The CEO of the National Corn Growers Association—Rick Tolman—says the growing movement to label genetically engineered foods is one of his greatest concerns.
A California ballot initiative to require GMO labeling was defeated in November. But legislative efforts are underway in Missouri, New Mexico, Washington State and several other states.
Tolman says consumers have a right to know how their food is being produced—but he questions the motives of some of the groups involved in the GMO labeling efforts.
“I think there’s a concerted effort by activist groups to raise money for their groups by scaring people about their food,” Tolman says, “and the idea that we’re doing things scientifically with food, without more information, scares people.”
At the same time, Tolman says, agriculture needs to do a better job of telling its side of the story.
“We have to do a better job of talking to our non-farm neighbors and friends and telling them what we’re doing—why we do things,” he says. “When those conversations occur, people understand—they get comfortable. But just in a vacuum, if you say we’re genetically modifying your food, that’s scary. And if you don’t know any more than that, you’re going to shy away from it.
“People have right to know what goes on. They have a right to understand why we do things—and farmers have a great story to tell,” Tolman says. “We need to get that connection and get that story told.”
Backers of the failed California Right to Know campaign says they will be back in 2014 with another ballot initiative for labeling genetically engineered foods.