I’m not going to make any claims here that GMO foods are dangerous. Maybe you believe they are, maybe you don’t. That’s basically the point behind efforts to label foods that contain GMO, isn’t it? We’re supposed to have faith in the ability of free markets to reach sound conclusions. (If not, we’re all doomed.) At least in theory en masse we generally get it right.
Some companies, though, seem to chafe at the bit at the bit when it comes to revealing information about what’s actually in their foods. So many “secret” ingredients and the like. So many euphemisms like “natural flavors” to avoid a detailed accounting of what’s really in there. (And happily stamped “OK” by Uncle Sam, too.)
But without information what possible decision-making can take place? I submit that a free market can’t reach those legendary conclusions in a void of data. Without the ability to weigh facts, the market must simply go where it is led by the powerful few in the know. As a general rule other people making decisions on your behalf don’t turn out all that well.
1913: 100% of corn was farmer owned. By 2013 approx. 95% was owned by corporations.
–A statistic I found all over the Internet which may or may not be real
Today, without attempting to examine real and/or imagined ills that may or may not be associated with GMO, I wish to look at a single debate point offered by those who oppose labeling. What GMO means to you should be something you investigate for yourself. See if you can, somehow, sort through all the noise and determine your own level of comfort.
I look at it like this? If given the choice of no food and dying of starvation or nom nom on some GMO most of us would probably choose the latter and take our chances. Is that the issue in a nutshell? As Earth converts farmland to condominiums and strip malls and the population continues to increase no doubt one day we’ll all be facing a question like that. (And insects. Don’t forget the edibility of insects.)
So, here in Oregon, a lot of us signed a petition and Measure 92 qualified for the ballot. It’s a measure that Oregon voters will decide this November. The aim of the measure is to mandate labeling of GMOs in food.
Naturally, now we’re being subjected to a horrifying barrage of television ads both for and against. One of the arguments against the measure kind of stuck in my craw. Let’s take a look.
A television advertisement begins with an Oregon farmer. This is one of the people who produce foods I like to eat. Oh, hell. I like him already. “Farmer Matt” is against Measure 92. Why? Because it’s “complex” and “costly” and would create “regulations that don’t exist in any other state.”
I guess ambiguous terms like “complex” and “costly” are open for debate. However, I did read in The Oregonian the other day that the estimated cost to consumers if Measure 92 became law would be a “median cost to consumers” of $2.30 a year. That’s less than a penny a day. Since I eat food most every day this seems like a pretty negligible amount in the name of information. This, of course, is a statement of opinion. Is the information itself worth this cost? Again, that’s something we all get to decide for ourselves.
What about that last bit, though? What does it logically mean that the regulations wouldn’t exist in “any other state.” Wow!! Does that sound ominous or what?
But stop and think about it for a moment. Every single law that has ever existed had to have a first time. It’s a logical fallacy to suggest that the measure is faulty based on that fact alone. Someone has to be first. The fact that someone might be actually proves nothing.
What if the standard was that no state could enact GMO labeling laws until some other state already did it first? It should be obvious, then, that no state ever could. And that’s the bullshit fallacy of this argument. I’d actually be offended they have the audacity to float something so patently fallacious if I wasn’t so sure it would be effective on the weak-minded.
There’s a lot of legitimate room for debate in a complex issue like GMO labeling. But it’s sad that a win-at-all-costs mentality means the debate will be clouded by bullshit fallacies like this one.
FYI: A 2013 New York Times poll found that 93% of respondents favored the identification of GMO ingredients.