To label or not to label GMOs
This march and rally have become battle cries for the pro-organic movement. These groups via their Web sites have stated that they plan to use this march, which culminates on World Food Day in Washington, D.C., to spring board the topic into the political arena.
These groups have made the movement look like they are calling for better transparency. The spin doctors have done a good job. Who would argue against greater transparency in the food system in light of food scares such as listeria in cantaloupes or E: coli in spinach? This movement is designed to separate the pro-organic group from the conventional agriculture group. Vilsack’s attempt at unity seems to have divided the groups further.
Ratcheting up the rhetoric is the group Food Democracy Now!, which offered a video of candidate Obama promising to pass legislation requiring the labeling of GM food. He’s quoted in the video as saying, “Here’s what I’ll do as President. I’ll immediately implement Country of Origin Labeling because Americans should know where their food comes from. And we’ll let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified because Americans should know what they’re buying.”
Labeling of GM food is probably a good move. However, it’s these activist’s ulterior motives that are concerning. They likely will not stop with the mere labeling of GM foods. They are inclined to be politically involved. They are rarely appeased for long. Their movement is a slippery slope to more regulations and likely veils an attempt at banning the technology altogether.
Just consider their definition of GM. According to the JustLabelIt.org site, “Genetically engineered (GE) foods, also referred to as genetically modified, or GMOs, are those that are altered at the molecular level in ways that could not happen naturally. This means plants and animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. These techniques use DNA molecules from different sources, sometimes different species, and combine them into one molecule to create a new set of genes (e.g. mixing of flounder genes into tomatoes so the tomatoes would be resistant to cold temperatures.)”
What’s so misleading about this definition is that tomatoes that contain flounder genes are no longer on the market and were only briefly on the market 15 years ago. That was the only commercial product that combined animal and plant genes to which I am aware. Yet, anti-GMO groups routinely tout this example as the shining example of science run amok.
Also, this definition does not take into effect using genetic technology to speed up the breeding process without adding new genes or genes from other species. Take for example, drought tolerance traits. Most of that work is being done by turning on genes already within the plant.
Believing the altruistic nature of these groups would be foolhardy, despite how much they claim to have your best interests at heart.