GMO Panic Is Bad Policy
Inquirer Editorial Board
POSTED: August 15, 2015
America’s foremost nutritional problem may well be the sheer quantity of food it consumes, but the nation is increasingly haunted by a much more arcane question about its diet: Did someone at some point tinker with its DNA?
The fear of consuming genetically modified organisms – “GMOs” to their enemies – is largely detached from science and reason. It has nonetheless become pervasive in certain generally left-leaning circles, so much so that three New England states have moved to require disclosure of genetically modified ingredients. Similar measures have been introduced in many other states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
But the U.S. House recently responded with the legislative equivalent of a genetically altered tomato hurled in the activists’ direction, passing a bill to outlaw labeling mandates.
The anti-GMO movement has a superficially appealing argument: Food manufacturers already have to disclose ingredients, caloric content, and more. So even if the dangers of genetic modification are an article of faith rather than fact, why not disclose it and let the people decide?
The trouble is that unlike the rest of the information the federal government requires labels to include, genetic modification is not an ingredient or a nutrient, but a technology – a means rather than an end. Requiring food makers to tell us whether the corn they used was genetically manipulated is like forcing them to disclose whether it was cultivated in the presence of a scarecrow. Sure, plenty of people might find this information interesting, but it has no demonstrable relationship to anyone’s health.
Featured image: A cooking oil made with genetically modified soybeans (left) has no trans fat and 20 percent less saturated fat than oil made with unaltered beans.