The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has always been obsessed with food labels. One recent episode saw the group argue for the repeal of a nutrition label that they had originally proposed, just because it didn’t distinguish between two different kinds of saturated fat. But a Chattannooga Times Free Press editorial concludes that CSPI’s food-label obsession has passed the point of even diminished returns.

In one recent news release, for instance, CSPI complained bitterly
that many foods were being sold in misleading packages. The Times Free Press, though, notes that “CSPI found misleading or untruthful information only on the front” of some labels. “A careful perusal of the entire label rather than just the front would provide consumers with a clearer idea of contents. Still, CSPI, the same group that once targeted the high fat content of Mexican food and of popcorn served up at the movies, wants the government to completely redo truth-in-labeling laws. That’s a bit draconian.

CSPI hasn’t had a stellar month with other labeling initiatives, either. Although the organization has long supported the idea of mandatory labels on genetically improved foods, one of CSPI’s own top researchers is now admitting that such labels come with a lot of undesirable baggage. According to the August 1 issue of AgBioView, an internet biotech digest, Greg Jaffee (co-director of CSPI’s biotechnology project) has concluded that “many consumers would interpret GE food labels as casting doubt on the safety of foods even though, to date, scientists have found no problems. A GE label should not be seen as a black mark, especially when GE crops appear to be having such environmental benefits as reduced use of chemical pesticides and likely reduced soil erosion.”