Remind me again: Who wants GMO labeling?
Science surrendering to superstition, pro-GMO activist argues
by Mischa Popoff, Consumer Affairs, August 25, 2014
Organic activists claim 92% of consumers want genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) labeled. It turns out the overwhelming majority of consumers support the status quo when you don’t ask a misleading question like, “Do want toxic pesticides genetically spliced into your food?”
But still, activists insist that proponents of modern, science-based farming surrender and “Give consumers what they want!” Toss in superstar Neil Young who hates GMOs, combined with years of disinformation from organic diva Vandana Shiva who actually claims GMOs are causing a mass genocide, and pro-GMO executives are now poised to concede.
Biotechnology long ago gave consumers exactly what they wanted. After synthetic human insulin was genetically engineered to replace insulin from slaughtered pigs for people afflicted with diabetes, this field of science gave farmers the means to grow more food on less land with less fuel. And the overwhelming majority of farmers adopted GMO crops in every nation where they are not banned for political reasons.
What’s more, the introduction of GMOs was coincident with organic farmers gaining recognition from regulators. Thus began 20 years of peaceful “coexistence” between GMO and organic farmers.
Pure Food Campaign
But never mind the people who grow our food. Urban-based organic activists wanted GMOs banned! Realizing this was impossible at the time, a professional organic activist named Jeremy Rifkin founded The Pure Food Campaign to instead demand the labeling of genetically-modified foods. But with scant support from organic farmers and consumers, he succeeded only in excluding GMOs from America’s National Organic Program.
All Rifkin knew at the time was that Monsanto was developing GMOs, a company that he and his followers hated. They knew little of the science; less still where the science might go. And yet, in spite of President Clinton urging organic activists to allow GMOs on a case-by-case basis, they rejected this fledgling field of science outright.
With creative tax-sheltering, Rifkin’s movement morphed into The Organic Consumers Association, a group which today has even less to do with organic farmers than Rifkin’s group did. The director of the OCA, Ronnie Cummins, freely admits that labeling GMOs is not meant to provide consumers with free-market choice as so many claim, but rather to drive genetically engineered crops off the market, which was Rifkin’s goal as well.
And yet, pro-GMO executives will not challenge organic activists, instead conceding to demands for GMO labeling, along with baseless claims that GMOs contaminate organic crops, in spite of the fact there is no mention of this anywhere in America’s standards for organic production, standards which Rifkin and Cummins helped write!
This is America, land of the contingency-based hired-gun litigation lawyer. If GMOs actually contaminated organic crops, wouldn’t there have been a lawsuit or two by now? Hold that thought.
These high-paid executives at the helm of corporations like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta, along with executives from every farm bureau, commodity and industry group across the land, now seek to “engage” with members of the anti-GMO organic movement in the hope of finding -- wait for it -- a “consensus,” even though there has been nothing but consensus between GMO and organic farmers for well over 20 years now.
Meanwhile, organic activists who are perhaps too lazy to start their own businesses, waste your tax dollars harassing companies like Starbucks into serving only certified organic, non-GMO milk. Wouldn’t Starbucks do this on its own if its executives thought this was what their customers wanted?
Back in 1971, the founder of the American organic movement, Jerome Rodale, died during a recording of The Dick Cavett Show after declaring how wonderful his organic diet made him feel. You can’t make stuff like that up.
Fast forward to the present and millionaire organic activist Mike “The Health Ranger” Adams seeks to silence his opponents by listing us on a website called “Monsanto Collaborators,” where he perpetuates Vandana Shiva’s completely unfounded claims that hundreds of thousands of farmer suicides in India have resulted from GMO crops. People like us and FNC’s John Stossel are guilty, according to Adams, of mass genocide. Again, you can’t make stuff like this up.
It turns out the suicide rate among Indian farmers has actually gone down since GMOs were introduced. Yields and profits are up, and pesticide usage is down nearly 40% thanks to the adoption of GMO cotton by Indian farmers. Shiva and Adams won’t comment on these facts.
Clearly, the belligerence started by Rodale and Rifkin and carried on today by people like Cummins, Shiva and Adams, did not arise because GMO executives were too aggressive in pushing the scientific facts behind modern, science-based farming. To the contrary, Adams, Shiva and their ilk get away with making death-threats precisely because GMO executives are completely passive and conciliatory.
With Vermont passing the nation’s first “clean” GMO labeling law, and Oregon now home to the sixth ban on GMOs, these executives have decided – to a man – to give in by passing a national, voluntary GMO labeling law that concedes to the decades-old demand by organic activists that consumers need a warning label when it comes to consuming GMO foods. Try objecting and these GMO executives all say the same thing: “You just don’t understand how much pressure we’re under. We have no choice.”
And so, with no evidence to support any of their claims, organic activists are now poised to win it all. And remember what we said about the complete lack of lawsuits in America for GMO “contamination” of organic crops? According to both science and the law, GMOs cannot contaminate an organic crop. But GMO labeling will change this by creating, for the first time ever in America, a threshold limit for GMO content in food.
The science will remain unchanged; GMOs have never caused any harm to anyone or anything. But this labeling law will open the door to activist organic farmers who will claim their crops no longer qualify as GMO-free and hence can no longer be certified as organic. Lawsuits will ensue; of that you can be assured. But not against any pro-GMO executives; against American farmers who grow GMO crops.
No threat to health
GMOs are identical to non-GMO crops on the process level. This has been properly and scientifically proven and nobody has ever contradicted this. Meanwhile, organic sprouts caused a lethal E. coli outbreak in Northern Germany in 2011 that resulted in 53 deaths and over 100 people requiring a donor kidney or dialysis for the rest of their lives.
What’s more, GMO executives are well aware that GMOs pose no threat whatsoever to human health, the environment or to organic crops, but they have decided it would be too “mean spirited” to actually say so openly. And no, we did not make that up. Self-preservation is now their only goal. They’re taking the Fifth, confirming charges by organic activists like Rifkin, Cummins, Shiva and Adams that GMO executives are indeed guilty of something, and that GMOs may indeed cause harm.
We might as well cave in to leftwing political correctness and start saying we were attacked on 9-11 by a group of disgruntled young men of Middle Eastern background instead of by radical Islamic terrorists. No, not average Muslims. Everyone gets the distinction in that case.
Likewise, America’s leadership role in feeding the world is not under attack from organic farmers or consumers. They’re not the ones who want GMOs labeled or banned. Modern farming is being attacked by organic activists… tax-funded, urban organic activists. People who do not, and in many cases have never worked on a farm, let alone run one.
And these activists are now being aided and abetted by GMO executives who have made a business decision, not a humanitarian or agronomic decision, to concede valuable ground to their opposition.
Leadership role lost
It’s time we made a distinction here and stood up to all of these self-serving individuals. Not by attacking them personally as activists do to us, nor by mollifying them as GMO executives are doing. By standing up to them with the facts. Every time, no matter what.
Failing that, America’s leadership role in farming will be lost and we’ll look like Europe within a decade.
This article was written collaboratively by Mischa Popoff, former USDA-contract organic inspector and Dr. Jay Lehr, Science Director at The Heartland Institute, with contributions from Dr. Klaus Ammann, Former Director of the Botanical Garden at the University of Bern, Switzerland.