Commentary: Rats—rats with huge, ugly tumors
Gary Hirshberg, a founder of the anti-GMO group Just Label It, gets to unleash his practiced rant: “I can think of hundreds of reasons [for GMO labeling]. Nurses are concerned about the increased amount of herbicides now being used. Religious groups are concerned about messing with God’s work. We have folks who just don’t trust big business. People feel they should have the right to know what’s in their food that, and by the way,citizens have in 50 other nations, including Russia and China.”
Dr. Oz then lobs a softball over the plate:“One of the big fears I’ve heard of labeling what’s genetically modified is the impact on our wallet.”
Hirshberg: “That is a diversionary tactic. Emory University has calculated that the full cost of GMO labeling is 73 cents per consumer. So this is a non-issue.”
At this point, somebody should have burst out laughing. Seventy three cents?? I don’t know how you arrive at the figure, but even if it were true, that’s $240 million a year. Hardly an insignificant cost.
Indeed, Dr. Oz’s next guest, Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal scientist at UC Davis, quickly quashes Hirshberg’s argument.
“They’ve estimated that Prop 37 [the California initiative requiring mandatory GMO labeling] is going to [add] $300 or $400 to a family’s yearly grocery bill,” Van Eenennaam replies. “The reason is that grocers are going to have to go through the hundreds of thousands of products and determine which have bioengineered ingredients, [which is] about 60% to 70% of processed foods.”
More blah, blah, blah arguing over the “actual costs,” then Dr. Oz zeroes in the real issue.
“Alison do you think genetically modified foods are safe?”
Dr. Van Eenennaam: “As a scientist I’ve looked at the data, and I believe that these foods are safe. I don’t want to have conventional foods cost more when people who want to avoid genetically engineered products can go ahead and buy organic if that’s what they chose to do.”
Provocative, right? Not if you’re hosting a talk show with an agenda. Even after that rebuttal, Dr. Oz closes the segment as follows:
“Thank you for your insights, Allison. [Looks to the camera] If what you heard today concerns you, what can you do about it? I’ll have that answer when we return.”
Narrator: “Coming up: What you can do to avoid genetically modified food.”
Some things never change.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.
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