Welcome to the first of a new weekly feature here at The Liberty Papers, the TLP Roundtable where the contributors give their opinions on a topic that’s generating a lot of discussion.
This week’s topic is mandatory GMO labeling. Colorado and Oregon have ballot measures on Tuesday asking the voters of their states whether or not they believe food companies should label their GMO ingredients. Supporters of the measures believe that GMOs are harmful to the environment and humans while opponents believe that GMOs have been proven safe.
The contributors found themselves overwhelmingly against mandatory GMO labeling. One of our newest contributors, Joseph Santaniello, wrote a piece opposing Oregon’s ballot measure on this issue, Measure 92.
“I have no problem with it voluntarily but am against it as a regulatory mandate…. and I’m against it in general as a lover of science and truth; because anti-GMO hysteria is pandering to the stupid, the ignorant, the anti-science, and to those who would manipulate them for their own personal agenda and benefit”
Chris wrote a piece on this topic on his personal blog a year ago, that he wants you to read.
“While I generally approve of laws that empower consumers, and I don’t see this as creating an undue burden on businesses, I also believe that laws should actually accomplish something of benefit to society. Despite countless memes floating around social media, there’s no compelling argument that GMO foods are any less safe than non-GMO foods. With that in mind, I can’t support a law that does nothing but fuels a ridiculous hysteria.”
“Being a liberal libertarian on a site that uses the Gadsden Flag as its avatar, I’m used to pissing people off, and now it’s time for the tree huggers to get in line. There is virtually no compelling evidence that genetically modified food is even an inconvenience – let alone a threat – to people. Yes, it can be peoples’ preference to not consume any food with GMOs; that’s their right. But forcing it on other people, codifying untested science into law, and not giving me the ability to make my own educated decision is beyond the pale.
With that in mind, “let the market decide” is not necessarily the right move, either. By the time the “market” has education, there could potentially be a public health scare. Only a strict constitutionalist would argue that the government does not have the right to regulate food, if only to make sure that what we buy is indeed what we’re getting.
I have an alternative solution, and it serves as a test: instead of mandatory GMO labeling, if we really want the government that involved, let’s instead have it so that “organic” is a distinctly enforceable label, with layers of testing, peer-review and regulation before a company can put “organic” on its food. Most of the liberals I talk to want nothing to do with that for various reasons, but that just goes to show that people are generally OK with government overreach as long as it’s something they agree with.”
“Although I think the fear of GMOs is both overwrought and scientifically baseless at present – I am not wholly persuaded that GMOs are and always will be 100% safe. I don’t think the GMO label is necessary, but I think people have a right to know how their food was prepared and asking companies to provide a label is not an undue burden with any real cost (they already have to have labels…this just adds to what needs to be on the label). As such…if people want to be stupid and fearful, that’s their business…and if it turns out that GMOs become dangerous someday, we’ll be in a better position to respond.”
“If the market demand exists for information, the manufacturer will voluntarily provide it. As an example, baking soda is nowadays often marked “aluminum free.” But all baking soda has always been aluminum free. Baking powder sometimes has aluminum. Manufacturers got tired of explaining that their baking soda—along with everyone else’s—was sans aluminum, and started putting that information right there on the package. A market demand for the information arose, and manufacturers responded by voluntarily altering the packaging to provide the desired information.
If the market demand does not exist, then such a law merely amounts to forcing an expense on the manufacturer, which will be passed on to consumers who do not want or need the information. I would let the market take care of this issue entirely. Those manufacturers who wish to attract the niche market of non-GMO consumers are free to do so. The rest can field phone calls, emails or web traffic, like poor old Arm & Hammer who keeps having to explain that a product made of 100% sodium bicarbonate has no percentage points left over for aluminum.”
“I’m tempted to be against it. Considering how much my wife spends at Whole Paycheck on organics, I can only imagine our grocery bill would increase substantially if she started buying non-GMO!
But more seriously, I’m in favor of labeling, and against mandatory labeling. Mandatory labeling is only appropriate when something contains a known health risk. At this time, there is no significant evidence that GMO foods are more risky than non-GMO foods, and until/unless this changes, it should be handled by voluntary market action.”
“I have to concur with all of my fellow contributors that there is no sound scientific basis to believe that GMOs are unsafe. I also agree with most of my fellow contributors that there is no justification to require the labeling of GMOs on foods. I also agree with Joseph in his piece that these labeling schemes are crony capitalism to benefit Big Organic. I also agree with Chris Byrne’s blog post on this topic.
There are already voluntary non-GMO labeling schemes out there to cater to the consumers who demand non-GMO foods. If these products are not widely available, it’s not because of a conspiracy by Monsanto, but because there is a lack of demand for them. As to Chris Bowen’s point about government regulation of organics, I would argue that we already have it with the current USDA Organics program, which expressly forbid GMOs. Whether or not the program is any good or effective is certainly up for debate.”
What do you think about GMO labeling? Is it something that should be required by the government, something left to the private sector, or there’s no need for it? Let us know in the comments!
I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
Recently, I was sent a post that Free and Equal, a pro-Liberty organization that many Student libertarians take part working with, stating that Labeling is important, and the “Evil corporations” are pouring money into preventing GMO-Labeling. They felt the need to explain themselves by saying that, it’s okay to donate money, but where it comes from is the problem. That Big Organic is just trying to help people, and GMO’s areevil. So the GMO Shill King decided to take time to tear this apart and explain the issue with libertarians supporting woo-filled amendments, which are tied to special interests.
While, it is public knowledge that No on measure 92 has raised almost double the money the Yes side has, and yes Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta have been some of the key donors to the No side, and Big Organic has funneled majority of the Funds into the the Yes side. Saying one side is evil and doesn’t want you to know, is not the correct argument, so let’s examine the text of Measure 92.
The first three really can be covered together, since they are exceptionally misleading. Polls have not consistently showed anything they very between 40-70%, not very accurate and consistent if you ask me, and are these people actually informed on the measure themselves, or the Science behind Genetic Modification? Two, well what evidence do they have of health reasons, economic does not exist since GE’d foods are exceptionally cheaper than there “Certified Organic” counter-part, and what culture in the world says they need Food labeling — If you ask me that is exceptionally hyperbolic? Number Three is even more so misleading, when you bring Codex Alimentarius into this, an organization that holds no bearing in court but hopes to set international trade standards to help efficient trading in the globalized world, it is important to realize that even the “Book of Food” has said GMO’s have no evidence to claim they pose any health concerns, and that is why it should be left up to the countries. Every major NGO or Institute of science in a given country has spoken fiercely against these countries that require arbitrary labeling or an outright ban on Genetic Engineering, these bans have been political to support popular opinion rather than based on fact.
So, numbers 4-7 are screaming blatant lies. The FDA actually requires some of the strictest testing in the world on genetically altered foods, they also require several outside sources that are independent or in academia to peer review not only the studies the government does, but as well as the ones the corporations use say their product is safe. Saying there have not been studies done is an outright lie, unless these 1700+ Studies simply do not count. These studies have been in an international catalog for a long while now. So why do we keep hearing that they have not been tested, and we are the “guinea pigs”? When people include “mixing plant and animal” genes in a measure on a ballot, the only reference point that have was the Flavr Savr Tomato in 1996, this tomato had an anti-freezing gene added to it from a fish, it was labeled as such openly by the company, and it failed taste tests by consumers, after approved for sale, but left an allergen warning for those allergic to fish on it, and was pulled from shelves in early 1997. Other than that one instance no one has added anything that cannot naturally occur in nature to our food supply.
Number 6 on this measure actually has no evidence to support it whatsoever, not a single government scientist that has undergone any peer review of his studies to support this claim, has ever been able to show even a theory to support this claim. This is because it simply is not the case and people touting this as reasoning; do not understand how genetic engineering works. Number 7 is another that is simply not true, hundreds of tests are done independently anytime a new product wants to come to market, it is not illegal to independently test a given product, actually it has been encouraged.
Number 9, This is not about Kosher and Halal meats and food products; this is really just another random claim that actually does not exist. These are part of a completely separate issue and tying them to a genetic engineering bill is quite silly. It is not like someone is going to eat a piece of corn that was slathered in pork fat without them knowing. Genetic engineering does not work like that.
10 and 11 are like half-truth “findings”. They take things largely out of context, and use them to support a biased end. As a pro-market libertarian, using government to create barriers of entry is a wholly dishonest thing in itself. When using untrue statements to make that end possible and scare tactics to make the public panic to gain support is a bothersome thing indeed. Codex Alimentarius standards, which were adopted to the WTO, are the labeling requirements for international trade. How it works is actually quite simple. If a country requires more than COO labeling, such as GM and Pesticide labeling, they send a sample off for independent study to determine if the Label the company is using is accurate. Then not only is the label the company used sent, but the independent verification as well. So when you hear it is a “voluntary” thing, it really is, you can voluntarily label and trade with nations that require labeling or not, it is not forced. The reason Big Organic and Big Biotech did not oppose these new additions is simple, Big Organic knows that very few countries require labeling on natural pesticides, mutagenically altered foods, or hybridization techniques, so in other words are safe from labeling other than COO. While the rest of the companies who use RNA interfered or Transgenicially altered foods can: A. avoid trade, B. Label them and independently prove they meet the countries said Threshold, or C. trade with countries without arbitrary labeling requirements. The economic value of these products are unchanged on an international scale, so these findings are inherently false.
Numbers 16 and 17, The environmental harm findings of this measure are another exceptionally misleading piece as well. It talks about soy being genetically engineered and then immediately following throws this crazy number at you “527 million pounds of additional herbicide” applied to the nations farmland, but it does not distinguish between organic farming and conventional, furthering the misinformation that only genetically engineered or conventionally grown foods use Herbicide. Herbicide resistance crops also result in low-tillage or no tillage, which has been noted to be actually more sustainable, and helps farmers from turning to the more environmentally dangerous herbicides. What Herbicide resistance actually does is it causes the plant to degrade the herbicide used and render it harmless. These two types are RoundupReady(Glyphosphate) and LibertyLink(Glufosinate), The transgenic alterations to these crops allows for farmers to choose when they need to spray, and gives the ability to control weeds through the whole season, and they have virtually no herbicide present in the take, which is an amazing feat of science. Another misrepresentation of the problem is in regards to drinking water, several studies have shown that what Glyphosphate and Glufosinate have replaced have actually helped resolve the issues of drinking water, since the lethal concentration of both is so incredibly high, compared to pyrethrins/rotenone(Used in Organic Farming) and Atrazine(what was used before Herbicide resistance crops), what little that doesn’t get absorbed into the soil and degraded into something harmless, what is present in the drinking water is virtually non-existent after undergoing water treatment. The argument could have been made that use near waterways, and damage possible to aquatic life from the run off could have been made, but restrictions are in place on levels that can be used near waterways on conventional farming, but not on organic.
It is hard to disagree with environmental issues, but by saying it is only half of the equation is the problem, and the other half is okay, is being intellectually dishonest. When I see organizations that support freedom, transparency, and equality under the law, and only address half the spectrum to gain supporters, and disenfranchise the rest of a movement that has fought long and hard for real science and real transparency in government, only to be co-opted and used to support their brand of cronyism it is disheartening to say the least.
Section 3 is where the Cronyism begins, instead of the hyperbole and scare tactics used in the findings; this is why so much money has been poured into Measure 92. If you read this part of the measure you see that Big Organic exempts themselves from the regulations they want to place. We see this happen all the time, in politics yet here it is okay, but not in other areas? So how are they exempting themselves, well they do it subtly, “Raw Food” was an issue in 2011, when Big Organic fought to science to sell almonds with cyanide in them, lethal doses of cyanide mind you. The argument was when you were selling “Raw Almonds” pre-2011 you were actually selling almonds that have undergone RNA interference, this process actually suppressed the almonds production of cyanide, which made it safe for you to eat after a process of blanching or steaming the almond, to remove any extra bacteria(generally salmonella). When Big Organic won, they agreed to use PPO(propylene oxide) to coat and fumigate, which neutralize the cyanide. Since PPO is something that can be considered “Organic” since essentially ALL things are organic — remember back too high school chemistry. This allowed them to sell raw almonds, coated with poison, to consumers, and since this is organic it is not subject to any of the safety regulations for labeling or health concerns, or really anything.
I proposed this too my friends and followers on Facebook “Which would you prefer a Raw Organic Almond, which underwent Fumigation and is coated with an Herbicide known as PPO, to neutralize the Cyanide in Raw Almonds or a Genetically Modified Almond, which underwent RNA Interference to suppress the Cyanide, and does not need to undergo fumigation, but is steamed or blanched.” The answer was pretty straightforward “Organic obviously, because they care about people, and not profit, GMO’s are bad” with the few responses of my fellow science lovers “is this a serious question, The GMO obviously.” This showed me that a lot of misinformation is out there, people who do not understand how science works, they learn from sources like Food Babe, who have absolutely no credibility in the science community and are paid to spread scare tactics. Measure 92 is literally a proponent of the same thing.
Where the real concern is though, is 4.b. (b) Methods of fusing cells beyond the taxonomic family that overcame natural physiological, reproductive, or recombination barriers, and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection such as conjugation, transduction, and hybridization.
For purposes of this definition: “In vitro nucleic acid techniques” include, but are not limited to, recombinant DNA or RNA techniques that use vector systems; techniques involving the direct introduction into the organisms of hereditary materials prepared outside the organisms such as biolistics, microinjection, macro-injection, chemoporation, electroporation, microencapsulation, and liposome fusion.
This is Big Organic’s lovely exemption. This is the whole motive behind this ballot measure. It only targets half of the GMO’s and not the ones that are considered Organic. This is targeting Biotech companies, like the IRS targetednconservative and liberty groups, and it unacceptable. While even Pure-Organic(no pesticides natural or synthetic, or CMS alterations) activists are against Big Organic on the issue. When you read for the purpose of this definition, it misses literally ¾ of the geneticially modified foods. When you have it so precisely defined, and leave out CMS altered seeds, which fall under “hybridization” Since they are cisgenically altered, and are considered cell cusion. The difference between Cisgenic and Transgenic is simple; Cisgenic means of the same species, Transgenic covers different biological families. Internationally hybridization is considered Genetic Engineering, and must follow the same guidelines for labeling. So why intentially leave it out on Measure 92, the motive is clear, it gives Big Organic an unfair advantage in the market, and allows for them to continue to spread lies about pesticides and GMO’s, when they themselves genetically modify in labs, just like the companies they are wanting to force to Label.
The definition is purposefully missing Mutagenisis(Process of using Radiation to force mutations in cell structure) which has zero guidelines or regulation in the United States, and no safety procedures before going to market, Cisgenics, cell fusion hybridization, and several others. Which have no regulations, or testing before going to market, which this Measure blames on Biotech such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, and Dow Chemical, when in reality, the proponents of Measure 92 are the ones who are the culprits of these problems.
I have heard the argument of the “Right to Know” side, which there is a valid argument for. I absolutely think people should be able to know what is in their food. This measure does not do that, what it does is Unfair and Bias targeting of certain industries while exempting others from safety and health regulations. It continues the bias that “Evil Corporations” are poisoning you, but these billion corporations “are looking out for the people”. If we were to label, it would have to include all sides, and include pesticide toxicity and thresholds. While I would prefer private companies do this, If that is not an option then we must limit the cronyism attached to it, by not strictly attaching it to Biotechnology, but Big Ag as a whole. Simply because the misinformation leading to ill-informed voting on a measure that does not protect them, or change anything, but aims to add more costs to the opposition, while leaving loopholes for the proponents is bad for the market, bad for America, and bad for consumers. The reason Big Organic exempts themselves from GMO labeling everytime legislation is proposed, is because well, if you read “Certified Organic” and “This product has undergone the process of Mutagenisis where it was put in radioactive enviroments to force mutations.” You would question what you were buying.
What measure 92 is doing is furthering the hyperbole, and destroying the market. There are plenty of reasons to not like Monsanto, or any other Big Ag group, this is not one of them, the motivation behind them funding “No on Measure 92” is them fighting an unfair market regulation, and hyperbole, any business would fight lies and giving another company and unfair advantage. If we want to attack the “Evil Corporations” let’s go to congress and fight agriculture subsidies, and crony politics used to get them, on both sides of this measure.
When “Free and Equal” says “Big Money is not just an amount, but who is behind it.” When challenged about Big Organic pouring money into this measure as well. The response is appalling, it essentially says “Big money is fine as long as it is the Cronies I support, not the ones you support” then add “For their own pocket and not the people” is very intellectually dishonest if you read the actual ballot measure. At least Free and Equal disclosed that they are sponsored by a proponent of Measure 92, but still if they support real freedom and equality under the law, they would still be actively against measure 92, since it goes against everything an organization that pushes government transparency and equality under the Law. I have been in this movement for over a decade, and am scared when I see it coopted by people who think “Big money is bad, crony capitalism is bad, but unless it looks like it is for people then it is good” Which is essentially what Free and Equal said here.
They are exactly right though, it is important to examine the motive behind Big Money, because Measure 92, the money behind it, is very much against the consumer, against the market, and against half the industry. This measure is something conservatives, libertarians, and progressives can come together on the one thing we all agree on, crony capitalism is what is wrong with this Country, and we need to fight to end that. This measure shows exactly the problem with fear-mongering and scare tactics can do, and how easy it is to push something like this onto people with clear motives to target a certain group and create new barriers of entry and extra cost to the consumer.
If you believe in labeling or not, you should vote NO on Measure 92, because it isn’t a labeling bill, it is a targeted bill, and exempts Big Organic, if you want labeling lets work together and create a real labeling bill that is fair to the whole market—That’s only if you think it is a right to know what is in your food.