Viewpoint

GMO labeling

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

I was as disappointed as you were when the voluntary, versus mandated, GMO labeling bill failed to pass the U.S. Senate in March. All of us watching the progress were, and still are, hoping for its passage before a Vermont law takes effect this July. Anti-agriculture extremists in Vermont passed a law requiring labels on food products containing GMOs. It’s a brazen attempt to scare consumers by mimicking “warning labels.” If one state mandates labeling, by extension, it’s nationwide.

Individual states and even counties have been passing laws to outlaw or restrict crops that have been genetically modified. The laws are intended to create a non-navigable maze of regulations that will keep modern crops out of the U.S. food supply. As publicly admitted by activist groups, the attempt is to scare consumers away from modern crops, despite the fact these crops do so much good for the environment.

While the bill had cleared the House at the end of 2015, the Senate bill was pulled from consideration after falling short of the necessary votes to move the bill forward. Check the voting record of your senator for a reality check on who really supports agriculture. This fight is not over.

Activists are upset that the Food and Drug Administration won’t label crops that have been genetically modified. Here’s why FDA is standing firm.

FDA’s longstanding, scientifically driven policy on not labeling biotech food is: “FDA has no basis forconcluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”

Who supports FDA in that approach? The world’s top credible scientific authorities including the World Health Organization, National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, the European Food Safety Authority, the British Medical Association and the British Royal Society. The list goes on.

Who’s on the other side? Activists and the consumers they’ve frightened.

Conversely, why would anyone be against labeling? Well, the Food and Drug Administration would like to reserve labeling efforts for products that have real, documented risks. GMOs have a 20-plus year history of not having adversely affected one human. That’s right. Zero humans harmed. No studies (in peer-reviewed scientific journals) have ever documented an associated risk. So why label “GMO-free?” I would tell you it’s all about fear.

In fairness, Mars, General Mills, ConAgra Foods and Kellogg’s announced they’d begin labeling their products even when those products might contain GMOs. They did that in fear that Vermont’s labeling law was unstoppable. Still, the companies clearly stated they agreed with the overwhelming scientific consensus that biotechnology poses absolutely no health risk.

Here are indisputable facts:

  • No human has ever been negatively affected by a GMO—no allergy, sickness nor side effect
  • GMO crops reduce pesticide applications
  • GMO crops allow “no-till” crops, decreasing erosion
  • GMO crops and no-till cut fuel consumption on U.S. farms by 4 gallons an acre which reduces agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions
  • GMOs keep food affordable and require less water than traditional crops

Crops from GMO seeds are the same nutritionally and in health value as their non-GMO counterparts. GMO seeds take an average of $136 million and 13 years to develop and reach the marketplace. GMO crops go through USDA, EPA and FDA approval processes. Their counterpart crops from natural selection or selective breeding don’t take that same route despite the fact that nature designs some very dangerous and poisonous products.

Is labeling really about the “right to know,” as activist groups claim? Just a glance at the statements of activist groups shows the real motivation: Label GMOs to eliminate them from the market.

Twenty years of fear-mongering have had an effect, even in the U.S. Senate. Activists mean to win. Those of us in agriculture need to be just as determined. Let’s take the fight to them. Contact your senators and representatives, Farm Bureau and your commodity groups today.

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