September 20, 2013
What the public doesn’t know won’t hurt them.
At least, that’s the thinking behind the Scientific American’s recent editorial, “Labels for GMO Food Are a Bad Idea.” It argues, “Instead of providing people with useful information, mandatory GMO labels would only intensify the misconception that so-called Frankenfoods endanger people’s health.”
For the Scientific American, this would only increase consumer costs, declaring that “such labels have limited people’s options” in Europe, where it concedes that companies dropped GM ingredients after consumers avoided them, bemoaning that “today it is virtually impossible to find GMOs in European supermarkets.”
Public health lawyer Michele Simon, one of several critics who spoke out against the “unscientific” editorial, noted the “familiar ring” to positions used by GM seed corporations when opposing Prop 37, which would have mandated labeling in California.
“It reads like the biotech industry handed Scientific American its talking points,” Simon told the NY Daily News.
Stacy Malkan, former director of the Yes on 37 campaign, zeroed in on the claim that labeling GMO ingredients would increase the costs for families by $400 per year, noting that it was based on a study favored by biotech and later debunked by a University of California at Davis study. Nevertheless, the Scientific American spreads worries that proper labeling requirements would force the more than 70% of foods produced with GM ingredients off the shelves, and as a result, “we would all have to pay a premium on non-GMO foods.”
Astoundingly, the Scientific American reassures the public by pronouncing that the FDA has tested ‘all the GMO varieties on the market’ and subsequently found them to be free of allergenic and toxic effects, a contention that Stacy Malkan called “sloppy and unscientific.”
“Saying the FDA has tested all the GMOs on the market is patently false. Each individual company is responsible for testing its own products, and they then decide if they want to voluntarily report it to FDA. But they aren’t required to test or report,” Malkan said.
Ironically, Scientific American itself warned in 2009, “Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.”
The magazine’s editors even noted at the time how the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred have even threatened litigation for using their GM seeds in unauthorized studies, essentially chilling independent researchers, making industry-sponsored research oftentimes the only available information on a product’s efficacy and safety.
Independent studies that have been conducted on genetically modified foods – rather than by obviously self-interested biotech firms – have indicated numerous health risks, including sterility, low birth weight, undersized organs, unusual growth in intestinal cell walls and more. The Institute for Responsible Technology identified 65 key concerns over GM foods based upon the research. In just one illustrative example, Russian scientist Irina Ermakova found that more than half of the offspring from rats fed GM soy died within three weeks in a peer reviewed study. While the ultimate effects on humans remains unstudied, there is obviously a need for further research and clear labeling to indicate which foods contain genetically modified ingredients.
Scientific American concludes by arguing: “Such debates are about so much more than slapping ostensibly simple labels on our food to satisfy a segment of American consumers. Ultimately, we are deciding whether we will continue to develop an immensely beneficial technology or shun it based on unfounded fears.”
Yet many countries have instituted moratoriums on GM crops or ordered to allow time for long term studies to be conducted. It is only on account of the powerful biotech and pharmaceutical lobbies that this has not been considered – and likely will not be considered – in the United States.
Sources for this article include: