Opinion

THE PODIUM

Let science, not fear, dictate GMO labeling laws

Wayne Brezinka for the Boston Globe

The Massachusetts legislature is currently considering H. 3996, legislation that would require a mandatory label for food products containing genetically modified organisms.

Here in the United States, government food labeling requirements are based on science. Yet, considering that the US Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly found that food products containing GMO ingredients are no different from conventionally produced products, the call for a mandatory label is based only on fear.

Advertisement

Every single major scientific body — including the FDA, American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization — has agreed. And just last year, Italian scientists evaluated nearly 2,000 peer-reviewed studies and found not a single credible scientific study showing GMOs to be harmful.

This bill, like similar mandatory GMO labeling measures that were defeated in California and Washington State, is not about consumer choice. It is about a coordinated and concerted effort to eradicate biotechnology from American agriculture.

Get Arguable with Jeff Jacoby in your inbox:
From the Globe's must-read columnist, an extra offering each week of opinion and ideas.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

For more than 20 years, GMOs have been used to identify the desirable, naturally occurring traits in one plant and transfer them to another. This kind of basic genetic modification occurs on farms across America every day, and GMOs are now used in approximately 80 percent of the food in your grocery aisle.

Genetic engineering has allowed America’s farmers to grow the world’s most stable, secure food supply in increasingly harsh conditions while also reducing their chemical usage and their impact on the environment. A study released just two weeks ago found that GMOs have allowed farmers to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to removing 11.9 million cars from the road.

And in the effort to combat global hunger and malnutrition, GMOs are being used in southeast Asia to develop an incredible new crop called “golden rice,” which could save millions of children every year from malnourishment and blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency.

Advertisement

Nonetheless, supporters of these mandatory GMO labeling schemes are engaging in a deliberate misinformation campaign to scare consumers about this safe technology that helps keep food prices low, benefits the environment, and allows farmers to feed our growing world population of 7 billion.

Massachusetts is just the latest in a long line of states to consider a law requiring mandatory labels on GMOs — a law that would dramatically increase costs for consumers and establish burdensome new regulations for farmers and food producers.

READ MORE: In favor of GMO labels

In fact, a recent study from Cornell University found that mandatory labeling laws would increase food prices in the checkout aisle by an average of $500 per family per year. The study found that a significant portion of these increases would be due to broad new supply chain regulations for food producers, and those costs would then be passed on to consumers in the checkout aisle.

Despite the human and financial costs, as well as overwhelming scientific consensus, efforts persist to impose unnecessary labeling requirements on foods that contain GMOs.

To address these efforts and create more certainty for America’s farmers, producers, and consumers, my organization, the Coalition of Safe and Affordable Food, supports the bipartisan Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act, federal legislation which would strengthen food safety reviews of new GMO ingredients and establish that the FDA should maintain its role as America’s foremost food safety authority. If food ingredients are proven to impact consumer health, they should use their federal authority to label foods with those ingredients in all 50 states.

Simply put, a federal standard for GMO labeling would eliminate confusion, provide consistency and advance food safety, giving consumers the information they need to make grocery choices for their families — without unnecessarily raising food prices in the checkout aisle.

Read the rest of this series on GMOs:

GMOs are a key tool to addressing global hunger

In favor of labels: Give consumers a choice to opt out of GMO foods

Inexpensive solutions still outperform GMOs

Claire Parker is spokesperson for the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food.
Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.