We’re living in what many are calling the “information age.” Yet, confusion reigns over many important issues, and our easy access to information — and misinformation — helps fuel that confusion.
Biotechnology is a classic example of divergent opinions, information and propaganda that produce confusion among consumers.
A new study from United Kingdom-based PG Economics, Ltd., for instance, says, “Crop biotechnology has consistently provided important economic and production gains, improved incomes and reduced risk.”
The authors note that in the 16th year of widespread adoption, “crop biotechnology has delivered an unparalleled level of farm income benefit to the farmers, as well as providing considerable environmental benefits to both farmers and citizens of countries where the technology is used.”
Despite such a glowing endorsement of biotechnology and its benefits to agriculture and food production, there’s a growing sentiment in the United States and elsewhere to curb the use of such technology.
Last month, federal legislation was proposed that would require food manufacturers to clearly label any product containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) — or risk having that product classified “misbranded” by the Food and Drug Administration.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced the “Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act” to the Senate and House of Representatives. The bill has nine cosponsors in the Senate and 22 cosponsors in the House.
“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” Boxer said. “This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of consumer groups, businesses, farmers, fishermen and parents who all agree that consumers deserve more — not less — information about the food they buy.”
Although there is no indication in the bill that GMO foods are unsafe, the implications are clear that many see them as harmful — either to the environment, to humans, or both. Such an implication plays on emotion and defies scientific research, which the Food and Drug Administration relied on when it approved GM crops.
Clearly, the federal government is sending mixed signals to consumers. On one hand, the FDA has approved the use of GM crops and the food produced with them. On the other, Congress is ready to consider mandatory GM-labeling legislation that would be expensive to implement and likely only provide further confusion to consumers.