One thing cooks shouldn’t worry about this Thanksgiving

J. Justin Wilson Senior Research Analyst, Center for Consumer Freedom
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Few tasks in the world of home cookery are as daunting as preparing the Thanksgiving meal: Multiple courses, side dishes, and the multi-hour process of perfectly roasting that turkey — let alone finding enough room in the oven and refrigerator. With so many things that can go wrong, it’s always a small miracle when mom, dad, or grandma pulls it off.

The last thing an already stressed-out cook needs is another thing to worry about. Unfortunately, ideological activists are trying their hardest this holiday season to add to the stress and worry from the grocery store to the table.

To use just one example, organic food promoters like the Non-GMO Project and the Organic Consumers Association are warning shoppers about nonexistent risks to get consumers to pay more for organic or “Non-GMO certified” sugar, pie tins, and turkey. These activist groups are pushing hard for a political element in the Thanksgiving feast.

Fortunately for harried holiday home cooks, the organic fear-mongers don’t have a drumstick to stand on. Reputable scientists’ assessments of the evidence find that crops improved with biotechnology (the organic crowd’s biggest bogeyman) are perfectly safe. The World Health Organization’s position is that “no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of [biotechnologically improved] foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science has reached a similar conclusion, as has Britain’s Royal Society.

In fact, many of the activists’ so-called “GMO foods” aren’t. There is no such thing as a genetically modified turkey. Instead of conjuring images of turkeys with ten legs and seven heads, activists are actually objecting to the use of improved corn as feed.

These improvements operate on scientific principles similar to those in the haphazard process of selective breeding that humans have employed for over 10,000 years. Modern scientific biotechnology allows these improvements to develop in a matter of years rather than over centuries. The improved crops that result allow farmers to grow crops more resistant to drought, to use fewer pesticides, and to increase yields. Abroad, genetically improved crops may provide a means to reduce nutrition deficiencies as crops like Vitamin A-producing Golden Rice come to market.

However, the groups that are trying to scare home cooks are powerful and motivated. Some, such as Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, are key players in the $30 billion organic food and products industries. Dr. Bronner’s spent $2.2 million this year in Washington State to require labeling of some foods produced using genetically improved crops. Restaurant foods, alcoholic drinks, and meat would have been exempt.

These and other exemptions led many to question whether the labeling campaign was an authentic effort to improve the state’s health or an attempt to force the state to advertise against non-organic foods. Organic program rules forbid using improved crops, yet scientific studies have found little nutritional difference between organic and non-organic foods.

Campaigns to label GMOs are, as one Seattle Times reporter noted, little more than efforts by organic food interests to place labels on their competition. It’s the worst kind of government cronyism dressed up in flowery rhetoric about a “right to know” that hides the scaremongering and organic industry profiteering. So ignore the hype, take a deep breath, and enjoy that dinner that you’ve more than earned.

J. Justin Wilson is a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.

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J. Justin Wilson