Commentary: Labeling GMO foods a good idea? Maybe

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British environmentalist Mark Lynas is someone I admire. Why? He has that unique kind of courage so rare these days. He admitted he was wrong.

He opposed genetically engineered food for many years. About a year ago, he admitted he was just repeating talking points. After he looked into it himself, objectively, he did what everyone who approaches the subject that way has to do. He changed his mind. He has since been talking a lot about the environmental benefits of genetically engineered food and the fact that the human health damage of the technology still stands at exactly zero.

So, when he called for labeling of GMOs, which is the frantic last stand of the anti-GMO extremists, I did a double take.

But his position makes sense. When food shoppers see the label on nearly everything in the store, they will understand that safety for people or the environment is not really an issue. That’s a very good point.

However, I’m still not sure I agree with Lynas that GMOs need to be labeled.

First, a labeling initiative  will cost more and consumers will have to pay. And, the extremist are not about information here. They want to scare people about a thing that is not only safe, but is of benefit to the world food supply and the environment.

I am intrigued though about what will happen when the public understands they’ve been eating GMO foods for nearly 20 years, with no ill effects what-so-ever. Lynas’ idea is worth considering.

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Dennis Hoyle    
South Dakota  |  October, 31, 2013 at 10:07 AM

How do you define extremist? I am a South Dakota rancher-farmer that thinks it is better not to eat GMO food. I don't feed it to my cattle either. My yields are as good or better with non GMO crops. Herbicide costs are a little higher and it is not quite as easy. But I am not building Glyphosate resitence and the the NON GMO market more than makes up the difference in costs. Let the people have a choice if you are not afraid to.

Carmel, IN USA  |  October, 31, 2013 at 11:58 AM

AMEN!!! Way to go Dennis. I am glad to hear that there are ranchers out there to the west of us grain farmers here in the Eastern Cornbelt that think for themselves and don't let the corporate bullies push them around. Once again, if GMOs are a-okay, then why not willingly label them? Let the CONSUMER choose what they want...To accuse pro-labeling policies of being extremist is laughable. I don't know if GMO labels should be mandatory, but I don't see anything wrong with it. To say the cost would increase to label GMO food is circumspect...most food is already labeled anyway in some way or another. How much would it cost to change the verbage on a label anyway? By the way Monsanto, you don't have any problem with those who wish to label their food "NON-GMO" do you? How much money have you spent trying to prohibit such a lablel by way of your lobbyng efforts?

Ohio  |  October, 31, 2013 at 12:34 PM

If having a food product that is non GMO is important and valuable, then go right ahead and label all your non GMO products. The process has already been approved. Let the consumer choose - but you pay the price to verify and face the potential law suits. And if I do not care- there is no cost for me. After all the reason for this whole thing is so the non GMO people can get a special market and get paid for it right? If everything that contains GMO's is labled, then if you come accross a product without a GMO lable is that because it is exempt, non GMO or mislabled? And Dennis, the California law exempted all meat so you sill would not paid for your "special" meat.

November, 01, 2013 at 08:39 AM

Everything we do has consequence. Glyphosate in itself isn’t evil. When farmers used it in weed-wipers to fight crop weeds, glyphosate seemed a harmless chemical. But spraying glyphosate ubiquitously on all grain crops--and now alfalfa, for heaven's sake--will and already does indeed have unforeseen and disastrous consequences. Man can't outsmart nature. Altering crop seeds to resist the effects of glyphosate has also encouraged noxious weeds to alter their genetics. Glyphosate-resistant weeds have in recent years become monstrous plagues in crop fields and pastures, more vigorously invasive than any ever dealt with before. Those of us who market beef as all-natural and grassfed don't spray, but graze and mow to try to get rid of the invaders. Still, wading through head-high marestail and pigweed to allow cattle to graze the clover and grass that can manage to grow beneath them is disheartening, to say the least. If there is a hell, perhaps whoever caused this debacle will eternally walk polywire fence through a forest of these monster weeds in 100 degree August heat and humidity. Consider the primary law of thermo-dynamics that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed by energy: Chemicals do not simply disappear. Glyphosate works by translocating into plant roots in order to kill them; residue remains in the soil in the root zone. Claims that it interferes with the uptake of nutrients in future plantings, necessitating more fertilizers to keep yields up, more toxic chemicals to control the weeds haven’t been researched, have they? What if US grains consequently lack nutrient availability, leaving obese children hungry, craving more carbs for growing bodies? Might Howard Buffet fund such research?

pa  |  November, 03, 2013 at 12:47 PM

yes, gmo must be labelled. there is definitive proof that GM corn damages pig stomachs and alters DNA. its labelling will not cost too much. obamacare is costing much more and providing nothing for citizens.

shaun evertson    
Nebraska  |  November, 06, 2013 at 08:04 AM

Some of you folks really surprise me. Why do you so willingly chase after the red herring? There's not a single thing wrong with labeling foods. This allows the consumers to get what they want and to drive the market. But that isn't the POINT! The government has COMPLETE CONTROL of labeling. The pro- and anti-GMO crowds DO NOT!

shaun evertson    
Nebraska  |  November, 06, 2013 at 08:05 AM

*ARE* not. My bad. :)

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