The scientific debate over the risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is over; the science is settled. The problem is the anti-GMO movement is not based on science, but rather ideology — and ideology, at least for now, has trumped science.
Writing in the October issue of the Journal of Animal Science, in the most comprehensive study of GMOs ever conducted, University of California-Davis Department of Animal Science geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam reviewed nearly 30 years of livestock productivity and health data from both before and after the introduction of genetically engineered animal feed. What does the new science tell us? It says that GMOs are safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMOs.
Activists say GMOs are not adequately tested and harmful, but to do this they must either cherry pick the data from dubious sources or deny the science. There have been some 2,000 studies documenting that GMO science does not pose a risk to our health and GM foods are as safe as or safer than conventional or organic foods. Yet, the activists still sound the anti-GMO alarm. Their failure to consider the science when advocating policy betrays their misanthropic, anti-market agenda. Consider what environmentalist Paul Greenberg has said: “If we continue to bend the rules of nature so that we can provide more and more food for an open-ended expansion of humans on the planet, something eventually will have to give. Would you like to live in a world of 15 billion people? 20 billion? I would not.”
In the United States, the movement is advancing its cause through a death-by-a-thousand-cuts campaign to establish state-based GMO labeling. Joseph Mercola, an alternative-medicine advocate, has said, “GM foods must be banned entirely, but labeling is the most efficient way to achieve this.” Veteran activist and organizer Ronnie Cummins has called the EU’s labeling laws — coupled with pressure campaigns on supermarket chains — “the crucial blow to GMOs.”
You might think that environmentalists who make up the bulk of the anti-GMO movement would support GMO cultivation, with its greater yields and efficient use of farmland, as a great ecological victory. The key is that GMO science stands in the way of their Malthusian/anti-wealth ideology. More food produced on less land will only help to feed a larger and increasingly more affluent global population.
Over four dozen pieces of legislation have been introduced in nearly 30 states to require GMO labeling. Three states actually have labeling requirements on the books. These states and the others that will follow suit will end up disrupting the nation’s entire food chain, from farming to supply to retail. Americans will suffer with higher food prices and fewer choices, but for other parts of the world stuck in poverty, the impact will be a devastating loss of human life. The stakes are high.
The politics of GMOs need to catch up with the science. There is legislation that may be a good first step in doing just that. Introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), the bill would preempt state laws and create national standards for food labeling under the sole authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Putting the issue of labeling under FDA authority will take it out of the hands of the anti-GMO activists. This simple act could reset the national debate over GMOs.