Anti-GMO Labeling Stance Seems A Lazy Way Out For Science

As part of its food-themed September issue, Scientific American has an editorial opposing labeling of food products with genetically modified organisms (GMO).  It echoes the stance of AAAS (no longer an abbreviation) from last fall, in connection with a ballot initiative in California that would have required such labeling if it had passed.

Frankly, this issue seems to be a loser for labeling opponents, if just a matter of time.  Two states have passed labeling laws, and several others will be considering them over the next several months.  Personally I think it’s a good idea, on consumer choice grounds.  I should be able to know what it is I’m eating.  If I can find the provenance of my cheese, wine, and any other item for which where it comes from maters, why shouldn’t GMOs be included?

The best arguments those opposed to labeling seem to have is that labeling GMOs in food would drive up food prices, above and beyond the additional regulatory costs to comply with a labeling scheme.  In short, they seem to expect the American market to ape the European food markets and flee from GMO foods, even though they are safe.

This sounds like the science-friendly who are opposed to labeling believe that the science isn’t enough to convince the consumer to buy the product, so they must resort to other means to achieve their goals.  They don’t trust the public to believe them, so remove the public’s ability to choose.

Like those fighting the battles over climate science seem uninterested in discussing the many other reasons to reduce emissions and use less oil, gas and coal; those seeking to persuade the public over the benefits of GMO food products seem fixated on one angle.  Perhaps they took Camus’ treatment of Sisyphus too much to heart.  The struggles certainly have a whiff of the absurd.

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