Washington state is trying to get a GMO labeling law passed. For the record, I would support such an action if a couple of conditions are met.
The first is that it applies to all foods in all conditions. The California measure that failed recently required the use of labeling for grocery store items, but the deli across the street would not have been required to label the same bag of potato chips (for example).
The second is that the law is enforced by a division of the government with specific restrictions and a process that holds each step in the chain accountable. The California measure required that grocery stores accept written statements from suppliers that the food item was GMO free. However, the grocery stores were the ones that would be sued under the measure. And they could be sued by ANYONE. A homeless man could walk in, peel the sticker off of a papaya (better than 90% of all papaya are GM) and file suit against the grocery store. That’s totally unfair.
Finally, the law has to be both accurate and specific. It needs to define what foods are to be labeled very, very specifically. It also needs to be correct in the science.
Let’s see if the Washington bill measures up.
(1) Polls consistently show that the vast majority of the public, typically more than ninety percent, wants to know if their food was produced using genetic engineering. Without disclosure, consumers of genetically engineered food unknowingly may violate their own dietary and religious restrictions.
Fair enough. People want it. That’s fine. But let’s do it correctly (at a minimum like I’ve outlined above).
(2) Currently, there is no federal or state law that requires food producers to identify whether foods were produced using genetic engineering. At the same time, the United States food and drug administration does not require safety studies of such foods. Unless these foods contain a known allergen, the United States food and drug administration does not require the developers of genetically engineered crops to consult with the agency. Consultations with the United States food and drug administration are entirely voluntary and the developers themselves may decide what information they may wish to provide.
Really? First of all, if the food contains a known allergen, then it is pulled from the market place. Indeed, the only example that I’m aware of is one food that was immediately pulled from the market place because of an allergen.Second, that’s a rather “misleading” statement that the FDA does not require safety studies of such food. I quote from the FDA website
Food and food ingredients derived from GE plants must adhere to the same safety requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act that apply to food and food ingredients derived from traditionally bred plants. (I added the link to the FD&C Act.)
Here’s a link to some more basic information as the actual law is quite lengthy (Wikipedia). All food is under the FDA thumb. The FDA has taken the position that GM food is basically the same as traditionally developed food and that the science is settled. GM crops are the same as traditional crops.
Indeed, the science supports this claim with thousands of studies none of which show any problems with GM food (as compared to traditionally developed food).
(3) Mandatory identification of foods produced with genetic engineering can provide a critical method for tracking the potential health effects of consuming foods produced through genetic engineering
I can’t wait to see if this law actually provides for the study that this tracking is supposed to accomplish. Somehow I doubt it. BTW: there are many, many multi-year studies of GM foods, none of which show any problems.
(4) Consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering. The genetic engineering of plants and animals is an imprecise process and often causes unintended consequences. Mixing plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature produces results that are not always predictable or controllable, and can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.
Again, a mixture of truth and wording to confuse the issue. Genetic engineering isn’t as precise as we would like… though it’s getting better. The implication is that producers are putting out plants that they have no control over.
Here’s a hint, producers don’t make seeds by hand to sell to farmers. They make thousands of plants with the required changes, in the hopes that one or two will have the desired trait. Then the clone the few plants that are correct and grow thousands of plants to get seeds. This is very simplified.
The difference between reality and what this part of the Washington bill claims is that the mistakes, the unknowns ARE NOT RELEASED TO THE WILD. No one wants random traits in crops. Farmers don’t want it, consumers don’t want it, and sure as anything the manufacturer doesn’t want it.
So far, this law reads like the tract of an anti-GMO organization. Truth, mixed with implication, mixed with something not quite a lie in order to frighten people into doing what they want.
(5) United States government scientists have stated that the artificial insertion of genetic material into plants, a technique unique to genetic engineering, can cause a variety of significant problems with plant foods. Such genetic engineering can increase the levels of known toxicants in foods and introduce new toxicants and health concerns.
Citation Needed!! I don’t see any US government organization stating that there are significant problems with GM foods. Indeed, the FDA says that they are the same as traditional foods. And the actual research backs them up on this… including environmental issues.
I’ll also add here that glycophosphate is among the best of the toxins we use to control weeds. Yes, it’s a toxin, but it only affects certain plants. Bt is the same way, yes, it’s a toxin, but it cannot affect non-insects… though there are concerns about butterflies.
(6) Forty-nine countries, including Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Russia, the European Union member states, and other key United States trading partners, have laws mandating disclosure of genetically engineered foods on food labels. Many countries have restrictions or bans against foods produced with genetic engineering.
Argument ad populum. To refute this argument, I will turn to the wisdom of my mother. “If everyone jumps off a bridge, will you do it to?”
This has nothing to do with anything. Other countries stone women who have been raped for sexual misconduct… should Washington do that too?
If one wishes to make an argument supporting the labeling of GM foods, then use arguments that support the labeling of GM foods. Once again, we get talking points from anti-GMO groups.
If there is evidence that all these other countries have, then present that. Just saying that other countries restrict or ban GM food is stupid.
One last point, the decision to restrict and ban GM food is a purely economic measure and has nothing to do with food safety.
(7) No international agreements prohibit the mandatory identification of foods produced through genetic engineering.
(8) Numerous foreign markets with restrictions against foods produced through genetic engineering have restricted imports of United States crops due to concerns about genetic engineering. Some foreign markets are choosing to purchase agricultural products from countries other than the United States because genetically engineered crops are not identified in the United States, making it impossible for buyers to distinguish what does or does not meet their national labeling laws or restrictions, rendering United States’ products less desirable. Trade losses are estimated at billions of dollars. Mandatory identification of foods produced with genetic engineering can be a critical method for preserving the economic value of exports to markets with restrictions and prohibitions against genetic engineering.
At last, an actual argument using economics. Of course that’s the entire point of the EU’s ban… to restrict imports and keep EU food independent. Read the link for number six.
(9) Industry data shows foods identified as produced without genetic engineering, including conventional foods identified this way, are the fastest growing label claim. Consumers have a right to an informed choice at the point of sale.
I’m going to ask a question at this point. Does the law require this for every single food item in the state of Washington, places like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, snack machines, farmer’s markets (which are not regulated by the FD&C Act), etc? If not, then the people are NOT getting an informed choice. They are getting told what to do through fear.
10) Farmers from a wheat growing region of the state have gathered more than two thousand six hundred signatures on a petition demanding mandatory disclosure for crops produced with genetic engineering. The farmers are concerned they will lose their wheat export markets if genetically engineered wheat is approved.
Why would they be worried about exporting wheat? First of all, the only wheat importer on the list of countries that have banned GMOs is China. All the others are also wheat exporters. The wheat importers are (the aforementioned) China, North Africa and the Middle East, East and SE Asia, and South America.
Again, if the farmers want to label it voluntarily and somehow ‘certify’ their crops as non-GMO, then that’s fine. Then they can sell to the countries that have banned GMOs. If not, there’s plenty of places that will buy their food.
Oh and GM wheat is not being grown commercially, though it has been tested. So what’s the problem again?
(11) Agriculture is Washington’s number one employer and wheat is Washington’s number two export crop, second only to goods and services produced by the Boeing company, and ahead of Microsoft, which ranks third.
And GM wheat still isn’t available commercially.
(12) Preserving the identity, quality, and reliability of Washington’s agricultural products is of prime importance to our state’s fiscal health.
If you really want to promote your state’s fiscal health, then you won’t restrict things that increase yield, prevent pests, and kill the weeds which destroy the crops. One estimate I recently read was that weeds in crops (worldwide) consume enough nutrients to feed an additional one billion people.
(13) The cultivation of genetically engineered crops can cause serious impacts to the environment. For example, most genetically engineered crops are designed to withstand weed killing herbicides. As a result, genetically engineered crops have caused hundreds of millions of pounds of additional herbicides to be applied to the nation’s farmland. The massive increase in use of these herbicides has caused emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds, which have infested farm fields and roadsides, complicating weed control for farmers and encouraging use of increasingly toxic and more dangerous herbicides. These toxic herbicides damage the vitality of the soil, contaminate drinking water supplies, and pose health risks to consumers and farmworkers. The public should have the choice to avoid purchasing foods produced in ways that can lead to such harm.
I really wonder if the author has talked to any actual farmers or scientists. This is a page straight out of the anti-GMO position and it’s so full of wrong information, it’s not even worth taking about. I’ll stick with ‘citation needed’ for now.
(14) United States department of agriculture data shows Washington state ranks second in the nation for organic farm gate sales at two hundred eighty-one million dollars per year. While total United States food sales are virtually stagnant, growing less than one percent overall, the organic food industry grew at 7.7 percent according to 2010 data. Sales of organic fruits and vegetables increased eleven and eight-tenths percent, accounting for approximately twelve percent of all United States’ fruit and vegetable sales. Organic dairy, another key industry in Washington state, grew at nine percent and comprises nearly six percent of the total United States dairy market. Organic farmers are prohibited from using genetically engineered seeds or livestock feed.
AH HA!!!! And here it is. This statement and the remaining to show the real motivation here.
If this law were about food safety of GM crops. Or herbicides or toxic compounds in the soil… then there is no place to talk about organic produce. But this law isn’t about that. It’s about market share for the organic crop industry, just like the California bill was.
(15) Trade industry data shows the organic industry is creating jobs at four times the national rate.
So what? Organic farming is much more labor intensive than conventional farming.
Let me add at this point, that I think that a labeling initiative should also require labels for the toxins and fertilizers used in organic farming. Yes, that’s right, there are plenty of herbicides, pesticides, and un-sourced feces used in the organic industry. Take theses USDA rules on synthetic chemicals allowed for organic produce.
Organic rules allow the use of copper-based pesticides for example. I sure as fuck want to know if that’s been sprayed on my tomatoes. Organic allowed chemicals are (in general) universally toxic. That means that they harm everything, not just a target species or group. They are (in general) extremely poor toxins, so a lot more has to be sprayed or used to be effective.
My conclusion is that organic crops are, in general, much more dangerous to the environment and people than any GM crop is.
(16) Published data shows organic farming is more profitable and economically secure than conventional farming over the long term. This important element of Washington’s economy must be protected.
Sure organic produce produces more income. It’s anywhere from twice to four times as expensive as traditional produce.
But I thought that this law was about the ‘right to choose’ and ‘informed consumers’ and ‘food safety’ issues… not “organic farming is more profitable and must be protected”.
This law deserves to fail on this issue alone.
(17) Conventional farmers have a right to choose what crops they grow and many conventional farmers want to grow traditional crops developed without genetic engineering. Identifying seeds and seed stock produced with genetic engineering would protect farmers’ rights to know what they are purchasing and protect their right to choose what they grow.
Let me just ask… what is preventing farmers from having the right to choose what they grow now and how does this law protect them?
(18) The purpose of this chapter is to ensure people are fully informed about whether the food they purchase and eat was produced through genetic engineering so they may choose for themselves whether to purchase and eat such food. Identifying foods produced through genetic engineering also will help protect our state’s export market
No, it’s not.
It is painfully obvious to anyone who actually reads the law that is not about food safety… it’s about organic food and market share.
I won’t detail the rest of the law, but once again, restaurants and delis get off without having to label food. It’s, just like the California bill, restricted to sellers of produce and meat.
So, again, this bill really does nothing to protect the consumer.
I will give them credit for making the enforcement and prosecution a state department process rather than anyone. But that’s about it.
Again, I’m fine with labels… provided that everything gets labeled… all the time. I mean everything, including organic produce with the chemicals used on it. I’d also insist on labels for farmer’s markets and any food, including restaurants. Just a simple, “We use only organic” or “we use some GM products” would be acceptable.
Then we’ll see what consumers actually choose. When people discover that almost all papaya, canola oil, and soybeans are GM and at least half of corn is too. That means that some 30,000 products on grocery store shelves potentially contain GM products. Anything with high fructose corn syrup will probably be from GM corn. Anything cooked in canola oil or containing soy will be (under this law) a GM food.
Unless you are vegan, it is almost impossible in the US to avoid GM products… and yet, we haven’t all been killed from it. Shocking.
The Washington state GM labeling law is most likely a disguised attempt to promote organic foods using government regulations by creating fear and distrust of GMOs and science.