Over at the Genetic Literacy Project, there was a delightful article recently written by Jane Palmer on the GMO labelling campaign. As many know, it was recently defeated in Colorado 55% to 45%. In this article, Jane writes what may be the most lucid, at least to my eyes, sentences that aptly sums up the implications of the Right to Know movement. For context, Jane was once for labeling, and over the course of the article, she shares how she started to doubt the proposition, and eventually change her mind. Here it is:
“I realize that my ‘right to know’ might affect someone else’s ‘right to choose’, or even worse their ‘right to eat.’”
That is a wonderful distillation of the potential consequences of what might occur if a Right to Know campaign actually wins. There are precedents too: in Europe, when legislation required GM food to be labelled, Europeans subsequently disavowed their purchase. Consequence: food companies simply swapped their GM ingredients for more-expensive non-GM ingredients. Those who cheer such a change are invariably of the 1% of the food movement for, as usual, those who bore the brunt were the poor. Suzy do-gooder could afford the increase in foodstuffs (if she wasn’t already shopping organic to begin with), the average Jane on the street suddenly has less money for her children’s daycare, transport, insurance etc.. This is a serious concern those higher up the social ladder are often oblivious too.
Jane goes on to catalogue the various studies and the increased cost of a labeling campaign for the average family, with low estimates at $48 and going as high as $1556, with a more commonly accepted view that the average cost will be around $500. What’s more, a rather funny consequence that Jane distills is that the majority of the burden of such a law would fall on those producers that sell non-GMO produce writing:
“The debate over this issue and this study ignores other costs that could add hundreds of dollars or more to each person’s yearly food bill: the potential for tort litigation if products are found to exceed whatever threshold is legally established for trace existence of GM ingredients. Any food that does not have a GM label but is found to have a trace amount above the arbitrary cutoff point set in legislation will undoubtedly be hit by a law suit. That could result in hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in legal defense costs or adverse judgements.”
In the end she sums up the dilemma perfectly eschewing the popular solipsism that the left have become fond of recently:
“We [those who choose to not eat GMOs] can choose between conventional unlabeled goods, organic foods and voluntarily labeled GMO-free foods. So, if we are prepared to pay a little more, we can choose GMO-free foods by choosing organic or GMO-free foods. Another consumer can choose cheaper options by choosing unlabeled, non-organic foods.”
In this way, everyone’s interested are served. However, if, as in Europe, labeling is passed and many consumers pass on GMOs due to the unfounded propaganda of decades past and present, the poor and those who can’t afford to pay double for organic food lose a valuable option to feed themselves and their families. As Jane points out: currently, the ‘Certified Organic’ and ‘non-GMO project verified’ labels provide exactly what the anti-GMO movement wants, if information—not politics—is their goal. There is neither rhyme nor reason to label everything else raising prices across the board for rich and poor alike. If you’re shopping at Whole Foods, let’s face it: you’re rich, don’t assume everyone else is, but most of all, don’t make others choose between food and electricity or gas. They have it hard as it is without piling on superfluous regulations that have nobody’s interest at heart—except, of course, the organic industry’s.
So in investigating for this piece, I exercised my ‘right to know’ by analyzing publically available documents. I believe that the ‘right to know’ as it refers to the mandatory GMO labeling of food is not something that I want on my conscience.
With that, I’ll cap it off with a happy new year!