GE labeling — pointless and expensive

Commentary.

Food labels for me are like the instructions on new electronic toys. I’m so impatient to get to the fun part of the device, I consume first and, maybe, I read later.  A big part of the reason I don’t stand in supermarket aisles reading labels is the sheer overabundance of information on the label that means nothing to me.  If I had a food allergy, it would be different, but in my case, I don’t have the time or inclination.  Maybe it’s because I understand federal food safety oversight and the priorities on food safety, nutrition and taste held by the food industry.

I think I’m pretty average in my behavior. In fact, I’m always wary of consumer activist surveys trumpeting “consumers demand” pull-out food labels listing everything from calories, carbs and other ingredients to where the processing plant is located, from whence every ingredient was imported and the birthday of the company president. I contend those who respond to these surveys answer out of political correctness, not based on their real world behavior.

So why do activists these days demand U.S. food labels carry messages about whether the food product is the product of or contains ingredients developed with biotechnology? Industry – farmers, ranchers, feed companies, food companies, etc. – killed off a 2012 California ballot initiative to force biotech labeling; most states have walked away from similar initiatives and legislation, and FDA has quietly affirmed it does not and will not mandate labels based on production practices nor on ingredients not “materially different” than conventional ingredients.

This reality hasn’t stopped Sen. Barbara Boxer (D, CA) or Rep. Pete DeFazio (D, OR) from cajoling a handful of their colleagues to join them in introducing legislation to require FDA to mandate labeling of foods and foods containing ingredients that are the products of genetic engineering (GE), including livestock, poultry and pet foods. Why? A very long, kind of snarky press release boils down to 1) Ms. Boxer and Mr. DeFazio are not “anti-GE,” even if a good percentage of the bill’s supporters could be classed as “anti-GE;” 2) “the consumer has a right to know” and 3) 60-plus other countries require labeling.

Ms. Boxer’s and Mr. DeFazio’s legislation translates to an expensive and pointless message on just about every food product regulated by FDA. First, no food ingredient is approved no matter how it’s developed or grown unless it’s scientifically demonstrated as safe. Second, the Boxer/DeFazio bill only amends FDA’s authorizing law, not USDA’s, so roughly a third of food products sold in the U.S. and abroad wouldn’t carry the label. Third, why is it important to know about the biotechnology underlying food production, but not all other science/technology/production systems used in food production?

Most annoying is that because more than 90% of the corn and soybeans grown the U.S. is from drought-resistant, disease-resistant, pest-resistant GE seed, just about every FDA-regulated food product containing corn, soybeans, a lot of the wheat grown and a passel of other grains, oilseeds, fruits and veggies – or any ingredient derived therefrom – would carry this GE label.

Back to my point about consumers, political correctness and behavior. In 2011, the University of Minnesota found 203 consumers for a study on what label information they scanned when buying food products. The study subjects were shown 64 food items and asked if they’d buy the product. Using electronic magic, the study tracked eye movements, i.e. what the person looked at when viewing the product. My suspicions are correct, at least according to a Time Magazine report by Meredith Melnick on the study.

“Researchers found a big difference between what the eye tracker said people looked at and what the participants self-reported they typically looked at while shopping. Thirty-three percent of participants said they ‘almost always’ looked at a product’s calorie content on the Nutrition Facts label; 31% said they almost always looked at total fat content…24% said they studied products’ sugar content and 26% said they paid close attention to serving size…(w)hat the eye-tracking data showed: only 9% looked at calorie count for almost all the items in the experiment; 1% looked at each of the other components, including fat, trans fat, sugar and serving size, for almost all of the products.”

So what’s achieved by labeling foods, ingredients, etc., as products of GE technology? Expensive labeling changes, the cost of which would inevitably be borne by the consumer; more information on already-crowded food labels; a two-tier labeling system where some foods are labeled, others not; yet another leap down the road to European-style “precautionary” regulation/labeling based on the “what ifs” of risk, and a labeling message providing little if any benefit to consumers, and which studies demonstrates will likely be treated by consumers as the labeling equivalent of white noise.

 But it’s not “anti-GE.”


© Copyright 2013 Brownfield, All rights Reserved. Written For: Brownfield

Comments

  1. William Johnson says:

    Why isn’t there labeling of GMO products? That kind of does say it all if these things are good for us to eat, not to mention the ones in pharmaceuticals. It’s also my understanding the CEO of Monsanto, one of the worst corporations the planet has ever produced will only eat certified organic foods and if I could remember which reporter was told this, I’d gladly cite the report. It’s also telling when some of the top officials at the FDA are under investigation concerning accepting bribes from corporations like Monsanto, one of many I’m sorry to say, but this explains much about why labeling has not been done. Likewise, with money like Monsanto spent to defeat prop 46 I believe it was in CA., to the tune of $46 million, it only goes to show how information can be bought and especially so when dealing with these media giants who control most of what everyone hears everyday. I suspect George Orwell is rolling in his grave, so to speak.

  2. Astrid Asimov says:

    So you are encouraging us to be “average” and ignorant?

    Too late!

    The schools and the corporations and the government have already accomplished that.

    Oh, maybe you’re just affirming that it is OK to not think.

  3. Cathy says:

    One of the most idiotic commentaries I’ve read in a while. Who is this imbecile that is too lazy to figure out what the the heck they are putting in their body and feels that just because they don’t care the rest of us shouldn’t either. Moron.

  4. Vincent says:

    “No food ingredient is approved no matter how it’s developed or grown unless it’s scientifically demonstrated as safe. ”

    Whoever wrote this article needs to find nearest vet and demand do be put down.
    Are you kidding me?! Study after study has clearly demonstrated that not only GMOs are unsafe, they are actually dangerous. Look at the USA, obesity, cancer and alergies are skyrocketing. Has anybody asked himself why? The entire colonies of bees are collapsing when exposed to GMO pesticide. US countryside is under siege from weed nothing can kill any more. What they are doing now is spraying crops with herbicide based on Agent Orange-chemical and biological weapon used in Vietnam. Is that what you want to put on dinner plate in front of your children. Are you telling me that you can mess around with 13.7 billion years of evolution in a lab? Have your head examined. In India alone, 250.000 farmers committed suicide when GM crops failed to materialize and they could no longer afford seeds which were free until GMOs were introduced. Pol Pot and Khmer Ruge didn’t commit genocide of that scale. The only one that is benefiting from all this crap are biotec and pharma companies. It is time to put an end to this evil once and for all. If GM crops are so safe why would biotec companies spend millions hiding it, what are they afraid of? Retard above makes statement that “No food ingredient is approved no matter how it’s developed or grown unless it’s scientifically demonstrated as safe. ” Really? Scientifically demonstrated as safe means testing in lab for 9 months or less when it is virtually impossible for any sideefects to become apparent. Why not conduct a 2 year study? Oh, hang on a minte.. that was done recently with devastating effect (Dr Serallini). Every effort was being made to discredit his study because it showed obviously how devastating GMOs are. Whoever wrote this article is either held hostage somewhere or bribed, there is no third option.

  5. Debi says:

    ABSOLUTE RUBBISH AND THE WRITER IS A BUFFOON!

  6. Cathy says:

    Ignorance is bliss – until you start having health issues. Can you really not take the time to read and understand what you are eating. I don’t think you really do understand federal food oversight otherwise you wouldn’t have written this article.

  7. Richard says:

    Labels may be pointless to you but that only demonstrates your lack of interest in what you put in your body. Labels are not expensive & give those who care, the information they need. If GMO’s are so good they should not fear a label. They should demand it. What have the patent holders to hide?

  8. Debbie says:

    Sadly, your editorial is yet one more piece of propaganda for the chemical companies that have altered the DNA of certain crops for their profit. Labelling will not increase costs to consumer’s but it will interfere with the bottom line on those companies who do not give their customers the information they need to make an informed choice. Any pre-packaged product passed off as ‘food’ can stay on the shelf unless it states CLEARLY, on the label, that there are NO GMO’s inside that package. As an industry media tool, you already know that.

  9. Christina says:

    More than 90% of the corn and soybeans grown the U.S. is Genetically Modified. It is NOT in fact, drought-resistant, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant seed. Clever marketing geared towards farmers was misleading in that respect. (I’d suggest a viewing of “Bitter Seeds” as it is quite enlightening.) The latest research demonstrates just how dangerous genetically engineered crops can be. Perhaps the writer is too busy to read labels and enjoys being ignorant about what he eats. As for me and my family, we DO READ LABELS and would prefer to not buy genetically altered food.

  10. Terri says:

    I need labeling because at 53 years of age I suddenly developed a soy allergy. Finding 90 percent of the food I was buying was setting it off I began researching food. What I found was horrifying. I was a sheeple where food was concerned. Well I’m awake now and have started making food from scratch. So tell me o wise one if it wasn’t the GMO soy that started the allergy then why after 2 years can I now tolerate organic non GMO soy in small quantities but if I eat anything prepackaged with GM soy or it’s by products I have a major attack. And as for the drought, learn to research before you write. It wasn’t the GMO plants that survived it was the hybrid non GMO varieties that did so well. I live surrounded by fields for miles and the farmers told me so. By august they cut the tops off the corn and dried for fodder(no ears had grown). And as for expense for labeling that lie was busted long ago. For those that sell over seas they already label their product so no extra expense. But you are right about one thing, the USDA needs to mandate GMO labels too. Think of it this way. If it’s not bad for you why not label it.

  11. Robin says:

    Who the hell are you people to assume that I do not care about the food that I eat, I hope you choke on the GMO food that it is being pushed on the American consumer. I will not sit by and go quietly while these companies like Monsanto poison us!!!!

  12. Samara says:

    “Pointless and expensive”?? Bite me. I know who’s pocket you’re in!!

  13. Demetria says:

    Where are all the comments? Did too many people let you know how full of crap you are that you hid them or deleted them?

  14. annie says:

    obviously, the writer refuses to read any of the published articles describing the dangers of glyphosate. hush, let’s not bring up that nasty subject or people will become even MORE confused as to the safety of GM foods. and when i read labels, i read none of that junk in the nutritional facts box, which mean absolutely nothing to me except obfuscation of information; i read the INGREDIENTS!! wow, what a concept! check and see how many food products on our grocery shelves contain soy or corn in some amount. wonder if the writer has the courage to spend a day reading the articles on even one website describing the dangers of GM foods and ingredients. i expect he will continue to sit aloft on his ivory tower of arrogance and ignorance, not willing to continue this dialogue with the anti-GM camp.
    just one of many articles: http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14774:glyphosate-contributes-to-modern-disease-new-paper

    and if the URL has been removed just go to GMWatch.org and takesome time to read what we are so up in arms about.. i dare ya. (oh, and whence is all you need, “from whence” means “from from where”; look it up. effective journalism begins in the newsroom)

  15. Laurella Desborough says:

    Well, the editors of Scientific American, the premier science journal in the US, have made a point of saying that GMO products should be tested by independent researchers to determine whether they pose a problem to people, wildlife and the environment. That makes sense to me. If a plant or animal contains some ingredient that is not “natural” to the species, then maybe it makes sense to know about it.

Speak Your Mind

*