A couple of weeks ago I was deeply disappointed to read that the USDA might get involved in an aspect of “non-GMO food labeling.” The marketing of non-GMO food is an opportunistic, fear-based phenomenon – not something worthy of aid from a science-oriented agency like USDA. Also, if the goal is to allow consumers “know more about their food,” then why not transmit knowledge with context and perspective that would diminish, rather than promote, superstition? Printing was state-of-the-art in 1435. We can do better in the 21st century!
Superstition?It may seem extreme for me to declare that the fear of GMO foods is a superstition, but consider the history of this phenomenon. For two decades, the opponents of crop genetic engineering have promoted the idea that transgenics, a particular means of genetic modification, is something sinister and frightening. Their arguments are typically accompanied by emotive images such as hypodermic needles full of colored liquids protruding from ripe fruits and vegetables. Such images bear absolutely no connection to the actual process of plant genetic engineering.
|Examples of what crops looked like before humans began the process of genetically modifying them|
(From Genetic Literacy Project)
These websites don’t communicate the fact that virtually all crops have been “genetically modified” in many ways for centuries and that transgenics have been the most carefully introduced and independently tested of all.
|Wikipedia example of a scan code|
A Suggested Role For USDA
"When you're afraid of things you don't understand, and you pay more... superstition ain't the way."