Some mornings, my Facebook timeline is virtually over run with updates and promotion of the campaign for mandatory labeling of GMOs. The proponents of labeling are passionate and articulate. They have stated their case well, are well organized and are driving the message as hard as they can.
Unfortunately, IMO at least, they are expending an enormous amount of energy (and money), driving a flag into the wrong hill. The cause sounds noble enough. People have a right to know what’s in the food we eat. But, what if there is a better way to accomplish the goal? And…what if the ‘mandatory labeling’ goal isn’t really about education and information but about control? What if the leading voices of the movement have, despite good intentions, become useful idiots in driving home an agenda for more Govt. control and regulation? I’m not trying to start a fight, just thinking out loud.
I don’t like GMOs. I don’t believe they are good for us in the long run (or short run for that matter). I don’t trust the Monsantos, Dows, Cargills and Duponts of the world. I don’t like their agenda(s), which I see as much larger than profits. I don’t like the way Monsanto has turned large monocrop farmers into indentured servants. I would never raise a GMO crop. In just a few years they create super weeds and super pests. Then we need newer, stronger herbicides and pesticides poisoning the earth, the air and the water, followed by newer GMO strains to combat the herbicides and pesticides. And on it goes.
Having said that, I don’t believe mandatory labeling is the answer. In the next few paragraphs I’ll share a few reasons why. And for those of you who have grown weary of my voicing my opposition to mandatory labeling, this will be my (hopefully) last post on the matter.
- Mandatory Labeling does not address the bigger issue; it merely makes us feel like we’ve done something to protect consumers.
The potential health risks of GMOs are not to be taken lightly, but it is only one facet of the problem. There are broader matters of earth, air, water and the world we’re destroying for future generations. In some ways, it’s like treating one symptom of a severe disease rather than treating the disease itself.
I know that some believe labeling will lead to boycotting of products containing GMOs, which will in turn lead to healthier options. I’m afraid that’s simply naïve. Informed consumers DO read labels, but the average shopper is buying on price, taste and convenience. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, but I AM saying that’s the REALITY of the situation. And it’s not about to change in the near future. There is a much easier, cost effective way to address the informed consumer. Mandatory labeling will not move the needle for the majority.
- Mandatory Labeling is a partisan solution that is divisive and plays into a Big Government agenda.
America is divided when it comes to the issue of bigger, more powerful vs smaller, limited Government (by the way that’s not a way of saying Democrat or Republican. There are a few small Govt. Dems and a large number of big Govt. Republicans). As a free market, fiscally conservative, Libertarian leaning person, I fall squarely in the limited Government camp.
Mandatory labeling leads to more government control and regulations, which strengthens a central Government at the expense of liberty and adds layers to burocracy which is ultimately more expensive to the tax payer and the consumer. Inevitably, enforcement will be expensive to companies and taxpayers alike. Tax dollars will be diverted from other projects or taxes will rise. Food prices will also rise as companies seek to maintain profit margins. Again, we’re not talking about what ‘should’ happen, but about what WILL happen.
- Ironically, and contradictorily to point 2, Mandatory labeling would force the Government into an openly hypocritical position, and Governments don’t like to be in places like that.
The United States is heavily invested in subsidizing GMO crops. That’s not a secret. Anyone who watches commodity prices or understands the Farm Bills over the years (or who farms corn and soy beans) is well aware of this information. For the Government to subsidize GMO crops with one hand while requiring labeling of products made from those subsidized crops with the other would be farcical. Who would prop up an industry while trying to undermine it at the same time? Heaven help us if that’s the kind of thinking driving our economy.
- Mandatory Labeling creates a paradox in the marketing of the whole ‘good food movement’.
We don’t label conventional carrots and potatoes as ‘grown in a chemical soup’, which is what really happens when those root crops sit in soil that has been repeatedly treated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. All that nasty stuff soaks into the ground and bathes the root crop. Yet, we don’t scream for mandatory labeling of root vegetables.
Instead, we promote Organic methods and voluntarily label them as such. Why? Because it’s a positive message and the public responds better to that positive message.
Similarly, we don’t campaign to label conventional beef as “packed full of unhealthy grains, antibiotics and awash in e-coli infused fecal matter”. Instead, we promote the healthier option as ‘humanely raised and grass fed’, which by the way, is a much better message.
Why then, do we want to take a different path in regards to Genetically Modified Organisms when the voluntary, positive message in other areas works so very well?
People DO have a right to know. If we encourage the voluntary labeling of NON GMO products, I believe those producers will get on board and separate themselves from the crowd. I guarantee the absence of such a label would then speak volumes.
- Mandatory labeling won’t work until consumers really understand what’s at stake.
As I said earlier, the average American shopper buys on price, taste and convenience. The reasons for that are beyond the scope of this post. I’ll address them at another time. For now we’ll have to forego the why and just deal with the what. As evidence, I submit that despite the furor a while back re: how much treated dark meat and meat glue go into various chicken nuggets, sales of nuggets and ‘boneless wings’ are still doing well. People are more interested in what’s cheap and tastes good. Labeling won’t change that. That kind of change will require an entire paradigm shift in the way Americans think about money, health and food.
I’ll stop now. I fully appreciate the motives of many, probably most, of the public promoters of mandatory labeling. I just can’t buy what they’re selling as the best way to effect change. There’s a better way. It occupies the moral high ground. And it’s voluntary. I like that.