Cupcake PanicA journalism professor writing on Scientific American’s blog this week dissents from the view of the editorial board of the esteemed publication, which recently wrote that mandatory labeling of genetically engineered or biotech ingredients was misguided and unnecessary. Perhaps he knows more about biotechnology than the editors or thinks they erred in their reading of the overwhelming scientific evidence that GMOs are safe?

Of course not; it’s politics that drives the journalism professor’s conclusion. He blames seed supplier Monsanto for causing people not to like biotechnology and suggests that even though labeling is “unwarranted,” scientists should agree with it.

But that’s not evidence-based policymaking. It’s pandering. And when some anti-GMO commentators are citing an outbreak of Salmonella as proof that biotech crops should be labeled (the two things are completely unrelated), claims that front-of-package labels will educate consumers are pathetic. The editorial board of Washington State’s capitol newspaper, The Olympian, is far more realistic in its assessment:

Instead, it would splash a warning label on the front of food packages to suggest consumers have something to fear, when the real intent is to deter genetic engineering in agriculture by making the use of GMOs more complicated and expensive. Confusing consumers is a strategy toward that goal.

Take a look at the financial supporters of the initiative: Dr. Bronner’s “Magic Soaps,” an all-organic personal care products firm; the Organic Consumers Association and misnamed “Center for Food Safety,” both organic farming activist groups; and Joseph Mercola, an natural foods businessman who’s been warned by the FDA. With the $30 billion organic foods industry devoted to profiting off consumer deception about biotechnology, believing that labeling will educate consumers is naive at best. Hopefully Washington voters will see through the deception and reject this bad idea.