I got a call recently from a central Missouri farmer who wanted to share his thoughts on state initiatives to require GMO labeling of foods. He wasn’t opposed to genetic engineering and in fact, raises crops that are products of biotechnology. He thinks continued efforts to thwart GMO initiatives demonstrate to the public that commercial agriculture has something to hide. Why not drop the whole thing and let the chips fall where they may?
It’s a concept I’ve wondered about myself at times. So I came up with five reasons why mandatory GMO labeling is a bad idea for everyone, not just farmers.
- While placing GMO information on a food label may seem the thing to do in the interests of transparency, it could actually have the opposite effect. Products made from genetically engineering are not substantially different from their non-GMO counterparts in regard to nutrition, safety or taste. So why would we differentiate between two identical ingredients? It would only confuse the consumer. That’s not the purpose of nutritional labels.
- Genetically-engineered crops are safe, reduce chemical use and contribute to the long-term profitability of farmers all over the world. No one has died, gotten sick or even caught as much as a sniffle from GE crops or products made from them. Dozens of people have died from consuming tainted organic crops.
- Mandatory GMO labeling will drive up the cost of food. A study by the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management  at Cornell University explains these costs.
- There is already a responsible federal piece of legislation for labeling of products containing genetically-engineered ingredients. Under this legislation, FDA will mandate the labeling the GMO foods ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with the GMO technology. FDA will also establish standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their products for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients.
- There is the possibility that many consumers will not purchase items with GMO labeling because they erroneously perceive the GMO language as a warning. (Refer to No. 1). Imagine a world without genetically engineered crops – food costs would soar, yields would plummet, input costs would rise and many farmers would have to resort to less-environmentally friendly methods of controlling pests or protecting their crops.
At the end of the conversation with that pleasant, plain-spoken, Missouri farmer, we agreed to disagree on mandatory GMO labeling. I do respect his opinion that continuing to fight mandatory labeling does make it seem like agriculture has something to hide. But there’s too much at stake for U.S. farmers and consumers to give into this perception.