Activists in Colorado and Oregon claim to have sufficient signatures to force votes on misguided warning labels for genetically improved foods (GIFs) in those states. While they claim overwhelming public support, evidence from votes in California and Washington suggests while the purported support might be a mile wide, if it exists it’s only a millimeter deep.
And editorials from newspapers in the states now under activists’ gun show why the poll positions of these measures tend to collapse under scrutiny. First, Portland’s The Oregonian examined activists’ arguments, and couldn’t seem to find any of merit:
OK, so trotting out an oversized rodent (no offense, Oregon State) is a cheap stunt rather than an argument in favor of a position. But what’s the argument used by the initiative’s backers? There are many, it turns out, and none justify labeling. […]
If advocates were really concerned about consumer confusion, they’d tell them to buy products that are organic or otherwise free of genetically engineered material. But the label-it movement is less concerned with preventing consumer confusion than it is in stigmatizing products of which activists don’t approve. If consumers come away believing genetically engineered stuff is unhealthy, so much the better.
The Oregonian editors note that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has found “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.” In addition to NAS, numerous other scientific authorities including the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Society of London have endorsed the overwhelming consensus that GIFs are no less safe than conventional foods.
In Colorado, the Greeley Tribune editors broadly concur with their Beaver State counterparts, writing that a state-based labeling system is a recipe for chaos. The editors backed a federal proposal, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which we have called a “regrettable necessity” in response to the deception of anti-science activists in Big Organic like Joseph Mercola and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps.
The Tribune further notes, “To be clear, most studies show genetically modified foods are safe for human consumption. The FDA generally recognizes these foods as safe, and the World Health Organization has said no ill health effects have resulted on the international market.” Again, there isn’t a valid debate over GIF safety relative to non-GIF food. Unfortunately, activists with axes to grind and cash to reap insist on claiming there is.