Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Should G.M.O crops be labeled as such?

Bittman makes the case. Much to Anna's chagrin, I tend to think that G.M.O.'s (genetically modified organisms) are likely to be a more serious answer to the environmental degradation caused by food production than the idea of completely abandoning economies of scale and relying solely on locally sourced food. It's a source of contention in our otherwise harmonious view on food policy. Obviously there are many people like her, who would never ever dream of buying a G.M.O... this is one of the reasons they shop organic after all... and stores like Whole Foods have ably moved in to serve this market niche. So it's hard for me to believe they will threaten their position here by trying to pass off a G.M.O. salmon as anything other than what it is. It just wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. If, on the other hand, you're worried about G.M.O. alfalfa cross-contamination you need to have a rebuttal to James McWilliams, since he brings data suggesting the risk is very, very low. Regardless, the designation "organic" comes with the promise that no more than 5% is G.M.O., so as long as you stick to that you shouldn't have any trouble avoiding it.

All that said, Americans clearly want G.M.O.'s to be labeled, and I don't really see a compelling reason not to do it. It's a perverse sense of paternalism that protects corporations from the image problems of their products. It may be that all the concerns raised by opponents are invalid, but it seems to me that the purpose of labeling is to let people make that choice on their own.