See no evil: Feinstein’s Frankenfood Folly

diane feinstein

Dianne Feinstein, the senior senator from California, in a December 20 letter to President Obama, wrote in part: “It is my strong opinion that consumers have the right to know whether their food originates from genetically modified organisms.  Your administration should reevaluate the Food & Drug Administration’s outdated policy that genetically engineered food does not need to disclose this fact on required labels.”

DiFi, as she is widely known here in California, is so misguided.  Mandatory labeling of genetically modified, or genetically engineered (GE), foods fails every test: scientific, economic, legal and common sense. There is no consumers’ “right to know” arbitrary information about food and, therefore, Feinstein’s rationale for labeling evaporates.  And if the president were to comply with her request, his action would likely be unconstitutional.

In the 1990′s, a group of Wisconsin consumers sued the FDA, arguing that the agency’s decision not to require the labeling of dairy products from cows treated with a bioengineered protein called bovine somatotropin, or bST, allowed those products to be labeled in a false and misleading manner.  (In other words, the plaintiffs wanted the same sort of mandatory labeling requested by Sen. Feinstein.)  However, because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate any material difference between milk from treated and untreated cows, the federal court agreed with the FDA, finding that “it would be misbranding to label the product as different, even if consumers misperceived the product as different.”

Activists opposed to modern techniques of genetic engineering have made it clear that they regard labeling as a first step toward eliminating the technology entirely. Feinstein’s letter advances their strategy, because drought-resistant genetically engineered plants now in testing will be invaluable to California’s drought-plagued farmers, and orange trees resistant to citrus greening will be needed to save the state’s citrus industry from the insect-spread bacterial disease.

Read full, original article: Senator Feinstein’s Christmas Folly

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