Pesticides and food: It’s not a black and white issue

Special 6-part series, Jan 22 - Feb 6

FIRST ARTICLE: Has pesticide use decreased over the last 40 years?

Andrew Kimbrell vs Nina Fedoroff: Should GMO foods be labeled?

One of the biggest arguments in the food world these days involves products that have been genetically modified.

Consumer advocates have been pushing for rules requiring companies to label foods that contain ingredients that have been modified for any number of purposes, such as making them resistant to herbicides. Recently, voters in Oregon and Colorado voted down measures to require labeling. Other states, though, have approved labeling, and the Food and Drug Administration’s website says it has received petitions to mandate labeling nationwide but hasn’t made a call on the idea.

Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, makes the case in favor of labeling. Arguing against labeling is Nina Fedoroff, the Pugh professor emerita at Penn State University.

YES: We Deserve To Know What’s in the Food We Eat

By Andrew Kimbrell

The American public has the right to know what’s in the food they buy and serve their families. That includes the right to choose whether or not to purchase foods produced through genetic engineering. Consumers in 64 other countries have that right, and Americans overwhelmingly want that right. Most polls show that more than 90% of the public favors labeling.

Why label? Genetically engineered foods are materially different than their nonengineered counterparts, and the public has a right to know it. In fact, the DNA in these foods has been patented by biotech corporations as completely new.

Labeling would not be curtailing a technology that is beneficial to the public. No currently commercialized genetically engineered crop substantially increases yield or nutrition. And other cheaper, proven methods are more effective at increasing production.

Related article:  Ecologist: 'Heavily scrutinized' glyphosate not a 'highly toxic chemical'

Moreover, genetic engineering is not safer, nor more efficient nor more predictable than traditional breeding. Genetically engineering crops involves trial and error, mostly resulting in failure. Tinkering with a plant’s DNA might make a nontoxic plant toxic or have other unintended impacts. Without labeling, we can’t fully track those impacts.

NO: It’s Simply a Ploy to Make Consumers Worry

By Nina Fedoroff

Genetically modified crops have increased yields by an average of more than 20% globally. (The increases are higher for small-holder farmers in less-developed nations than for big farmers in more developed nations because they start from a lower yield level.) And it is not true that other cheaper, proven methods are more effective at increasing production. In places that use only conventional methods, yields have stagnated.

Compare the resistance to genetically modified crops with organically grown food. A meta-analysis from Stanford University of papers published on the subject over a 50-year period concluded that there were no significant nutritional differences between conventionally and organically grown foods. However, organic produce is 10 times more likely to be recalled for bacterial contamination than conventionally grown food.

And the recent claims about glyphosate, the herbicidal ingredient in Roundup? U.S. and European regulatory agencies have repeatedly concluded that glyphosate is safe, neither toxic nor carcinogenic. Herbicide-tolerant crops benefit us all by reducing topsoil loss and CO2 emissions from plowing and cultivation.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Should Companies Be Required to Label Genetically Modified Foods?

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

3 thoughts on “Andrew Kimbrell vs Nina Fedoroff: Should GMO foods be labeled?”

  1. If …”Americans overwhelmingly want that right….” as Andrew speculates (erroneously), then I would love his explanation as to why the two recent initiatives were defeated. In Colorado, it was slammed, and defeated even in “ultra liberal” Boulder County. Why? Because once people heard from farmers about how it would hurt their operations with 100% segregation requirements, and how it would add no nutritional or allergy info to labels, and how it would leave out labeling most GMO foods through massive exemptions, (and falsely require gmo labels for foods with 0% GE), they wisely defeated it.

    If he thinks these crops lead to “trial and error” and “mostly ending in failure,” then he has never talked to a farmer. Does he think farmers are stupid??

    Nina’s points reflect the reality of labeling hype, and true motivation of the “right to know-ers” far more accurately.

    That activist group does not have a “right” to require misleading labels on food, just because they loathe the technology used to produce that food. Their rights end where my farm begins.

  2. So I want to know what’s in my food because……… I want other people to worry?
    How do claims about crop yields, crop prices nutrition, bacterial contamination or glyphosate have any bearing on whether or not I have the right to know about what I eat?

    If there were two boxes of unlabeled food, both were “safe” and both were the same price, I think I would still like to know what it was before I choose one over the other.
    I like to know what it is I am eating, that’s all.

  3. Wegotta, No, you don’t have a “right” to XYZ on a label just cuz you want it. I’m a vegetarian. Do I have a “right” to insist that meat or poultry be labeled in the manner the animal was slaughtered, just because I might want to know if it was slaughtered humanely (ok, an oxymoron, but bear with me) or not?
    No. I don’t.
    If farmers want to label their meat or chicken as “humanely raised,” whatever that means, they can. Should we force them to disclose the manner of the animals’ lives and slaughter methods?
    If you want to eat organic, do so. You don’t have the “right” to force other people to label food for processes. Food gets labeled for content, not how it’s made.
    Make a cogent argument that you don’t already know what’s in your food. If you don’t already know, then I’d say you aren’t paying attention.
    And yes, people absolutely DO want GE foods labeled because they DO want to push their agenda of some kind of “scare factor.” But based on your previous posts, I think you already know that; to deny that is just plain disingenuous of you.

Leave a Comment

News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.

Send this to a friend