First, allow me to apologize – a family issue prevented me from being able to devote time to writing. But, we’re back now! Thank you to all that have been following this blog.
If you take an initial look at the issue of labeling, you might wonder what could be controversial. I mean, letting the public know seems the right thing to do, right?
So why are the big-ag companies doing back flips to keep labeling laws from going into effect? Unfortunately, part of the reason is because they know that people are still widely uneducated when it comes to GMOs. If a label says anything like “contains or may contain GMOs”, an automatic assumption may be made that GMOs are bad. Also, the more the anti-GMO groups put out information on GMOs and stages protests, etc, the more influence this will have on the fears of consumers. (Please keep in mind that this post DOES NOT mean to imply that GMOs are safe or unsafe – merely just perusing the thoughts and feelings of the public and what might go on in their minds.)
You see, friends – fear tactics are not a tool solely for Republicans – Liberals sometimes practice the same fear tactics. Playing to people’s innate tendency towards fear works, despite being a sleazy way to get people on your side.
But, this issue isn’t about fear. It is about informing people about what they are buying. Cigarette pack warnings are an attempt to instill fear and make people reconsider buying cigarettes with negative messaging. GMO labels are not implying any negative – they are simply telling you what is in your food. A better comparison would be allergen statements or even ingredients – both are simply telling the consumer what is in the product.
Labeling GMOs is really a debate over labeling process attributes. Should food processing, of which GMOs are one process, be labeled? There are several ways to go here:
1. Legislation that does not allow any GMO process statements – either containing or not containing GMOs.
2. Legislation requiring all foods containing GMOs to be labeled. A statement would accompany such label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.
3. Voluntary labeling with the use of GMOs or the absence of GMOs. This seems somewhat arbitrary, leaving consumers confused.
4. Voluntary labeling of the use of GMOs, but again, requiring a statement accompanying the non-GMO label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.
The first option no longer seems viable as anti-GMO groups are not going away and neither is the issue. By not allowing any labeling of process attributes, consumers could make a judgment call with little to no information. (Yes, you might say that many people already do that when they go out to vote, but I digress! ;-)). Lack of information leaves a ripe ground for conspiracy theories!
The second option might work as some of the onus is no longer on the small manufacturer to get verified, even though they will still have to go through the work of getting in house paperwork on ingredients to make sure they are not using GMOs. But either way the issue goes, no longer are we going to be able to ignore the issue, so this could be the best option.
Under the anti-labeling guise, the third option above would be a continuation of what we have now. However, that option – in my mind – is the least viable. The confusion it creates in the minds of consumers is unfair, not only to the consumer, but to smaller manufacturers. If one product is labeled non-GMO and another product is NOT labeled non-GMO, the natural inclination of a consumer is to believe that the product not labeled does contain GMOs. But the cost of getting verified non-GMO is prohibitive to many manufacturers that might actually be non-GMO, but can’t afford to get verified.
Gringo Jack’s is going through the process of getting non-GMO verified and I can attest to several things: it is very expensive and it is extremely time consuming and frustrating. The requirements for paperwork are over the top (more on that in another post!) and it is a continuing cost every year once accomplished.
So, we’ve presented the beginning of the labeling issue, but there is so much more – evidenced by the many dollars being spent on the part of the anti-labeling campaigns as well as local governments fighting the groups fighting the labels. Money is being poured into lawsuits, campaigns, advertising, marketing etc and so this issue deserves more time.
Next week will delve into what both sides have to say about the labeling.