Scientific American: Labels for GMO foods are a bad idea
Scientific American has made a statement denouncing the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food in response to pending GMO-labelling legislation in nearly half of the US states. Citing concerns over the repercussions of arbitrary labelling — including negating the benefits GMOs have provided to people in developing countries, in addition to unpredictably raising the cost of food domestically — the organisation believes that labelling based on unfounded fears will shun an increasingly beneficial and promising technology that is widely considered safe.
This past June, Connecticut and Maine became the first states to pass bills requiring labels on all foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In November 2012 California voters rejected the similar Proposition 37 by a narrow majority of 51.4 percent.
“All we want is a simple label/For the food that’s on our table,” chanted marchers before the elections. The issue, however, is in no way simple.
We have been tinkering with our food’s DNA since the dawn of agriculture. By selectively breeding plants and animals with the most desirable traits, our predecessors transformed organisms’ genomes, turning a scraggly grass into plump-kerneled corn, for example. For the past 20 years Americans have been eating plants in which scientists have used modern tools to insert a gene here or tweak a gene there, helping the crops tolerate drought and resist herbicides. Around 70 percent of processed foods in the U.S. contain genetically modified ingredients.
For the past 20 years Americans have been eating plants in which scientists have used modern tools to insert a gene here or tweak a gene there, helping the crops tolerate drought and resist herbicides. Around 70 percent of processed foods in the US contain genetically modified ingredients.
Instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people’s health. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques — which swap giant chunks of DNA between one plant and another — genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, is less likely to produce an unexpected result.
The US Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not.
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