Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wondering How to Feel About the GMO Labeling Initiative?

Posted by on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Washington State's Initiative 522, which would require "most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale," qualified for the ballot this month.

Although nationally more than 90 percent of the American public thinks GMO foods should be labeled, there's still some disagreement. If knowing the Seattle Times editorial board's position on an issue tends to help you make up your mind, they came out today in opposition to I-522:

Consumers absolutely have a right to know what they are eating is safe, but Initiative 522’s purpose of singling out genetically engineered foods for labeling isn’t the answer to our health questions...

The dialogue should center on science. And so far—there is no reliable evidence crops containing genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as “GMO” foods, pose any risks.

They also point out that GMO salmon and wheat, which really freak people out, are both "years from entering the market," (no worries, then!) and they offer some "frank talk: People already have the option of buying GMO-free foods from producers who farm organically or who choose to self-label."

On the opposite side of the labeling issue is PCC Natural Markets, which is spearheading the yes on I-522 campaign. They point out that GMO labeling has been enacted in 63 countries, it would offer Washington consumers clearer choices, and it would preserve Washington farmers' relationships with GMO-sensitive trading partners like Japan, China, and the European Union.

In other I-522 news, the citizen who filed the initiative, Chris McManus, distanced himself from the campaign recently to focus on his family and his business, both he and a PCC spokesperson told me.


Comments (63) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Um, yeah, GMO wheat has ALREADY entered the market. Almost all wheat has been modfied.
Posted by MaraL on February 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
The scientific consensus is that GM food is safe. I understand that some people are uncomfortable eating GM food and so want to have products that are GM-free. But that's what the "USDA Organic" label is for. This initiative will increase the cost of food in WA (regulations cost money) .

Please explain why I should pay more for my food when you could just buy "USDA Organic"?

Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 18, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Arsenic7 3
I'm torn. On the one hand many of the reasons people are in favor of labeling are inaccurate or based on misleading information.

But if people have that information, there's nothing wrong with a label, either.

Personally I'd rather there be more regulation on the level of the USDA with additional testing needed for each GMO variant.
Posted by Arsenic7 on February 18, 2013 at 1:29 PM · Report this
pointy 4
Ignorant hippie scaremongering at its best.
Posted by pointy on February 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Pick1 5
Ugh, this is going to bring out the "GM = Poison!" crowd.

Those debates make me want to punch people.
Posted by Pick1 on February 18, 2013 at 1:35 PM · Report this
I hate this. There's really no reason for it scientifically and there's been so much scare mongering around this particular method of genetic engineering, compared to the ones we're used to (that is to say, the rest of agriculture). It's so popular among the uninformed that I'm going to end up alienating everyone I know by telling this to them, because no one likes hearing something they're afraid of is benign. And I'll be constantly accused of defending Monsanto in the process as though that were related to anything in this initiative.
Posted by Sean on February 18, 2013 at 1:49 PM · Report this
Cascadian 7
I think most of the risks of GMO are ecological, not nutritional. I don't think monocultures are a good thing and GMOs plus current economics around food production make less diversity of food stock a problem.

I also think a lot of the gee whiz factor for GMO is to solve food problems that are ultimately political and distributional, not technological or dependent upon scarcity. It's not a magic bullet that will feed the world, or a monstrous way of making food. It's just something that makes food that will be abused along with all our other tech for making food.

So while I think food should be clearly labeled for how it is produced in as many ways as possible, singling out GMO for labeling is misguided. And we'd be better off focusing on the real problems of distributing our existing food supplies more effectively.
Posted by Cascadian on February 18, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
Chris Govella 8
This is an interesting issue, I think it should be approved or have a yes vote for labeling. The problem is not with the concept of GMO itself, and to borrow from Nassim Taleb, it's a problem of probable risk and payoffs. Set aside the collective benefits/risks for a moment, and look at the individual benefits/risks. How much does an individual consumer stand to gain given the known costs, unknown costs, and benefits or side effects? For example take somebody who is suffering from diabetes type 2, and needs insulin shots. If given the choice of taking GM insulin, or no insulin at all, the probable risk of death is almost guaranteed. The benefit is sustained life, at least, for the moment. Note that health has an upper bound, you can't get beyond full health with more insulin. Now take the example of a person at the supermarket choosing between a GM vegetable and an organic vegetable. Health has an upper bound, you cannot get more than 100% healthy from eating vegetables, you cannot become a superhero. The benefits are fixed, or if not fixed, they are marginal, extra amounts of nutriments for example. But the risk has changed now, because the GM vegetable has unknown risks to an individual.

From the article, "there is no reliable evidence crops containing genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as “GMO” foods, pose any risks." I argue that the burden of proof lies with the GM corporation to prove that they are safe beyond a doubt. Nature has proven through centuries of evolution that some vegetables are safe, and some vegetables are poisonous. We discover this by the poor people that eat poisonous organisms and get sick and die, e.g. survival of the fittest. For example, take grafting, a process of combining two organisms into one. This is the most rigorous form of genetic modification-- and Mother Nature is the one that decides if the organism should live or should perish.

GM corporations though have decided to use science to create a new product, do a bit of testing and commission Soviet Harvard academic studies. The exposure to unknown risk is dangerous with GM foods, whereas we know that organic foods are a known risk. Both provide the same benefit. Take for example Bisephenol A, before the controversy. What is the benefit of drinking from a BPA container as compared to a ceramic container? What is the risk?

I think that there is an argument to be made for GM technologies in the interest of producing more food on less natural resources or for a greater population, but this argument is a discussion of capital, of distribution, and so on.
Posted by Chris Govella on February 18, 2013 at 2:14 PM · Report this
Pick1 9
@8 Sigh...this is based on the pretense that we all just know that "labs are all capitalist assholes that don't care about public health."

There are some out there, don't get me wrong, but many GMO products are quite thoroughly tested before ever seeing any real distribution.

Sucralose, which gets a ton of shit by GMO haters, has been tested in humans at 1,500 times normal levels without negative side effects.

Not every company is trying to avoid their due-diligence.
Posted by Pick1 on February 18, 2013 at 2:21 PM · Report this
In theory I don't mind labelling, but the wording of the initiative is so heavy-handed and scientifically inaccurate. Sections 4 and 5 would become law if the initiative were enacted:

"[...] The genetic engineering of plants and animals is an imprecise process and often causes unintended consequences. Mixing plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature produces results that are not always predictable or controllable, and can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.

"(5) United States government scientists have stated that the artificial insertion of genetic material into plants, a technique unique to genetic engineering, can cause a variety of significant problems with plant foods. Such genetic engineering can increase the levels of known toxicants in foods and introduce new toxicants and health concerns."

For the most part, I'd probably be okay with the initiative if those bits were removed. But then without those bits, the reason for the initiative pretty much goes with it. (And that's how you know it's probably irrational fear-mongering.)
Posted by Ian128K on February 18, 2013 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Although GM technology is promising, there are so many reasons to oppose GM agriculture as it is being conducted today that i fail to see a single valid argument about why they shouldn't be labeled. GE agriculture doesn't want labeling because they don't want consumers to have a say.…
Posted by anon1256 on February 18, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
Pick1 12
@11 I think @2 makes a solid point that this is a waste of time and is pretty unnecessary.

I'm pretty liberal, but this feels a little too much like nanny-gov to me.
Posted by Pick1 on February 18, 2013 at 2:37 PM · Report this
Laws should assume the public is scientifically illiterate. I say this as a working scientist: a little bad knowledge is worse than no knowledge. On most matters, the public understands just enough to be wrong. So the law should take this into account and try to promote things that are in line with the state of the science. This law gets the science wrong and, when observed by your average scientifically illiterate citizen, sends the message that GMO is suspect or dangerous.
Posted by wxPDX on February 18, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Chris Govella 14
@9 Pick1, You say that there are some corporations that are out for making a profit, and some that are benevolent and yes I agree. Again, the burden of proof on the safety of GM foods resides with the people stumping for GM foods. The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Until then, labeling is an important aspect of creating a well-educated populace for a free market, so that consumers can make rational/rationalized decisions.

I do not believe that GM as a concept is bankrupt, but you are right in your assertion- on the flip side look at the collective benefits. Where do the benefits for GM food go? Mostly to agribusiness, so that farmers can grow in more extreme climates, or that agribusiness can develop pesticide resilient, to make farming a cheaper process overall while maximizing profits. There is a benefit in cheaper production that is passed onto consumers in the form of lower prices at the market, at the restaurants that they eat, etc, but these are quantifiable, maybe talk to an economist like Paul Krugman or someone for specifics.
Posted by Chris Govella on February 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 15
@2 Anything drives up the cost of food.

And, this isn't regulating so much as labeling. All foods have labels already. This is just a matter of putting a sticker on the ones that some people think is bad for them (regardless of whether or not you think its bad for you).

Outside of, possibly, food cost, what is the reason you people who don't think GMO is bad for you think labeling food as such is a terrible thing? The label isn't going to stop you if you think it does no harm, will it?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 18, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
@10: Geez, I didn't read that. That is very ironic considering, last I checked, Organic farmers are allowed to use crop strains that have been created using random mutagenesis - that is, exposure to radiation so strong that it creates a large and unknown number of mutations in the genome. Can someone explain why this is considered "precise" and recombinant DNA techniques "imprecise"?

I also find the "United States government scientists" quote a little misleading - I'm sure they can find scientists that are opposed to GM technology (and some of them probably work for the government) but last time I checked organizations like the AMA, WHO, AAAS, National Academy of Sciences were all of the opinion that foods made using GM were safe.
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 18, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 17
Just had this initiative on the November ballot here in California. Get ready for a whole bunch of "Vote No" commercials on TV featuring nurses and doctors saying that this initiative will cost billions and will drive up the food bills of people who cannot afford it - and lots of other scary "facts". The money will pour, pour, pour in from the food industry as it did in California. I didn't even see a "Vote Yes" commercial until about a week before the election - after weeks and weeks of No campaigning.
Posted by Bauhaus I on February 18, 2013 at 3:06 PM · Report this
@12 - Even if one accepts that current GMO crops are safe for human consumption, industrial agriculture is unsustainable, GM crops fail to deliver on the rhetoric of the biotech industry (reduce chemical treatments, greater yields), monopolies on food production are not desirable, etc

GE tech is forced on us as the only method for agriculture to move forward. This is simply false as said by many experts all over. Consumers should have their say as well. If you want to see nany-gov, check out the relationship between Monsanto and the FDA.
Posted by anon1256 on February 18, 2013 at 3:06 PM · Report this
@15 - Sorry, I wasn’t quite clear. The "USDA Organic" label is a "GM-free" label and voluntary so the cost of implementation is is borne ultimately by the person who chooses to buy it. My point was that if the labeling is mandatory the producer is going to have the choice to either (1) spend money to search through their supply chain to ensure their product is GMO-free and then they won’t have to label their products, or (2) label everything as “May contain GM" (or something). The first option will result in the “more expensive food” scenario (without saving a single life or reducing the number of hospital visits) and the second will result in a “farcically ubiquitous label” analogous to the "everything causes cancer in California" label. I mean, are we going to have bottled water that says "May contain GM" because the producer can't be bothered jumping through regulatory hoops to prove it doesn't?

Slog likes to remind everyone how regressive the tax system is in WA, so isn't increasing the price of food - for NO real benefit - just contributing to that regressive structure?

And to top it all off: a label already exists. If you want GM-free why can't you just pay extra and buy "USDA Organic"?

Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 18, 2013 at 3:11 PM · Report this
@19 - There is no clear cut evidence that labeling would noticeably increase food prices. There is however lots of evidence that GMO proprietary rights and speculation in food commodity markets increase the price of food.
Posted by anon1256 on February 18, 2013 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Pick1 21
@20 Depends on implementation. I work for a small company that has GMO products. Since this is ai state level; if we weren't allowed to send our products to WA without the label, we most likely would just stop shipping our products to WA, instead of revamping our labels on a nationwide level.

The loss of sales in Washington are a small blip compared to the loss of sales that would come from low information customers that would read that as a "this is poison!" label.

Bigger companies might be able to do separate labels for Washington, but we certainly would not.
Posted by Pick1 on February 18, 2013 at 3:47 PM · Report this
@20. I agree - see my second point - if producers can't be bothered paying the extra expense to go through their supply chain they'll just slap the label on. No price increase. Otherwise....who is going to pay for compliance? You think the producers will just absorb the cost out the goodness of their heart? Or do you think there will be no costs associated with compliance?

Also notice you didn't answer my question - why can't you just buy "USDA Organic"? Just assume everything else has GMOs in it...
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Pick1 23
@14 I'll admit I haven't done much research on GM effects on agribusiness on an economical scale.

I have done a lot of research on the safety of many GMO products (especially ones in the products my company sells).

The ironic thing is the absence of evidence argument is what first starts a lot of "poison" debate. Aspartame studies stated "In some of our rat experiments mice got brain tumors. It was a small number and we could neither prove nor disprove it was caused by aspartame". Voilà! Aspartame causes brain cancer!

It's hard to say research needs to do ALL due diligence when we can't make up our mind on what is healthy.

In my lifetime eggs have been good for me, terrible for me, great for me, the worst thing in the world for me, and terrific. I don't know or care anymore what they are beyond delicious.
Posted by Pick1 on February 18, 2013 at 4:03 PM · Report this
Given how many people live in California, and given that the GMO labelling bill failed (I think it got 47% support), it seems unlikely that 90% of the US favors GMO labeling.
Posted by RDM on February 18, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
And speaking as a Californian who thought long and hard about this issue before voting on it, I come down as follows:

GMO-labeling is anti-science and based on magical thinking about the effects of technology on human health. The threats to the environment are potentially real, but the threats to human health are not (i.e., genetic modification doesn't inherently make a soybean dangerous to eat, unless it was modified to produce toxins). A non-GMO twinkie worse for your health than a GMO salad.

However, it's hard to argue against the right to know, even if people have no idea how to interpret the information, so I voted in favor.
Posted by RDM on February 18, 2013 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Michael Pollan on GMO food labeling:…
Posted by anon1256 on February 18, 2013 at 5:50 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 27
@21 So, you're saying it's best done at a national level.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 18, 2013 at 6:11 PM · Report this
Tacoma Traveler 28
Label it. All of it. Let people decide for themselves what they want to eat.
Posted by Tacoma Traveler on February 18, 2013 at 7:09 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 29
I love the pro-science crowd on here, who demonstrate a profound lack of critical thinking. I'm sure you are all making similar arguments in favor of fracking, because the use of gas is safe.

It has nothing to do w/ whether GMOs are safe to eat or not. It is the process behind them.

There is no reason to believe that international corporations such as Montsanto will ever perform "due diligence" in their practices. They simply hire legislators & stack the FDA w/ their cronies. We could have had a federal regulation years ago: a simple label, no fuss, no muss, no big deal. Except that the corporations that created the GMOs have a revolving door policy w/ the FDA & their corporate heads. The process for such rules are completely corrupt. The current option is through the initiative process.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on February 18, 2013 at 7:21 PM · Report this
@29, what I like about the anti-science crowd is the dodging around the issues, moving goal posts, and general conspiracy theorist nuttiness.
Posted by GermanSausage on February 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM · Report this
@28: why can't you just eat food that has the "USDA Organic" label? Why do we need another label when that one has the information you want? Why will none of you answer this?

@29 So do you agree that GM food is safe to eat? If not, why not. Oh, and can I use my "profound lack of critical thinking" to point out the fallacy in your last paragraph: it's not just multinational corporations that are developing GM crops, the CSIRO in Australia and Rothamsted Research in the UK are two private/government institutes that come to mind. There are plenty more.

I understand why people are incredibly mistrustful of corporations but realize that recombinant DNA techniques are just tools. We need to focus on what they are being used for, not demonize the tool itself. That's a bit like saying screwdrivers are dangerous because gun manufactures use them to make weapons...
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 18, 2013 at 7:54 PM · Report this
Imagine you have a peanut allergy — just the aroma of peanuts is conceivably fatal to you. Food scientists decide that peanuts have a desirable trait that could improve the yield of, say, soybeans. They splice a peanut gene into their new, improved soybean variety. The food industry buys the new soybean and uses it in a value-added product — let's say tofu burgers. The package duly lists soy as one of the ingredients, but nothing about peanuts. You buy the burger and cook it — bang, you're dead! This is not science fiction — it has already happened (though not yet with peanuts/soy beans, so far as I know).
Posted by cheakamus on February 18, 2013 at 8:01 PM · Report this
@23 Eggs have a longer track record than aspartame.
Posted by cheakamus on February 18, 2013 at 8:10 PM · Report this
If they're really that confident that GMO foods are safe for consumption, they'd label them.
Posted by treehugger on February 18, 2013 at 8:16 PM · Report this
@19: you mean that companies might have to actually know what is in the product they're trying to sell us? And this is somehow a bad thing because it might cost them a few bucks at one point?

Just label the damn food!
Posted by treehugger on February 18, 2013 at 8:21 PM · Report this
@33, so does tobacco. Both eggs and tobacco are demonstrably bad for you. Aspartame? Not so much.

@32, "it's happened before"

Indeed. And that's why it's tested for, and gmos are discontinued at the research stage if there's any allergic activity.
Posted by GermanSausage on February 18, 2013 at 8:56 PM · Report this
I'm pursuing a scientific PhD now, and I know first-hand that GMOs provide tools necessary in conducting life-saving research. That said, I find it wholly unethical to introduce them freely into the environment, especially as staple crops in a food supply upon which millions of people rely.

Regardless of the tenuous evidence so far on human health effects, the ST article made no mention of the long-term environmental and food security issues that result from the large, inefficient monocropping operations that GM seeds support, or how GM seeds make farmers heavily reliant on chemical companies to produce crops to feed the general public.

On a much wider philosophical level, any thinking person eventually has to wonder if this kind of food supply system is *really* best for our species ...
Posted by mgmarco on February 18, 2013 at 9:25 PM · Report this
@32 I'd be interested in a reference to your claim that somebody has died from a peanut gene being spliced into soy.

@35It won't cost THEM "a few bucks" because they will pass the cost onto ALL consumers in WA. It will not save a single life or reduce hospital visits. Why can't you just buy products with the USDA Organic label?
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 18, 2013 at 9:54 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 39
@21 - So if your company was in China, I'd suppose you'd oppose "Made in China" labels, too, and only sell to countries that didn't require labels, because of the cost burden.

I know, not entirely parallel, but this is: Explain how people who want to know if their food contains GMO because of the industry's behavior is different from a consumer concerned with human rights wanting to know if a t-shirt is made in China.

If GMO foods are not unhealthy, the industry should educate the few who give a rats ass about it. But I don't think they'd even need to bother, because given the choice between a can of peas labeled "Contains GMO" and one that says "GMO Free," most Americans will choose the cheaper one.

Besides, lot of people think MSG is bad for them, and not just bad for people who are allergic to it, but that doesn't give food manufactures a pass from putting it on their label. But that's the GMO industry's main argument here.
Posted by Free Lunch on February 18, 2013 at 10:05 PM · Report this
@30 - Conspiracy theories like a revolving door between Monsanto execs and FDA appointees, and the stranglehold of agribusiness on not sustainable food production.
Posted by anon1256 on February 18, 2013 at 10:19 PM · Report this
Is there a single shred of evidence that GMO-labeling produces any of the ill effects that scaremongers like to claim it does? I mean, has the EU had a horrible crash in its food market? Has China? Australia?

There's basically no evidence of the huge economic catastrophes that they claim labeling would introduce. I'm really tired of scaremongers who don't understand basic social science and won't look up basic pre-existing cases before launching into ridiculous hippy bashing.
Posted by BL on February 19, 2013 at 2:56 AM · Report this
Fnarf 42
The argument over GMO should NOT "center on science"; it should center on intellectual property. I would have no problem permitting GMO crops IF AND ONLY IF the patenting of living organisms was prohibited. Giving Monsanto and ADM ownership power over not only your own crops but those of your neighbors is insane.
Posted by Fnarf on February 19, 2013 at 7:18 AM · Report this
Pick1 43
@39 A "Made in China" label is completely different than a "This product contains GM Ingredients"

It shouldn't be. GM products are as common (if not more common) than products Made in China, but there is a worse stigma.

I'm just talking from experience, and I know that creating new labels for my small company has always been a chore.

If it does happen, yes @27 I believe it should be done on a national level. It can be an FDA guideline because it will mean very little if everyone is on the same playing field.

Redoing a product label isn't a few cents. It might be per label but it's a large up-front expense that small companies might struggle with.
Posted by Pick1 on February 19, 2013 at 8:12 AM · Report this
I think a lot of the stigma around GM just comes from the unknown. So far, studies have found no ill acute effects, but we have no idea what happens when a person consumes large amounts of them every day for their entire life, or what happens to kids who eat a lot of them, etc. Such studies will be nearly impossible to attain in an unbiased and scientifically accurate way, and no one is really trying because all the major funding agencies (USDA, FDA, NIH, NSF) have already decided it's okay to distribute GM seeds/food. (Who lobbies to/works for their boards of directors and the conflicts of interest lying therein are a topic for another day.)

In essence, humans in America have become research subjects to study the long-term health effects of eating GMOs, and without our explicit consent, that is an ethical violation under ANY institutional review board. The precedent this has set for future food technology is disturbing.

And, yes, buying organic provides a way for some people to "opt out" of this study to a degree, but much of the state/nation lacks easy access to organic food, and those who have access might not be able to afford it on a regular basis. So, the current system essentially enables wealthy/middle-class people in urban areas an easy way to opt out, but no one else. Affordable, non-organic, non-GMO food should be available to everyone, or humans are going to have a tough road to hoe ...
Posted by mgmarco on February 19, 2013 at 9:28 AM · Report this
Free Lunch 45
@43 - Made in China has a stigma, and many people - including me - avoid it when other options are available. I never buy clothing or tools made there, because at least for clothing and tools, there are still other options.

Poll 100 people, and very few would say Made in China does not carry a negative connotation (remember the Olympic uniform scandal?), and almost none will say it's an attribute that they seek out. But that doesn't give China a pass from labeling it as such, as you suggest the GMO industry should get a pass on labeling due the stigma that it carries.

I take your point about the cost of relabeling: that's a valid concern for small businesses. But I don't agree that negative public opinion - well founded or not - is a valid excuse to not label a product for what it is. In my view, it gives even more credence for the need to label it.
Posted by Free Lunch on February 19, 2013 at 10:05 AM · Report this
watchout5 46
GMO only has a stigma from ignorant people. It means that the food you're eating was created in a lab. The end. It's not rocket surgery. The food you're putting in your mouth was made by a human and has been designed to be "better" than what we remember the food as being. It means we grow more of them with less land and possibly have built in defenses for the wild. The end. I'm not asking for the food to be labeled so that I can go through the store and scoff at all the poor people food, but if that's what I've chosen to do with my life why is it the business of the state to stop me from using information to decide what I put in my mouth? The people suggesting that we shouldn't label something that's different because it might not matter are ignorant fucktwats. I have no patience for holding back progress for stupidity. People might get the wrong impression about the food because we're so far disconnected from our food that the last 20 years of progress has all been behind the scenes. If the technology matters that much to you sell it to me, make me want what you have for sale, and if I don't want what you're selling when I know how it was made, that's not my fucking problem, and it's not the problem of the fucking state.
Posted by watchout5 on February 19, 2013 at 10:22 AM · Report this
Free Lunch 47
@43 - Here's a poll about Chinese goods, and granted it's 5 years old, but I doubt public opinion has changed that much.
Posted by Free Lunch on February 19, 2013 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Dougsf 48
@25 wholeheartedly agree with you, except for your last sentence. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

It's been posted here before, but everyone interested in this issue should read (or listen to) Mark Lynas' lecture from the Oxford Farming Conference.…
Posted by Dougsf on February 19, 2013 at 12:55 PM · Report this
@48 - Not only nobody remembers Lynas helping to start the anti-GMO movement but it looks like he has other skeletons in his closet:

"Europe's largest and most influential biotech industry group, whose members include Monsanto, Bayer and other GM companies, is recruiting high-profile "ambassadors" to lobby European leaders on GM policy.

Leaked documents from a PR company working for Brussels-based EuropaBio claim to have "had interest" from Sir Bob Geldof; the chancellor of Oxford University and BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten; former Irish EU commissioner and attorney general David Byrne, and "potentially" the involvement of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and pro-GM science writer Mark Lynas.

The 10 or more ambassadors will not be paid directly, but the lobbyists have offered to write, research and place articles in their names, arrange interviews and speaking engagements with the Financial Times and other international media, and secure for them what could be lucrative speaking slots at major conferences.…

More about this P.R. coup:
What's more, any serious interest in the GM issue on Lynas' part seems to have been relatively short lived. Despite making his living as a writer on green issues, none of his books touched on GM before he began to support it. He did, as he mentions in his speech, write a short piece attacking GM for The Guardian website as late as 2008, but in an interview last year Lynas admitted that this was something he 'dashed off in 20 minutes without doing any research.'

And the Guardian article seems to have been a serious departure from the norm. Of around 50 pieces by Lynas to be found on the Guardian website, it seems to be the only one about GM crops. Similarly, of the 90 or so pieces he's written for the New Statesman, there don't appear to be any specifically about GM crops... before he changed sides.…
Posted by anon1256 on February 19, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Dougsf 50
@49 - Maybe there's some due diligence worth following up on there, but that article doesn't say anything more than some big agribiz-backed PR firm may have once pitched an idea, but everyone they targeted deny knowing anything about it.

I get no joy from having the same opinion on an issue as ConAgra.
Posted by Dougsf on February 19, 2013 at 3:12 PM · Report this
Pick1 51
@44 That's the problem with the way GM works. It's scary because it's unknown, but we can't make advances in the technology without risking the unknown. We can't wait 100 years for better crops that can hold more wheat. We need those solutions now. Is there risk? Yes, but if millions avoid starvation because of that risk, it might be worth taking.

This, however is about labeling the food, and I'm just not sold.

@45 Sorry, I was unclear. Yes, many Americans if given the choice will always buy American products. I would've answered yes to those as well. However, I rarely check the label of anything I am buying for a "Made in America" sticker. Nor when I find something I like and happen to see a "Made In China" sticker do I put it back and look for a "Made in America" version.

That's one of those subjects that will be hard to measure that actual data vs public opinion because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one like this.
Posted by Pick1 on February 19, 2013 at 3:51 PM · Report this
@49 - I think these articles (linked @ 49) suggest a lot more than you are willing to admit about Lynas, but everyone can read for themselves

I'd be equally deprived of joy if I agreed that consumers should have no say about new technology promoted as the whole future of food production despite a host of disqualifying issues including proprietary rights leading to further consolidation of a strategic sector, systematization of unsustainable industrial agriculture, insufficient testing for long term effects on human health, complete lack of transparency of testing and the approval process, regulatory structure captured by corporate interests, etc

Also note that many agricultural experts disagree about the course for development: "such as the hundreds of international scientists that contributed to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)—a report supported and endorsed by several UN agencies, the World Bank, and dozens of countries—have said that non-GE approaches that cost less and are more effective should be prioritized."…
Posted by anon1256 on February 19, 2013 at 4:32 PM · Report this
@51 - The claim that we need these GM solutions now to feed the world is biotech industry propaganda. Agroecological methods have shown to be as productive as industrial farming at a fraction of the cost, a lot less damage to the environment, and a lot better for farmers, their families, consumers and society as a whole.
Posted by anon1256 on February 19, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
"One thing that surprised us is that U.S. regulators rely almost exclusively on information provided by the biotech crop developer, and those data are not published in journals or subjected to peer review... The picture that emerges from our study of U.S. regulation of GM foods is a rubber-stamp 'approval process' designed to increase public confidence in, but not ensure the safety of, genetically engineered foods."

Dr David Schubert of the Salk Institute commenting on a comprehensive, peer-reviewed study of federal regulation of GMOs he co-conducted, quoted in Brian Tokar, "Deficiencies in federal regulatory oversight of genetically engineered crops," Institute for Social Ecology Biotechnology Project, June 2006
Posted by anon1256 on February 19, 2013 at 6:24 PM · Report this
Bemusedchicken 55
what ever happened to critical thinking? why not play it safe and just label it? GMO's are MAD QUESTIONABLE. The fact that they are AFRAID to label GMO should clue some people in. Why wouldn't they be proud of such a label? Because...GMO's are shit! Sorry! It takes less than a minute to find a multitude of reasons why one should at least question is your friend.
Posted by Bemusedchicken on February 20, 2013 at 1:30 AM · Report this
Bemusedchicken 56
anything that isn't ok with suzanne somers isn't ok with me!
Posted by Bemusedchicken on February 20, 2013 at 1:46 AM · Report this
Pick1 57
@55 Big. Fat. Eyeroll...

Maybe read some of the comments before saying GMO is afraid of labeling it that way because it's dangerous. It's about low information consumers like yourself who think it's poison when it's not.

@53 I'm pretty sure the wheat thing that I mentioned specifically was one of the greater bioagricultural breakthroughs in our history. The net return per acre more than doubled. I don't know how that has caused problems. Most biotech is about getting as much yield per acre as possible, from what I've seen.
Posted by Pick1 on February 20, 2013 at 6:57 AM · Report this
@57 - I am not contesting there are operational yield gains (usually very modest) for some GM crops at some point in time. The GE industry pretends that we can only "feed the world" with their GM products while in fact most yield gains (including in the recent past) have been due to other breeding methods. Moreover, our inability to "feed the world" is in great part due to lack of appropriate development, not our incapacity to grow food. Industrial cash crop monocultures controlled by giant corporations demonstrably do very little toward community level self-sufficiency, so I 'd say it's rather bold to claim that the current GM industrial agriculture model is going to eradicate hunger.
Failure to yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops…
Posted by anon1256 on February 20, 2013 at 12:12 PM · Report this
Lugh 59
I've a BS in Botany and an MS in Biotech. Over 25 years in bio-research at the bench. For what that's worth. Of course GMO foods should be labeled, why not? If we're talking of "should", they should be banned outright. Yes, seemingly reasonable people are repulsed by GMO foods, that's because they are able to reason beyond their own self-interest. The good people who produce GMO foods are not concerned with the service of humankind, and they must be slapped down at every opportunity. See "Indian Farmer Suicides". See "Monsanto Intellectual Property Cases". Do I need to go on? This is common knowledge. Genetic engineering is a crap-shoot of unintended and often unwanted consequences -- I know, I've seen it performed at the highest levels. Most elite researchers wouldn't know a proper control if it bit them in the ass -- I shudder to think how the science was done by the 3rd-tier bozos who work in the Ag industry. That may sounds harsh, but I wouldn't trust the work of some folks who DO make it in high-end science. Not to ingest it anyway.. and certainly not to let it loose outside the lab.

Want proof that GMOs are hazardous? Fuck You -- prove they are safe before they can be released into the environment. Want to protect "Intellectual Property"? Double Fuck You. "Intellectual Property" is a ploy to enrich those who don't actually own much of an intellect -- or a soul.

Sorry for the rant, I've been dealing with/contemplating GMO food issues for a long time now. Labeling isn't a new issue, I worked with the Green Party of Maine to get labeling of GMOs in Maine well over 10 years ago! Oh well, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Posted by Lugh on February 20, 2013 at 3:06 PM · Report this
@59 OK, so since you are an expert in the field could you please explain why it is safe to use random mutagenesis to create crop varieties but it is supposedly dangerous to use recombinant DNA techniques? Remember, random mutagenesis results in, probably, thousands of mutations to the genome, the location of which are unknown and effects of which are unstudied. And correct me if I am wrong but these crop varieties, created through random mutatgenesis, can be used in organic farming - which is the current paradigm of food safety, yeah?

Oh and while you are at it, please explain why it is safe to spray crops with viable spores of Bt (and the hundreds if not thousands of proteins that the Bt organism produces) while it is supposedly unsafe to express two of those proteins (the toxicology of which has been extensively studied) within in the crop.

The reality is people are opposed to GM because they think GM = Monsanto = bad. And those people are wrong. GM is just a tool, you may not agree with Monsanto's use of it (hell, I don't either and seriously don't get me fucking started with our patent system) but demonizing a very useful tool because of the way one organization uses it is not productive. We have serious environment issues and we are going to need every tool at our disposal to create agricultural practices that are both intensive AND sustainable. The saddest thing about the current situation is that the best path forward is to combine GM seed technology with organic farming practices but the religious zealots in the so-called environmental movement are too narrow minded for that to happen.
Posted by Aaaarrrggh on February 20, 2013 at 4:02 PM · Report this
@60 - The reality is that, today, pretty much all GM food crops are developed for and grown within the unsustainable industrial agriculture model (see the brand new report on global phosphorus and nitrogen cycles for example). GM being first a tool with lots of potential is irrelevant to the fact that food production is trending toward being exclusively controlled by giant corporations thanks to GMO proprietary rights, with all of that entails about regulatory failure and attending consequences for consumers and farmers, and the environment. Consumers' right of say is the last line of defense against that scenario.
Posted by anon1256 on February 21, 2013 at 9:35 AM · Report this
@19 label still has a 5% margin for must say 100% organic or gmo free.
Posted by kobe508 on March 1, 2013 at 8:22 PM · Report this
There is more poison dumpped on GMO crops. Over 62 countries in the world have rejected them. The are studies that show that GMOs are dangerous, JUST NOT IN AMERICA!
We have a right to know what is in our food and shouldn’t have to always choose organic to do so. If GMOs are so great then label them. Then everyone that thinks they are safe can eat more of them.

Posted by NWROCKERCHICK on May 7, 2013 at 3:57 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy