconsumersfund.org/label/

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    “I find it hard to believe that you’re a real vegan and not just an advocate for GMO’s.”
    OF course Im an advocate! Im advocating right now. Do you perhaps mean paid shill?
    Well in all my posts I have linked to my personal blog while you have only linked to orgnaicconsumers.org. You do realize that organic companies have a huge financial stake in GMO fear-mongering. Am I to assume you work for them and are thus financially biased? Are you affiliated with organicconsumers.org?
    I try not to make those assumptions, my own version of Hanlon’s razor go a little like this “Never attribute to shilling that which is adequately explained by genuine ideological difference.”

    If you are interested in who I actually am then my info is easily googleable. I’m quite open about who I am
    my FB: http://www.facebook.com/VeganJamie
    twitter: SkepticalVegan & Soymilk_Gun
    webforums: SkepticalVegan on http://forum.theppk.com
    Soymilk_Gun on http://sguforums.com

    I dont work in the biotech industry, in fact right now Im on unemployment and used to work in the medical cannabis industry.

    If you wanna start pointing fingers about who is a “real” this or that, then why not tell us a little bit about yourself…

    “Please don’t try to tell me that there isn’t sufficient research done by peer reviewed scientists (not Monsanto’s biostitutes) that does indicate serious environmental and health issues with GMO foods. ”

    Such negative studies do exist, and often have explainable flaws. But it isnt sufficient, especially not weighed against the larger body of evidence. But its funny you mention negative studies since posters such as rachel say that such studies can never see the light of day.
    You cant have it both way.

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    “80% of respondents showed interest in mandatory labeling of GMO foods”

    The only results like this Ive seen are from SELF-SELECTED polls. Anyways its still an argument from popularity and doesn’t address labeling law or the science. That’s not how we regulate food.
    And yes, you are only focusing on your own pet issue. This issue goes far far beyond GMOs.
    Where is your concern for vegan labeling, for Christians who want to avoid foods possibly made by Muslims, for people who fear hybrid crops as much as GMOs, and on and on?

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ John Zohn

    • I am concerned with health and environmental ramifications on the food I eat. I’m not concerned about religious or racist issues as that doesn’t have anything to do with the nutritional value of what I’m putting in my stomach. It all started when Bush put lobbyists and lawyers from different corporations into the regulatory agencies that regulate the same corporations. I know it’s been done before but never on the magnitude that he did it. I want to know what pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, and pharmaceutical drugs go into the food I eat too. GMOs are an immediate issue for multiple reasons. One reason is that GMO and non GMO cannot co-exist because of cross- pollination. Did you know that Monsanto sues farmers if their crops were cross pollinated? These farmers didn’t choose to use Monsanto’s GMO poisons, their crops just happened to be downwind of a farmer who did. So what happens? Monsanto sues them for product infringement. It’s diabolical. If you want to argue that one I’ll post some websites that give a whole lot of details. Did you know how many farmers in India are committing suicide because they have to buy Monsanto’s terminator seeds? I can post a ton of websites on that too. Are you aware of the superweeds that are being created because of resistance to round up ready crops? Would you like some websites on that one too? Would you like me to post some websites that show talk about detrimental effects of GMOs on your health that came from scientists that aren’t on Monsanto’s payroll? I could show you lots of articles on facts the show GMOs are creating famine and hunger when the Biotech Industry pretends it’s saving the world. SkepticalVegan- if you don’t work for a Biotech company I dare you to ask me to post links to these issues and a lot lot more. Lets keep this going, I’ve got a lot more to say about it…..

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ John Zohn

    Incidentally SkepticalVegan, what are you skeptical about? Are you just skeptical about labeling GMOs? Or is that screen name just a facade to give the impression you’re an objective observer? Maybe you got a little help choosing it from your employer?

  • http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/ John Zohn

    Ten Ways Monsanto and Big Ag Are Trying to Kill You – And the Planet:
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/bytes/ob314.htm

    10 REASONS WHY we don’t need GM foods (this one has references at the bottom):
    http://www.saynotogmos.org/10reasons_need.pdf

    Worth A Second Look: Monsanto’s GMO Corn Linked To Organ Failure:
    http://www.nongmoproject.org/2012/01/09/worth-a-second-look-monsantos-gmo-corn-linked-to-organ-failure-study-reveals/

    GMOs 101:
    http://www.organicitsworthit.org/quick/gmos-101?gclid=CIj-5O_5_60CFSMRNAodkkRowA

    Monsanto vs Schmeiser
    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/

  • https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com SkepticalVegan

    “Did you know that Monsanto sues farmers if their crops were cross pollinated?”

    I do know about these cases. The farmers sued are ones where enough evidence exists that they actually broke the law. The most famous example anti-GMO activists parade around, Percy Schmeiser, was found to *intentionally* subvert patent law. He was found guilty based on the evidence all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.
    And no dont Gish Gallop me with a full website, pick specific cases to address and we can discuss them one by one.

    “I’m not concerned about religious or racist issues as that doesn’t have anything to do with the nutritional value”

    Sorry this is a bad argument for GMO labeling. the majority of GM crops on the market are nutritionally equivalent. Any GMO crop design to have increased nutrients or altered nutrition profile IS ALREADY required to label that difference.
    And guess what, many religious concerns are about partly about health to the person that holds the belief.
    There are religious believers who genuinely believe kosher food to be healthier, same for hala.

    You are right to be concerned about health in regards to labeling, that is the primary reason for mandating various labels, demonstrable health risk such as with nut allergens.
    But environmental concerns are not a currently valid legal reason for labeling any food products including GMOs, such issues are better dealt with through various voluntary green labeling programs. The government has established minimum environmental guidelines for agriculture already, if your concerns go beyond that you will have to seek out labeling programs with stricter requirements or work to change the govts environmental standards not just slap a label on one vague category of food.

    “Did you know how many farmers in India are committing suicide because they have to buy Monsanto’s terminator seeds?”

    First terminator seed (GURT) was NEVER commercialized, there are NO, I REPEAT NO terminator seeds on the market. The fact that you anti-GMO activist seem oblivious to this and repeat this myth only shows that your knowledge of GMOs likely is gained within the anti-GMO echo-chamber. I would think more activists would be aware of this since it was largely political pressure from anti-GMo activists rather than scientific evidence that killed the GURT project. There is the possibility that one day GURT may be reintroduced but for now companies refuse to use it.

    Second, The extent and cause of farmer suicides in India is misstated or misunderstood. Farmer suicides are a historic issue not directly linked to GMOs. The trend is older than the introduction of GMOs to India, before it used to be blamed on cash cropping and govt mismanagement…now it just gets blamed on GMOs.
    In reality over 90% of BT cotton farmers survey in India (random sampling, not a self selected poll) were satisfied with the results of their crop.
    http://fbae.org/2009/FBAE/website/news-two-studies.html
    And they have seen increase in income and decreases in accidental pesticide poisonings.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800911002400

    Ive written a lot more about farmer suicides with links to supporting data on my blog https://skepticalvegan.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/bt-cotton-farmer-suicides-and-fluffy-thinking/

    “Are you aware of the superweeds that are being created because of resistance to round up ready crops?”

    yep, evolution happens with many forms of weed control. The question is are the alternatives better or even practical. Glyphosate is use because it is less toxic that alternative otherwise used in conventional ag. Tillage is one way many organic farmers deal with weeds, but unfortunately it is a major contribute to climate change and soil erosion. There are management schemes in place to help slow resistance for GM farmers, unfortunately many farmers dont abide.
    For sure Round Up ready crops will not be long term solution in themselves, we will always have to stay a step ahead of mother nature. One advance that might actually prevent resistance from even developing is by “stacking ” traits so that farmers can switch between different herbicides not allowing for consistent natural selection of resistant plants.
    Its not perfect but I think it is preferable to tillage and to more toxic alternative like atrazine.

    What am i skeptical of? Im skeptical of paranormal claims and pseudoscience. If you bother to even glance at my blog you will see that various subjects Im interested in including hoaxes, traditional Chinese medicine, dog training techniques, Japanese whaling, “dolphin-safe” tuna, cholesterol controversies, vaccines, raw veganism, homeopathy, gluten-free fad diets, English libel law, pain in crustaceans, fluoride, cult-run restaurants, and yes GMOs and GMO labeling.

    “Maybe you got a little help choosing it from your employer?”
    again with baseless accusations, provide some evidence? I clearly stated who I was and where i got my money from, you however never answer my question of whether you are affiliated with organicconsumer.org since you use your screen name to link to them.

    I also already posted links to my social networking profiles
    my FB: http://www.facebook.com/VeganJamie
    twitter: SkepticalVegan & Soymilk_Gun
    webforums: SkepticalVegan on http://forum.theppk.com
    Soymilk_Gun on http://sguforums.com

    I highly encourage you to message ever single person on my FB friends list and ask them about me. Ask if Im a shill. but maybe all 112 of em are fake too…so many then message people on THEIR friends list too.
    Ive provided plenty on who I am, now provide even a shred of evidence that Im employed in the biotech industry or stop making baseless accusations.
    Do you really think you are that important that Monsanto would pay someone to argue with you?

  • Ewan R

    Whee, first bona fide actual employee of a company under discussion to enter the fray. Here’s a big honking hint… when we do so our employer stipulates that we include the following disclaimer (wording is my own, general intent however is company policy)

    I’m a Monsanto employee. The views expressed herein are entirely my own and not those of the company. I work in R&D on GMOs, as a (sadly!) unpaid sideline I waffle on the internet about the topic (who’d have thunk it, I have an interest in what I do for a job – shurely some sort of sacrilidge!)

    To everyone who would discard what I say as shilling or whatnot, congratulations on failing logic 101 – it is fallacious to discard an arguement simply because it is made by one who has a financial interest in it – sure be more skeptical than you might normally be (although frankly skepticism should be applied thickly wherever time allows) but just because my paycheck is cut by big M doesn’t make a bloody bit of difference as to the veracity of my arguements (some of them may be utterly atrocious due to my penchant for verbal diarrhea, or the occasional brainfart – but these can be dealt with outside of my big M association…. unless you’re chicken mcFly, then by all means resort to cowardly ad hominem)

    A lot to cover here, so apologies in advance for the tl;dr nature of the post – I assume anyone who got past the original disclaimer likely has the stamina to make it through the remainder. Possibly not.

    Michael Bulger contends early on “The plants are certainly different. How else could a company obtain a patent…” – this has nothing to do with whether things should be labeled – all varieties of all crops are certainly different, but there is no legal mandate that, for instance, food prepared using early maturity group soybeans from Pioneer should have one label, and food prepared using late maturity group soybeans from Monsanto should have another – one can however guarantee that there are more differences between these two sources than there are between a GM and non-GM soybean from the same variety – perhaps you have grievances with Monsanto and not with Pioneer, or are offended by late maturity group soybeans – does this mean there should be mandatory labeling based on your own personal predilictions? I would hope that all but the most batty would answer no to this.

    On labeling because that is what people want – I believe the issue has been covered a number of times, but there is no legally mandated labeling (in the US at least) driven simply by the desires of consumers – when it is a desire and not a health issue the labeling is voluntary and is such that the foodstuff the consumer wants is the foodstuff that is labeled, and is where the financial burden of labeling lies – Halal, Kosher etc – I don’t imagine that anyone would argue these should be legally mandated – although I would figure there should be a legal requirement that they are what they say they are.

    Back to Michael again “Some people object on religious grounds. Some on ecological or economic” None of these are a reason for mandatory labeling – they certainly make a case for there being a market for voluntary labeling of some form, although frankly other than the religious grounds piece labeling along the lines of whether or not something is GM doesn’t make sense – within industrial Ag it has been shown that both HT and IR traits end up having a lower environmental impact than their non-GM counterparts, as such you’d almost have to mandate a label which reflects the measured environmental impact of the practices utilized in production (whereby one assumes that GM would fare better than non within the same system) within a scientific framework… or you could voluntarily label various things and have consumers assume they know best (produced pesticide free, organic, GM free – all labels which may suggest to some the environmental impact is reduced, but actually says nothing either way on the matter). One wonders in terms of economic grounds how you would label? This seed was originally bred by company X, had a gene from company Y inserted, was grown in state Z, processed by processor… etc etc etc – that’d be a honking great label, and again, the labeling of GM or not, as far as I can tell, is next to meaningless in assessing the economic parameters of the food in question.

    “I see a clear difference between truth in labeling and misinformation about the health effects of GMOs. “ when the well is already poisoned it rather plays into the hands of the poisoner to have the product labeled – hey look, scary right! (Particularly with a consumer base who are used to a labeling system where only things which may impact health are subject to mandatory labeling)

    On the whole “oh your tone is so bad” schtick Mary has been getting – hurrah for you, tone trolling is so boring – address the issues not the tone (also a good way to figure out if someone is actually just in PR – those folk will bend over backwards to make even the most ludicrously deluded folk feel all warm and fuzzy)

    AHN-USA comments “Computer companies tell you what chip is inside, car companies advertise engine type, interesting how biotech companies go out of their way to hide their involvement with your food” well yes, but that is because it is a selling point – you’ll note that computer companies categorically do not tell you where the silicon used in their chip manufacture was mined, or what techniques were used to mine it, car companies don’t go out of their way to disclose the source of each individual component of the engine, and furthermore none of these disclosures is legally mandated. Biotech companies do, actually, go out of their way to make sure that the traits contained within the seed are prominently displayed – they just do it at a point in the chain of sale that makes sense – traits and genetics are plastered all over the bags of seed sold to farmers – there is absolute knowledge of not only the presence of *a transgene* but also the specifics of the transgene being used. (This also addresses Suzanne’s point – identifying labels are widely used where it makes marketing sense)
    On Monsanto suing for cross pollination – not even remotely correct – lawsuits are filed when there is clear evidence of deliberate patent violation (Schmeiser for instance) – accidental presence doesn’t a lawsuit make (one assumes not least because if Monsanto tried to pull that crap they’d lose in court) and actually victimizing farmers makes for a crappy business model in an arena where customer trust is key and communities are tight knit.

  • Gopiballava

    Computer companies tell you what chips they use?

    How much DRAM is in an iPhone 4S? Can you show me on Apple’s web site where it says this? What speed is the CPU?

    Why do you spend your time arguing against GMOs for free? Is it due to strong personal convictions? Why is it so hard for you to imagine somebody who disagrees with you doing so out of personal conviction? Why would biotech companies be the only ones using shills? Organic food is a massive industry in the US. Are organic food companies paragons of virtue?