The debate over whether or not to label products of genetically modified (GM) crops has seen a small revival after the Natural Products Association, a trade group representing over 2,000 companies, announced its backing of legislation requiring labeling of GM food products.
Further, the state of Washington will put Initiative 522 on its ballot on November 5, sparking a battle much like the one over California’s Proposition 37 last year, which was narrowly defeated on Election Day.
On July 17, British environmental advocate and journalist Mark Lynas spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on his “changed perspective on GMO Food.” In January of this year, Lynas vocally renounced his long-held opposition to GMOs, saying that since his initial opposition to GMOs began in the 1990s, he “discovered science.”
While there are volumes of research extolling the virtues of GMOs in helping to achieve many goals concurrent with those of environmentalists, from maintaining biodiversity to reducing pesticide use, many continue to decry their use based on passionate irrationality alone. This science that Lynas and many others are beginning to “discover” is lending increased sanity to the GM debate, but anti-GMO advocates are still able to evoke visceral reactions from the public by holding up their signs depicting Frankenfish, corn with hooves, or self-aware rice.
The approval process of GM products is already long, costly and uncertain, discouraging private investment in agricultural technologies. Lynas used Europe as a cautionary tale, saying its “food sector is turning into a museum,” because of its tenacious distaste for all things genetically modified (it allows but two type of GM crops to be planted, if special permission is granted). The labeling proposals would add more unnecessary costs for producers, costs that would undoubtedly be in part passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.