Court Or Congress Likely To Kill Needless GMO Labels
The future of Connecticut’s law mandating the labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms has been thrown in doubt by Congress and a court. And that’s just fine. The law is needless.
The law — which has never taken effect — may be nullified. The law’s supporters are calling this threat a victory of big agribusiness and the supermarket lobby over consumers. In fact, nullifying the law would be a victory of common sense over ill-informed fretting.
A federal appeals court in New York City will soon hear a challenge to Vermont’s GMO-labeling law, which is similar to Connecticut’s. And the U.S. Senate may pass a bill to stop states from requiring GMO labels. The House has already done so.
No Lack of Evidence
After more than 2,000 studies, foods made with GMOs have been shown to be just as safe as food created by natural genetic selection. That hasn’t stopped the fearmongering by talk show hosts and the publication of GMO scare books.
According to a 2012 report by the American Medical Association, “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”
GMO labeling is framed by its advocates as a consumer-friendly issue, however — which is why some politicians continue to back it even as the evidence shows it’s entirely unnecessary.
So what’s wrong with providing consumers with information about the products they buy?
In most cases, nothing. Having more information often leads to a wiser purchase.
But mandating the labeling of foods as genetically modified implies that they are somehow dangerous and feeds into anti-scientific ignorance. It’s in the same category as the anti-vaccination mania, fear of fluoridation and the widespread (yet incorrect) belief that climate change is a hoax.
The reason Connecticut’s GMO-labeling law is in limbo is that in 2013, our legislators wisely required that four other states enact similar laws before ours takes effect. These four states must be in the Northeast and have a combined population of 20 million. At least one of the four must abut Connecticut.
Unsurprisingly, given all the criteria, this has yet to happen.
The grocery industry and agrochemical companies like Monsanto have indeed lobbied hard against GMO labeling, saying the goal of proponents is to ban GMO foods altogether. The proponents, for their part, say these companies are putting profits ahead of public safety.
In this case, the companies have independent research on their side.
As for labeling, it is already easy for consumers to know a product’s genetic makeup. Non-engineered items routinely carry the label “USDA Organic.” Anything else can safely be assumed to have GMOs.