Referencing this article, House To States: Don’t You Dare Demand GMO Labels
"”Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered products has no basis in legitimate health or safety concerns, but is a naked attempt to impose the preferences of a small segment of the populace on the rest of us,” said Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, the bill’s primary sponsor.”
GMO foods are an absolutely necessary part of our food supply. They are as safe as whatever you might call “organic”, and actually have much high safety qualifications for what the GMO seed might do than any other seed that gets thrown into an “organic field”.
But that isn’t the part I want to talk about. I want to talk about the Science. More specifically, the Republican is almost certainly repeating the incredibly well established science that the food industry is lobbying him to say. Its a little unfortunate that he had to have the food industry tell him what’s what, but that isn’t here nor there.
If you look at the Democrat in this case, her argument is entirely avoiding all the science, because there is none/little to support her argument, and instead trying to sound reasonable by drawing a parallel association: Food already has labels saying what is in it, why not a GMO label? Let’s also ignore the fact that the Democrat is an Organic farmer, and commercially stands to benefit by imposing this label on GMO foods. These monied motivations exist on both sides, and don’t change the core arguments.
So yes, the question is, why not a GMO label? More specifically, what would the consumer gain with a GMO label? Well, perhaps surprise that almost everything in their grocery store is a product or by-product of GMO stuffs. In fact, nearly all the meat will be GMO, as it was fed GMO food-stuffs. Some much more expensive “grass fed only” cows may be without this label, but they would be the exception.
Next, the consumer might come to realize the GMO stuffs will have one of two properties when it comes to insecticides: less were used on the GMO crop, or sometimes more. Less is used if the GMO crop could be bred to have a natural defense against predators. However, some insecticides are still used, and some of the GMO crop that has the insecticide will be purposefully grown alongside crop that doesn’t, so as to prevent the insects from rapidly evolving to overcome the natural poison the plant now gives off. In regards to more, that can be the case when the plant is given some innate quality that makes it much more resistant to absorbing the insecticide, thereby allowing farmers to spray more of it in hopes of reducing insect populations further.
Next, the consumer might find that GMO products have more vitamins and minerals. It isn’t yet the case that GMO companies have been focusing on this aspect, but in the near future may become a huge selling point. This would be more likely if all companies are forced to use GMO labels. The best way to make your product appear better when its put in the light, is to actually have a better product. Vitamin A fortified rice, for example, helped to save untold numbers from Vitamin A deficiency, which leads to blindness. One of the first engineers of GMO crops nearly single handedly saved the country of India by providing a crop more resistant to the monsoons/droughts they have there. In America, we already have many fortified food stuffs: such as iodine, a critical element needed for your thyroid to function, is added to nearly all salt. Fortifying food stuffs with GMO alterations is a good thing.
Next, consumers might notice that GMO foods are more regular, last longer, better store in the fridge, or may even have other exotic properties such as color changes. GMO foods already exist that have many of the examples I just listed.
Consumers might also find that GMO foods are more resilient to disease. This is counter-intuitive, but farmers actually rebuy GMO seeds every year, as in order to ensure that your crop has all the qualities that the original GMO seed had, you really need to buy them again, rather than try to collect them from the plant itself. This means that each year, the GMO seed gets regularly tested, data collected on how it performed in various climates and conditions, and new disease defense vectors can be added each growing season. Current crops do not benefit from any of this science at all.
And so much more. GMO is an enormously powerful tool for ensuring our food security, particularly against the changing global climate. None of the possibilities I listed are science fiction, and may one day be a regular part of GMO foods.
So really, a GMO label contributes no information about the safety, nutrition, or quality of the food stuff, per se. However, what consumers should really be asking is: what are the safety standards for GMO? Why aren’t those standards used against Organic farmers for their seeds? What pesticides were used? Is the nutrition information on these foods correct? Will my body even be able to absorb the nutrients listed? By what percent? Are the farmers that grew this product able to sustain themselves? What is the long-term viability of this product, in terms of its quantity, nutrition, and price?
Those are questions the consumer should be demanding, as they are the actual questions the consumer is asking when talking about GMO. But they most curiously don’t ask about non-GMO foods. And I think when I lay out all the questions like that, its obvious that its in the consumer’s best interest to ask both non-GMO and GMO food those questions. Because you need a point of comparison to draw useful conclusions about which is better. And all those questions aren’t in anyway unique to GMO. Most consumers will definitely be surprised to hear that GMO foods would have better answers.
(I also ignored the obvious history of foods, in that a lot of the food we eat today didn’t exist 1000 years ago, but does thanks to the dedicated efforts of farmers using GMO techniques, though they would usually call it “throwing out the bad, growing only the good”. Just slower, less directed, and without any testing aside from what the population that ate it liked).