Only in America can a federal food label be hijacked by a niche group, and then used to summarily wage war on its established competition.
It has happened in Vermont, where the governor signed a GMO labeling bill requiring labels on genetically engineered foods. The law will go into effect in 2016.
There are plenty of reasons why this is not a good idea, even for the numerous pro-organic, anti-GMO groups all over America who praised the Vermont decision.
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“This is not only a victory for the people of Vermont, it’s a victory for the millions of Americans who are demanding the right to know what’s in their food,” boasted Vermont Public Interest Research Group consumer protection advocate Falko Schilling. “Today affirms that when the people stand up and speak with one voice, meaningful change can happen.”
“This victory, which will benefit everyone who eats, has been a long time coming but it is no less sweet. Rural Vermont is grateful to the thousands of Vermonters who stood up for their right to choose the food that supports their values,” said Rural Vermont executive director Andrea Stander.
However, the labeling movement is not really about the right to choose. It’s about the supposed virtues of going organic.
But what if the shoe was on the other foot? What if conventional agriculture had taken a similar tact of smearing its organic competition? What if we ran negative campaigns on organic pesticides such as rotenone, a known carcinogen? What if we organized protests every time a pathogen from a manure fertilizer was passed to an organic crop causing sickness and death?
And most importantly, what if the all the major news organizations jumped on our accusations without attempt to provide perspective?
What if we succeeded, and every time the term organic was mentioned in conversation, curled lips and upturned noses prevailed?
And what if after our public relations victory, for the coup de grace of our mudslinging campaign, we demanded from our legislators that anything made organically had to be labeled as such?
“The product was made organically.” You wouldn’t even have to add the word “Ugh!” afterwards.
Think the organic crowd would cry foul? You bet.
But the Vermont labeling law didn’t stop there. It also prohibits labeling products made with genetic engineering as “natural,” 100 percent natural,” or “all natural.”
Next thing you know, Vermont will appoint a committee of anti-GMO fanatics to parade its propaganda on what is supposed to be a federally-approved nutritional guide.
The reality is that the world needs biotechnology – not only to unlock the genetic secrets to yield, efficient nitrogen and water use and cost-effective pest and disease management, but for farmers to remain sustainable and profitable while supplying the world with food and fiber.