ScienceInsider reported yesterday that scientists in Germany are calling for labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO). The petition (which should be online any time now) goes beyond labeling for GMOs in food, to include such organisms in feed, drugs, textiles, chemicals, and other products that have been produced using genetic engineering. Should the petition receive enough signatures by a certain time, the German Bundestag would have to consider the proposal.
I remain skeptical that the no-label position regarding GMO’s is the right move, so I welcome this petition effort. Opposing labeling makes it look like there’s something to hide, which feeds into GMO opponents’ argument that the development and use of GMO’s has been deceptive in some fashion. It also strikes me as anti-democratic and anti-transparency. And while those might not be value positions linked to science, they are important values in policy decisions (the current debates over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement suffer from a similar challenge since the text of the agreement is not widely available).
Arguably the pro-GMO side has won, given the prevalence of these organisms in many items. But the effort to prevent labeling has the potential to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Maybe the German scientists are onto something.