Activists in Oregon want to mandate labels on all genetically improved foods (GIFs). Like their fellows in Washington and California in years past, they’ve managed to get an initiative on the ballot. But respected scientific bodies—like the American Medical Association, the Royal Society of London, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—are in consensus that GIFs are just as safe as conventionally produced foods. This means that there is no scientific justification for any special designations on GIFs.
We recently took on the Beaver State activists in The Oregonian (“GMO labels are inherently deceptive”), arguing that their purported “right to know” campaign sets a bad precedent:
Advocates claim there is a “right to know” what’s in our food. This sounds like a compelling argument at first. But broadening a supposed “right to know” to things not related to health and safety, like genetically improved ingredients, creates a floodgate of potentially mandatory — and irrelevant — disclosures. Should milk bottles or cheeses have to list the names of the farms or states that originated the milk product?
And just as there is no “right to know” if your milk came from a certain farm since it is irrelevant, there shouldn’t be mandatory labeling of GIFs.
We should note that those consumers that want to avoid GIFs have the option to do so: there are a number of organic and non-GIF certified products on the market.
So why exactly are activists still pushing for GIF labels? Just follow the money. In Oregon, four of the major donors in support of the ballot measure for GIF labels are out-of-state organic food groups. Failed label initiatives in Washington and California also received considerable funding from wealthy organic interests.
Big Organic hopes to gain from the mandatory GIF designations that its advocates hope will be tantamount to a “skull and cross bones,” in the words of one activist. For the organic food industry, mandatory GIF labels are an opportunity to drive up the prices of its competitors and to legitimize its misleading anti-science “questions” about GIF safety.
This November, Oregonians should resist the demands of profit-hungry activists pretending to be concerned and curious consumers. Put simply, the ballot initiative for mandatory GIFs labels is motivated by nothing more than Big Green Greed. And Oregonians have a “right to know” it.