Energy & Environment

Why labeling of GMOs is actually bad for people and the environment

David Zilberman

On November 6th, California voters will be asked to vote on a proposition about labeling of genetically modified (GM) products. On the surface this seems quite reasonable: people should have information about what they consume. In my view, labeling requirements are appropriate when there is undisputed scientific evidence that a food component is damaging, which, for example, is the reason for warning labels on cigarettes. But with GMOs this is not the case. For example, a recent NRC report states that GMOs are as safe if not more safe than conventional food which is also consistent with most of the published research.

Many of the fruits and vegetables we eat are already modified as they have been generated through techniques such as selective breeding and hybridization of crops among others. The discovery of DNA and advances in modern molecular biology allow us to develop more refined and precise crop breeding techniques where we slightly modify existing varieties by adding a specific trait. Obviously, genetic engineering is in its infancy, and has already led to major developments in medicine. Even though it has been underutilized in agriculture, existing GMOs have had significant impact. The most popular traits address pest control (Bt varieties) and tolerance to herbicides (Round-up ready varieties). These traits have been adopted with corn and soybeans in the US, Brazil, and Argentina among others and also in cotton in India, China, and some developing countries. Studies show that GM varieties of cotton and corn in developing countries increased in per acre yield by more than 50%, and GMOs contributed significantly to the more than doubling of the production of soybeans.

The importance of GMOs has to be viewed within a global context. Population and income growth have led to increased demand for food and especially meat. Meat production is feed intensive. This and the introduction of biofuel has resulted in increased prices of agricultural commodities. When food becomes scarce (and expensive), it is the global poor that suffers most. Our calculations suggest that the magnitude of the impact of GMOs on reducing food commodity prices was the same or even bigger than biofuels had on increases of these prices (15-30% reduction in the price of corn and soybeans overall). Furthermore, the prices of cotton did not rise with the prices of other commodities in 2008 due to increased supply from the adoption of GMOs. If African nations and Europe would have adopted GMOs, current prices of food would have decreased significantly, and much of the suffering associated with the food shortages could have been avoided. Thus even in its early stages GMOs have made significant contributions to reducing food shortages and saving lives.

Adoption of GMOs is not only good for food commodity prices and the well being of the poor, it is also good for the environment. Adoption of herbicide tolerant varieties enabled transition to minimal tillage techniques, which reduced the GHG effect of agriculture equivalent to hundreds of thousands of cars annually. GMOs make it possible to produce food on less land, reducing the incentive of converting wild land into agricultural land. There is evidence that by replacing toxic chemicals in India and China, adoption of GMOs directly saved many lives. Reduction of exposure to pesticides and the resulting health effects has been a major cause for adoption in the US.

But what about Monsanto? This company has a monopoly on crucial patents and has made a lot of money from GMOs. This is undisputed. However, studies show that the economic gain from GMOs was divided between consumers, farmers, and seed manufacturers without anyone gaining the lion’s share. Apple also makes a lot of money and no one complains. Of course there is room for increasing access to intellectual property, especially products that are of value to the poor, but labeling GMOs is not the optimal way to achieve this goal.

Now, what about emergence of resistance to GMOs? This is an unavoidable consequence because of evolution. This means that we need to have continuous research in the life sciences to find solutions for potential problems. I believe sustainability is different than Nirvana; we cannot find final solutions that do not give rise to new problems. GMO is a technology that allows us to better adapt to new diseases and climate change. Genetic tools will improve our adaptive capacities to climate change.

The public is divided among individuals who believe that GMOs are bad, others who think they are valuable, and many who are basically indifferent. The last group may not see the damage of requiring labeling of GMOs since they do not see the big loss. However, labels make a difference. A labeling requirement creates a stigma effect that will reduce the demand for GM products and may reduce investment in new GM traits. The net effect will be to slow the development of agricultural biotechnology, and this in turn may negatively affect health, the economy, and the environment. It is actually counter-productive to the many environmental and social goals that we cherish. Therefore, labeling of GMOs will be a step in the wrong direction.

Bookmark and Share
Comments to "Why labeling of GMOs is actually bad for people and the environment":
    • Sean Baker

      Someone above actually compared labeling GMO’s to ‘labeling’ of Jews by the Nazi’s with a Star of David..

      With that kind of proponent…wow..loss for words..I’ll just stop. Except to say..
      Just Label It.
      It will happen, they’ll lose market share, they’ll be phased out..we’ll move on..

      [Report abuse]

    • Nancy

      Anything in its infancy needs to be thoroughly tested to assure the safety of it to the general population — and GMO’s have not gone through the necessary testing for that safety assurance. Any food that needs to have tons of herbicides and pesticides sprayed all over it in order to grow is not healthy for anyone, including the environment, and we need to rethink the quality of our food.

      Whenever someone takes to bullying others into doing things their way, you can be assured that their way is not for the good of all the people — and Monsanto and others have become very mean at bullying farmers and government officials alike, against the will of the people.

      We who would like to stay healthy with the food we eat need to have labeling of the foods for those ingredients that we do not wish to put into our bodies — it is our right to have this, and their responsibility to do it — unless, of course, there are reasons they do not want us to know the whole truth. If it’s so good for us, why do they need to hide and lie about parts of their product?!

      [Report abuse]

    • tradrmum

      You mean like the way ALL our food was extensively tested for safety & NEVER sprayed with a thing for the hundred odd years of non-laboratory genetic modification programs that we had before we developed the technology to actually better control the outcomes of our breeding programs?

      It astounds me that people think a change in technology from intermingling ENTIRE dna sequences in order to target one specific genetic trait (like I dunno, pest resistance – which actually appeared in plants bred through conventional crossing BEFORE we could transfer it at will! Sheesh!) is safer than changing one (or a small portion of) gene’s at a time.

      I prescribe elementary evolution & the history of agriculture for all of you.

      [Report abuse]

    • Bernie

      I’ve decided to address some of the wrongheaded information in these comments. Warning, these links may go to actual science.

      “What are GMO foods trying to hide by not being labelled?”

      Why is the organic industry lobbying against random field testing on their crops to insure they are following proper procedures? What do *they* have to hide?

      “On the medical front they are finding the bt pesticides in human blood tests”

      False claims that GM protein Bt is present in mothers’ blood and foetus tissues are based on incompetent chemical analysis. http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/2012/05/false-claims-that-gm-protein-bt-is.html

      “Do you REALLY think that using natural methods of producing new cultivars is equivalent to adding genetic material from ANIMALS into plants? This is IMPOSSIBLE in the natural world.”

      The reason they can splice animal genes into plants is because the process they are trying to help is similar in both plants and animals.”…the most interesting thing is that plants and animals have a lot of similarity in this pathway of programmed cell death. If they didn’t then these animal genes would not function in plants like they do. So I think that’s the most significant thing.” http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?type=article&article_id=218392477

      “By making plants herbicide (Roundup Ready) resistant we now have a situation where even more toxic chemicals are being used than were previously.”

      The idea behind it is so farmers have to LESS chemicals, not more.

      “The pollen from Bt corn kills caterpillars indiscriminately and it is carried for miles by the wind.”

      First, corn pollen is heavy and only carries a few hundred feet at most. My source? The fact sheet for Ohio University’s Horticulture and Crop Sciences. It says “at a distance of 200 feet from a source of pollen, the concentration of pollen averaged only 1% compared with the pollen samples collected about 3 feet from the pollen source The number of outcrosses is reduced in half at a distance of 12 feet from a pollen source, and at a distance of 40 to 50 feet, the number of outcrosses is reduced by 99%.

      Second, “This 2-year study suggests that the impact of Bt corn pollen from current commercial hybrids on monarch butterfly populations is negligible.” http://www.pnas.org/content/98/21/11937.full

      [Report abuse]

    • David

      Hey perhaps GMO crop are harmless to the consumer. Unfortunately there are so many other negative effects associated with the insistent uptake of this technology. The wider implications are ignored and refuted constantly. The companies behind the push can not be trusted. This is a simple matter of history. What they have done before indicates that the common social good is not on their agenda. Also like an iceburg only a very small percentage of their agenda is visible. The deception is endemic within such operations.
      It’s all quite sad.

      [Report abuse]

    • Gorrila Back with gravy

      Who you are trying to kid? The food system is corrupt in America. Only those who care about profits instead of people’s health will support your article.

      GMO’s only deliver extra poisons and health issues. The wartime chemical companies are the ones who have been literally feeding us lies and deception because there is no label to identify GMOs. An illusion is the only thing that can be offered.

      [Report abuse]

    • Mark

      If there are no health risks to eating GMO food, then Monsanto has nothing to worry about, do they? They know as well as we do that eating GMO food is not at all health and in most cases very dangerous. Europe labels all their GMO infested products and they seem to be doing fine. In fact they are much healthier than Americans on average. God bless California for getting this on the ballot. God be with you in getting it passed.

      [Report abuse]

    • Emily Dale

      I understand from a news article a couple of months ago that in Monsanto’s own lunchrooms, genetically-modified foods are not served. If this is correct, why the duplicity?

      [Report abuse]

    • Angel

      Anything that has Genetically Modified in the title should be labeled…period. The human body needs only the naturally growing food used to fuel that body. The food that all bodies need, and I mean ALL bodies (human, animal, plant, mineral) is created for us all, perfectly designed for the bodies we inhabit and makes those bodies perform perfectly in this reality, by our very own Mother Earth. She knows what we need and humans cannot, in their infantile state, know what is healthy for a body. It’s really quite a miracle that we are able to utilize this planet for sustenance and that what we ingest is exactly what we need to be healthy and in balance. GMOs are profit-driven creations…period.

      [Report abuse]

    • pyst

      Articles like this one are a first step in the disinformation that monsanto will put out against the california labeling proposition. The intention is to gather up a spectrum of comments which are adversarial and then ramp up a propaganda campaign prior to the election targeting our concerns.

      I live in oxnard, calif and monsanto has bought out seminis and taken over their building. I don’t know if gmo crops are being planted here. As with all vampires who suck the blood of the living, they fear the light.

      [Report abuse]

    • whiteyward

      When vitamins were invented the corporations told us the soil was depleted, vegetables no longer have all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Today the GMO monster is telling us the weeds need us to improve the crops. The scams continue and the people never see a thing!

      [Report abuse]

    • MadCow

      Labeling GMOs would be bad for GMOs, since I wouldn’t buy them, and others I know wouldn’t either, so I understand why that may be a problem for GMOs in food being labeled, just for that reason. It’s not my problem though. I buy local organically grown food whenever possible, and that is my response to GMOs in the first place. I don’t want chemicals in my food either.

      [Report abuse]

    • Tony Osborne

      Mr Zilberman, I have commented before, so I apologise for a repeated submission.

      You’ve seen so far 97 comments. If that represents a fair balance of opinion, why can you not get the message? GM is not wanted. GM is not needed. GM is an abomination – unless there is financial or political gain.

      If you go on to suggest that we are all so ignorant of this ‘wonderful science’ that that the only way forward is to force it on us, or just let it creep upon us, you might, presumably, have some sympathy with the Jewish Prophet,around 2000 years ago, about whom it was written: And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

      So, by your reasoning, the Crusades might be deemed appropriate.

      Think about it!

      [Report abuse]

    • mike

      This is almost the first time I have seen anyone talk logically with sense about this issue. There is a crazy witch hunt on Gm crops and there is no one arguing back.

      There are studies clearly showing that suicides have not increased in India due to GM crops. The contrary is a false story and fiction made up and perpetuated on the internet.

      It is scary that probably a majority of the Berkeley students think that a lot of these stories are true. Hint hint that is why you have learned professors to teach you. Everyone knows that teenagers think they know it all by 15 years of age and it looks like these false stories help keep the myths going. Its almost religious belief system that Gm crops and Monsanto are evil and they hurt farmers but why do their products keep selling again and again? because these things work. Its a market economy with over 100 seed companies for farmers to choose from but 90% of corn, cotton and soy is gm. Think about why that is?

      [Report abuse]

    • Emily Dale

      Why do GM products keep selling over and over? 1) seeds are sterile and must be repurchased annually, and 2)because more and more Roundup has to be used as weeds develop immunity to it. I believe yours is the almost-religious belief system, and I really pity you in 10 or so years when your health succumbs to the contamination of consuming genetically-modified products.

      [Report abuse]

    • milo

      Why does Monsanto et all profit? Their products are SUBSIDIZED by taxpayer dollars. If anyone was paying the real cost of GMO products, they wouldn’t sell as well, regardless of safety or politics.
      As of 2004, a bushel of Bt corn cost about $3.30 to produce but because of tax-funded agricultural subsidies, the market cost of Bt corn was only about $1.60. If Bt corn wasn’t artificially cheap on the taxpayer’s dime, we would be using non-GMO corn varieties that have developed natural resistances to pests and disease.

      [Report abuse]

    • Cal MCB '02

      The commentary here demonstrates abject ignorance on the matter of genetic modification. My god, so many of you are dumb.

      Hate corporate food all you want, but the practice of genetic modification is not inherently dangerous. Selectively bred heirloom produce is genetically modified. It’s just a slower, less controlled practice than the modifications you fear so much.

      [Report abuse]

    • GMOFREEUSA

      You speak from ignorance. Genetically modified foods have been transgenically modified. This means that the gene from one unrelated species is forced into the DNA of another. There is NO POSSIBLE WAY for this to occur in nature. This has absolutely nothing to do with, and is unrelated to selective breeding where plants with positive traits are selected and grown naturally.

      When you transgenically modify an organism, there are unrelated and unexpected consequences due to damage to DNA that occurs during this process. A study on GMO soy where hamsters were fed strictly a gmo soy diet found the hamsters sterile by the third generation and the hamsters grew hair in their mouths in the pouches around their teeth.

      This is about FREEDOM of CHOICE, a basic right in a DEMOCRATIC NATION. Hello? Last I checked, we are still a democracy and we have the right to know what’s in our food, and the freedom to choose to eat GMOs OR NOT. Please, by all means, find a local farmer growing GMO sweet corn and EAT UP! That’s your choice. The rest of us… we have the right to choose conventional foods. I choose not eat corn which is regulated by the EPA as a pesticide because it makes its own, and has its own pesticide registration number. If the EPA had jurisdiction over our food, it would be labeled with that pesticide registration number, just the same way imidicloprid and RoundUp are. I wouldn’t put those on my corn flakes either.

      [Report abuse]

    • Jonik

      The GMO industries have gazillions of dollars to spend on educating the public about the glories of GMO…but, clearly, they know that all the high-priced PR on earth cannot convince the public to trust those industries.

      Also….GMO labels are not just important in regards to the healtfulness or nutrition of the food…it’s also about the public having a choice to patronize or not patronize a business based on any number of other reasons…like about farming problems, the patented seed and terminator seed horrors, etc…and even the politics of the business.
      Remember that the Coors Beer mass boycott wasn’t about the quality of the beer but about Coors being a big Right Wing, Reagan, Oliver North, etc., supporter.

      [Report abuse]

    • Faith

      If GMOs are good, why resist putting it on the label? Why be ashamed of something that’s good? Why did the corporate giants think they had to sneak GMOs into our food?

      Why don’t you stand up to the corporate giants and tell us the truth, Professor?

      [Report abuse]

    • Nanci Batson

      it’s hard to believe that a man of your intelligence would write such rubbish much less believe it. Please educate yourself on how these GMO crops are damaging our food supply by contaminating organic crops through cross pollination. it’s already almost impossible to grow organic corn or alfalfa because of cross pollination with GMO crops and that makes it difficult to raise organic livestock. And there is no mention in your writing about the super weeds that are infesting the farmland in the US where these GMO crops are planted. Shame on you for saying that GMO crops are helping anyone. Monsanto is strong arming farmers in third world countries and financially destroying them – a grade school child can google this topic and dispute what you are claiming. Monsanto doesn’t want GMOs on labels because they don’t want the general public to know how toxic GMOs are. Of couse no one will want to consume them – game over for GMOs. And BTW it’s silly to compare how people perceive Apple’s profits VS Monsanto’s profits – Apple isn’t literaly shoving computers down our throats.

      [Report abuse]

    • David Barouh

      Mr. Zilberman uses phrases like “studies show” to talk about how safe and beneficial GMO’s are — a sure sign of someone who is talking through their hat. Which studies are those, Mr. Zilberman? And WHOSE studies are those? Are they the industry’s studies? Or don’t you think that should matter? You talk about an NRC report concluding GMO’s are “as safe if not more safe than conventional food which is also consistent with most of the published research.” Since when does a scholar throw around initials without identifying them? And of course, what studies, and whose studies, is this report consistent with? Talk is cheap. How about some references?

      [Report abuse]

    • pam ronald

      This is a very balanced and knowledge-based post. Thank you for bringing some science to this hot topic.

      One small point. You indicate “Now, what about emergence of resistance to GMOs?”

      Actually, the resistance is to the herbicide that is sprayed on the GMO. The more people plant HT crops, the more likely they are to spray the herbicide glyphosate (Classified as “non-toxic” by the EPA). Too much of any herbicide increases the selection for resistance weeds. This can be a problem because if farmers start to observe too many weeds in their field that are resistant to glyphosate, they may return to more toxic chemicals such as atrazine.

      Still, the solution is not to ban all GMOs (many of which do not even contain the HT trait). The more sensible approach is to integrate GE crops into an integrated weed management system. Or if consumers really hate herbicides then they can buy organic produce. The organic approach to weed control also has problems. It is backbreaking work for poorly paid farmworkers and the organic farmer must pass his/her tractor through the field much more often to keep the weeds down. This disturbs the soil and contributes to carbon dioxide emissions.

      [Report abuse]

    • milo

      Your ideas about weed control are outstanding. I would still prefer to eat organic produce and find solutions to the issues there that you mention, but I thought you should be congratulated for having such a rational idea.

      [Report abuse]

    • Myles

      Great article, spot on. Its shocking how misinformed so many of the comments in this thread are. To those of you commenting – please actually read articles and reviews on these technologies instead of just repeating the propaganda you seem to be. This is as bad as climate science deniers… its shocking to see so many people willing to disregard science entirely.

      In terms of the “right to know” about GMOs – I agree you have a point, information is good. But labelling (as it is being proposed) is simply misleading. A clear example of why labelling of things can be bad, take the use of the star of david being used to label Jewish people in Nazi Germany. Clearly, not all labelling is good labelling – and unless we develop a labelling system which informs and doesn’t spread misinformation, its not something which will be good for society.

      [Report abuse]

    • Graham

      GE-free food is already labelled- it’s called “organic”. Most anti-GE folk don’t seem to know anything about it, or indeed about agriculture- the commentators here seem unaware that many of our current vegetable varieties are “bred” through a process called mutagenesis, which uses radiation to produce random mutations- this process is accepted under organic standards, but is arguably more risky than GE; it is also not true of course that GE is “inadequately tested”- in fact it is far more rigorously tested than other plant breeding varieties, which are just as likely to produce new varieties with toxic or unwelcome side-effects.
      Good article by Pamela Ronald here is worth reading:
      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/08/11/genetically-engineered-crops/

      [Report abuse]

    • Nelly

      Like other people have said, it is our rigjt to know what we are consuming. I don’t understand why people like you are saying a genetically modified irganism has no negative effect on our health. It makes common sense that a genetically altered whatever is not natural. It is not the way mother nature intended it to be, therefore nothing good would come out of this. Now people out there that do not mind eating gmos would also have the right to purchase these, we want the same right to have a say on what we want to consume. It is our constitutional right to eat whatever the heck we want. Please dont take this right away.

      [Report abuse]

    • non insane economist

      the argument rests solely on that people will adversely change their buying habits if food is labeled as a GMO, but your reasoning entails that there is no bad or harmful affect of consuming or growing GMO’s. if this is really true, then there should be no real change in consumption habits if labeled accordingly. simply put, the market will absorb the information and work itself out. since you don’t agree with this argument, then there is something we’re missing. why do people/the general public think that GMO’s are bad? for personal consumption? environment? local/organic farmers?

      reality sets in and you find out that GMO’s are a lazy man’s game of growing crops. many other countries have adopted other, more efficient ways of farming, using land, and other natural resources in a self sustaining way (usually organic too!). many countries can actually produce more/cheaper crops than a generic U.S. farmer, but after subsidies and tariffs, find their prices too high compared to the U.S. and cannot sale easily to the open market. this creates a rather large monopoly-esqe market for food production in the U.S. so, other world farmers tend not to go these routes. this is the real problem for solving much of global hunger issues, not purporting the use and benefits of GMO’s.

      your argument is designed to protect the producers of GMO’s (monsanto).

      so back to the point. if it’s really not that bad of an idea and thing to do, then just let it happen. what are you really afraid of? be proud of your/monsanto’s work and label it. consumers will either not care (which would be your ‘logical’ conclusion), or they would see the adverse affects of the labeling/GMO and move a better alternative. either way, people aren’t going to stop growing food nor stop buying it. food prices might temporarily spike, but if what monsanto is selling doesn’t work, then farmers will move on to a better alternative and continue working.

      i hope this makes sense to the sane people out there who demand to know more about their food and its origins. people have a voice and that can reshape the markets, but won’t destroy them. let your voice be heard.

      [Report abuse]

    • WnD

      Your argument is lost when you setup your premise suggesting people are rational, informed consumers. Just because there’s nothing harmful doesn’t mean people don’t perceive something as being harmful.

      [Report abuse]

    • Kurt Lloyd

      All credibility was lost when I saw this … “a recent NRC report states that GMOs are as safe if not more safe than conventional food which is also consistent with most of the published research”. So people invented human bodies and understand them well enough to make such ridiculous assertions? GMOs are totally unnecessary, and should be not just labeled, but BANNED.

      [Report abuse]

    • Ahmad Mahdavi

      No not everything is clear with GMOs yet and for GM food we need more and more things to be cleard. If we look on the problem as an ecotox. problem there are more things to be cleard and we need lot more research to be done. If we consider the situation of no regulations or weak regulatin in developing countries with no enforcements there are more and more problem with GMOs in developing countries. Even with non food GM crops there are controversial issues like cross polination with wild.etc

      [Report abuse]

    • Karina Schoengold

      Okay, here’s a point that’s not just a “right on” or “well-said”.

      As a consumer I do have some skepticism about GMO products and if it was costless to provide labels, I would support labeling. However, the cost involved with tracing the source of all of the seed used in production is high. There are significant costs to organic producers to keep records and file for certification, and that is based on production practices, not inputs, while production practices are easier to observe.

      The reality is that anyone who is strongly opposed to buying GMO products can already do so. USDA certified organic products don’t allow the use of GM. So anyone who feels that they don’t want to eat GMO already has the ability to do so – buy organic produce, bread, grains, meat, etc. Anything that’s a product of corn or soy that isn’t labeled or isn’t bought directly from the source should be assumed to be a GMO product (about 85% of corn and soybeans in the United States use GM technology). So, I believe that the choice already exists and that consumers who are knowledgeable can already avoid GMO products.

      [Report abuse]

    • Tracy

      How do you even start to argue with someone that sounds completely insane! Gmo’s are good for the environment?! What planet are you living on? Have you even been to a factory farm and seen the toxic waste from animals seeping into the ground and polluting the water. Animal waste from these farms can’t even be used as compost because it’s so toxic. The only reason the farmers of these crops even make money off this stuff is because we, the tax payers, are paying for it through subsidies. I’ll tell you why people don’t care that Apple makes alot of money off their products. It’s because they’re not trying to slowly kill us with toxic food! The only reason you do not want labeling to pass is because if people knew what they were eating, they wouldn’t buy it!

      [Report abuse]

    • J.A. Weber

      Mr. Zilberman, are you somehow unaware that GMO crops bring with them a built-in dependence on toxic chemicals? Are you unaware that the Bt-toxin is itself unsafe for humans? Did you not hear about the thousands of Indian workers who developed severe rashes from working with Bt-cotton? Are you in the dark about the fact that in one incident all livestock that ate Bt-cotton died? Why have hundreds of thousands of farmers in India committed suicide when their Bt-cotton crops failed? Why don’t you mention the superbugs and superweeds that have developed as a result of resistance to RoundUp? And what on Earth do you mean when you say, “Now, what about emergence of resistance to GMOs?” This sentence makes no sense. What is resistant to GMOs? What are you talking about?

      You say “sustainability is different than Nirvana.” What? There is nothing sustainable about GMOs, sir. They produce synthetic toxins (Bt) and they require the use of millions of extra tons of pesticide each year. Are you aware that the Bt toxin produced by GE plants is a VARIATION of the Bt toxin produced naturally by the soil bacterium from which it was derived? And that produced by Bt plants is thousands of times stronger than that produced by the soil bacterium? It’s not even the same compound. Are you aware that the toxic treadmill of pesticides for GE crops is about to be elevated (meaning become more disgraceful) to now necessarily include 2,4-D because RoundUp is not working so well anymore? GMO does not allow us to adapt to new diseases; it is the disease.

      And why, sir, have so many other (smarter) nations than ours either banned or mandated labeling for GMOs? Do you think it’s because they want the world to be deprived of the amazing benefits of genetically modified food? Do you think they don’t know all the juicy facts you write in this article (I’m being facetious here)? I doubt it. And climate change? I am not even going there.

      Shame on UC Berkeley (my Alma Mater). Shame on you too, Mr. Z.

      [Report abuse]

    • Leo Morgan

      Mr Weber’s claim ‘..in one incident all livestock that ate Bt-cotton died’ is my personal favourite example of the way extremists among the environmentalists compound ignorance into bad policy.

      I learnt about it when I went to research one American environmental organisation’s claim ‘that America should ban GMO’s like New Zealand.’ New Zealand hasn’t banned them. The organisation’s New Zealand branch claimed New Zealand ought to ban it because of ‘.. one incident in which all livestock that ate Bt-cotton died’. So I tracked that claim down to it’s source.One illiterate Indian pig-farmer’s herd contracted an endemic swine disease. The farmer had been grazing his swine upon his neighbour’s crop stubble. The farmer was sure the plants had poisoned his pigs, and insisted that instead of treating them for the disease, the vet should treat them for poisoning. They were. They died from the disease.
      Extremists among the environmentalists want to compound this incident into a policy of the whole world repeating this sad mistake.

      Likewise he asks ‘Why have hundreds of thousands of farmers in India committed suicide when their Bt-cotton crops failed?’. The first point is the the Bt crops have not failed. Poor Starving India, which arch-nutter environmentalist Paul Ehrlich proclaimed as unsalvageable and needing to be triaged, is now a net food exporter.

      Indian farmers have indeed been committing suicide, but the rate was unchanged before, during and after the introduction of Bt crops. The reason is the is the collapse in agricultural prices compared to all other expenses. They’re producing more food but food is so abundant they’re getting less money for it, while mortgages have gone up, oil has gone up, farm equipment and manufactured good have all increased in relative cost.

      I will be investigating his claims about ‘superweeds’, but I confidently anticipate I will find them as amusingly misleading as his other claims. For those of you who have some intellectual integrity and want to be environmentalists, I encourage you to always check the facts, no matter how much you may believe the charmingly persuasive passionately concerned activist environmentalists. Those people will lie to you as quickly and unblushingly as a Southern Evangelical will tell lies for Jesus, and for exactly the same reason. It’s called ‘noble cause corruption’, and both groups think they’re telling little lies to make the overall truth clear. They believe implicitly what they’ve been told by their co-believers, not realising that they too are indulging in ‘noble cause corruption’.

      Mr Weber goes on to ask ‘And why, sir, have so many other (smarter) nations than ours either banned or mandated labeling for GMOs?’ The answer is simple. Because of the campaign of fear, deception and half-truth being waged by believers such as Mr Weber.

      I hate the fact that the product labelling campaign is part of the campaign to deprive me of my right to purchase these products which I judge to be better than the non-GMO alternatives. Nevertheless I support the right of individuals to make their own choices, regardless of how ill-informed I believe them to be. I therefore recommend that all food in the state be required to display a label showing codes for the top 30 proteins within the product, and a web address where they can look up the name of the proteins that those codes represent. Those who care, such as Mr Weber and myself can then satisfy ourselves that we are able to choose according to our own best judgement, while those who don’t care will not be intimidated or mislead into making choices that they otherwise wouldn’t make.

      [Report abuse]

    • TheAmericanFarmer

      Labeling GMO food is playing with fire. Mr. Zilberman points out some great points in the last paragraph of his article. I believe that consumers have the right to know what is in there food, but if it has been scientifically proven, over and over again that GMO food is just as safe a non-GM food, then there is simply no logical or economical or practical reason to label it separately. As a matter of fact, the FDA labeling law states that they cannot label food separately unless it has been proven to have an adverse affect on human health. And if we were to label GMO foods, good luck at finding ANYTHING to eat in the grocery store. GM foods are in just about everything (just look at the label, if it contains corn or soy, chances are VERY good that its GM corn and/or GM soy). And why are we making this such a big deal anyway? Consumers already have the choice to purchase non-GMO food–just buy USDA certified organic.

      All I know is that we are playing with fire here. The phrase, “the customer is always right” is very true in almost every case–but here most customers have no clue what GMOs are, WHY they are used, and how their food is grown and raised, and WHY it is grown and raised in the way that it is. When people mount an attack on GMO food, they are mounting an attack on the farmer, which I take major issue with. If we put the farmer out of business, then what will we do? Have our food manufactured in a biolab/factory (which some people think is where food comes from already, which is so sad)? I’m sure that would go over really well with the public.

      [Report abuse]

    • Robert

      I Have never seen a greater excuse for the status quo. it’s a good thing this proposition is initiated in California because they lead the way in environmental change. if this proposition passes it will be the tipping point for GMO in north America. THE HEATH CARE SAVING FROM THIS LABELING ALONE WOULD OFFSET ANY LOSSES FROM REDUCED GM PRODUCT SALES. This might just force us to respect and work more closely with nature. Do we need anymore info to tell us that the way we are doing things now isn’t working. GO CALIFORNIA. LETS WATCH KRAFT FOODS CRINGE.

      [Report abuse]

    • Lindsey

      The International Food Information Council (IFIC) just released its 15th “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” Survey, which gauges US adult consumers’ perceptions of food biotechnology issues, including labeling. According to this study, conducted by third-party research firm Cogent Research, 66% of consumers somewhat or strongly support the US FDA’s current labeling policy for biotech foods, which requires labeling only if the nutritional content or composition of the food changes, or if a food safety issue (such as an allergen) is identified, as a result of biotechnology’s use. Also, less than 1% of all respondents listed biotechnology or related terms when asked, unaided, what additional information they would like listed on food labels. To view the topline findings and Executive Summary of the Survey results, visit http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=2012ConsumerPerceptionsofTechnologySurvey

      [Report abuse]

    • peter burgess

      Dear Mr Zilberman,

      I among a growing host of other people do not wish to consume GMO foods and it is our human and democratic right to decide which foods we put into our bodies, not yours or any government, regulatory or commercial corporate body.

      I see you as an apologist for a morally bankrupt corporate consciousness which neither serves humanity or the planet. Future generations will look back at Monsanto the way we look back on the Nazis as a great evil of modern times driven by greed, lust for power over innocent peoples lives and a threat to the health of the nations and even our genetic survival as a species.

      I look forward to the day when Monsanto and its apologists and supporters like yourself are merely a bad memory such as Hitler is today thank God !

      Yours sincerely,

      Peter Burgess

      [Report abuse]

    • Janet

      I disagree with your overall assessment of GMOs. They have already been shown to create serious problems in our environment, as well as in lab test animals and, ultimately, humans. Using selective breeding in agriculture is one thing, as that does not change the basic genetic composition of the plant. Adding genetic components to plants/seeds that would never occur in natural evolution, like animal genes, is something totally different. This creates plants that are a complete bag of tricks, with no guaranteed known results. It causes these plants to be something other than what they were originally.

      By making plants herbicide (Roundup Ready) resistant we now have a situation where even more toxic chemicals are being used than were previously, super weeds are spreading voraciously that herbicides no longer control, human beings are being negatively affected with severe health problems due to the chemicals used in the fields, as well as more sensitivity and allergic reactions by consumers. It has been scientifically shown that the genetic changes made (like BT) have actually changed the genetic makeup as well in those who consume these resulting products. And those changes are transferred to the next generation born, and the next… These changes include deformities and other reproductive problems, as well as changing the digestive system. It becomes a new and permanent genetic complication in those who consume these foods.

      It has also been proven that although it has been propagandized that GMOs produce more food, just the opposite is being found. Initially, yes, they produce more food. But as time goes on, production quantity decreases. Having to use more toxic chemicals (Roundup) has also shown a consistent increase of super bugs, requiring even more toxic chemicals usage.

      The bottom line is farmers fed the world population for thousands of years without the use of GMOs and toxic sprays. It is unhealthy. It is unnatural. And it all needs to be banned. But until that happens, consumers have the right to know what they are eating.

      The law requires a list of ingredients on packaging. GMOs should be a part of that ingredient list on every single package that includes any GMO product. And since we can no longer trust that our fresh/frozen/canned produce is GMO-free, proper labeling should be on those as well. We have a right to know. We have a right to choose. We have a right to refuse GMOs.

      [Report abuse]

    • Bernie

      I find it truly discouraging reading the anti-GM comments here. Not one of the negative traits that are mentioned are true. Not one. My suggestion is to read the actual science of GM and not rely on advocacy groups and non-scientists for your information. Stay far away from the Jeffrey Smiths and Dr Mercolas of the world.

      I would also suggest you tuck away your confirmation biases. You think GMOs are bad, so you gravitate toward any information that reinforces that view. If there is info that contradicts your worldview you easily dismiss it as propaganda by corporations.

      Also, because a bad corporation uses a technology does not make that technology inherently bad.

      I have to laugh at those who wish to consume “natural” foods. There isn’t anything “natural” about the food we eat and food hasn’t been natural for centuries. Almost everything we consume has been altered by humans in one way or another throughout history. Look up the history of corn for example.

      And one other thing, no food is “100% safe.” There is a risk with any food whether it’s conventionally grown or organically grown. That includes GMOs. So-called “death cap” mushrooms are natural but are 100% deadly. The ecoli outbreak in Calif back 2006 was linked to an organic spinach farm.

      [Report abuse]

    • Linda

      This is only a bad idea to the greedy, profiteering, corporate “people” who are trying to control everything and us. If we know it’s GMO we won’t buy it and they lose $$$’$$$,$$$,$$$’$$$’s. It’s time we all stop mowing our grass, and start farming our lawns and yards!
      ps. the neighbors said if you get a couple chickens, please don’t keep a rooster…

      [Report abuse]

    • Carol

      As others have said here in the comments, I vote with my shopping cart. It might not stop GMOs but it will slow them down. I also grow my own or shop locally. Greed is so powerful. Imagine if they spent the GMO money on ways to enhance organic agriculture rather than poison us all. If Europe can do it, why not us? Europeans are WAY better at protesting than we–drugged, mollified sheep that we are. Take a lesson from the French–they protest EVERYTHING they don’t like!

      [Report abuse]

    • M Odell

      if consumers feel GMO food is better, than a GMO label will help them locate and purchase GMO containing products. LABEL GMO FOOD. Then Monsanto can fund “undisputed scientific evidence that a GMO food is healthful”.

      [Report abuse]

    • Jack Weber

      I can;t help but notice that the vast majority of comments herein are made by folks against GMOs. And those who approve this article can only say “Spot on” or “I agree totally.” What prolific supporters!

      [Report abuse]

    • Steve

      If GMO foods are so good why are Monsanto et al. spending so much money campaigning against labeling? If a food has added nutrition or value it is proudly labelled as such, but GMO manufacturers don’t want their products seen at all. What are GMO foods trying to hide by not being labelled? If the food was so much better for us you would think they would be demanding that it be labelled GMO so we could choose it over the regular food. If the food is healthier to eat you would expect advertising proudly saying so.
      Sorry, but the argument you are trying to make just muddies up the main fact that Monsanto. Bayer etc. are ashamed of their products for a very good reason: GMO food is not as healthy as the alternative.

      [Report abuse]

    • Jack Weber

      Another important point to this article is that Mr. Z states that labels are appropriate when there is undisputed evidence that GMOs are harmful. What nonsense. Labels are appropriate when there is inadequate testing, and their safety has been shown time and again to be dubious. In fact, with inadequate testing of GMOs they should not even be on our shelves or in the hands of developing countries who may know even less the science and dirty facts. So, labeling is the very very least that needs to be done to protect consumers.

      Also, the very fact that the genetic engineering of food is in its infancy, coupled with its utter lack of safety tests, is testimony to its hazard and bare minimum necessity to be labeled.

      [Report abuse]

    • Joann

      I have been reading and doing a lot of research on gmo’s and will not waste my time stating all of the negative effects that they are having on our People and our Earth. Monsanto knows it all too well already but the mighty dollar is their bottom line. The world as everyone knows is overpopulated and I think gmo’s is their way of reducing the population and filling “their” pockets at the same time. One very interesting documentary I have watched is Food, Inc. and it is totally disgusting what they are doing to the crops, the people, and the animals And one worth watching is A River of Waste. These companies seem to think that the general public are naive and stupid. Well if the only food left is produced by these companies and the public is left no choice than to eat it, we will will become stupid because “you are what you eat”.

      [Report abuse]

    • Dr Ed

      On the medical front they are finding the bt pesticides in human blood tests! You can’t tell me it doesn’t cause any problems! It compromises immune systems which results in all kinds of immune problems. It’s very gradual and symptoms get blamed on every other possibility until special tests are done to find the pesticides.

      [Report abuse]

    • Georg Eischen

      News Flash! Huge ammounts of Corporate money often are used to obscure scientific information.
      The tobacco industry blocked acknowledgement of the damage done by smoking in causing lung cancer, for many years.
      The damage done by trans-fats was also obscured by the food industry.
      Genetically Modified Organism technology does not have the 50,000 year track record that naturally evolved organisms have.
      As an intelligent adult, I want to know when a food has been modified by genetic manipulation.
      It has been common to label plants as hybrids when traditional genetic selection is used. This labeling does not require that “there is undisputed scientific evidence that a food component is damaging”.
      You may chose to be ignorant about certain kinds of genetic manipulation. Don’t foist your ignorance on those of us who chose to be informed.

      [Report abuse]

    • Donna Lomp

      Dear Mr. Zilberman,
      Are you employed by Monsanto? Your information is inaccurate. All of it. Other people have said enough already to contradict your propoganda so I won’t bother to add to it. As you can see, very few people are agreeing with you. 90% of people want labeling, and it WILL happen, first in California in November, then the rest of the country soon after that. GMOs are time-limited as people realize the harmful effects it has on people and the planet. I hope you are eating organic food Mr. Zilberman because you will be wishing you were when you get cancer and who knows what else from GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers from big agribusiness food. Good luck to you. I hope you survive long enough to see GMOs labeled and subsequently put out of business.
      my best, donna

      [Report abuse]

    • Wanda

      As a rural U.S. citizen who belonged to a farming family of six, I must disagree with your assessment. Many GMOs are modified so that they can withstand pesticides such as glyphosate or 2,4-d (half of the recipe for agent orange). Five of my family members have dx’d with cancer as well as many of my neighbors. We were naive to beleive that the FDA would recommend spraying our fields with anything that was unsafe. You cannot wash the pesticide off of the plant/seed/fruit. It incorporates into the cell of the plant/seed/fruit and is ingested by whomever eats it. That being said, if we label GMO food products we are able to make a choice on whether to eat food contaminated with DIOXINS (cancer causing agents). Cancers in my neighborhood: Esophageal, Non-hodgkins Lymphoma, Myeloma, Ovarian, Pancreatic, Melanoma. Many of us drank well water. The run-off of pesticides as well as the consumption of the toxic food we grew made us sick. Please research your findings and think of the secondary issues of GMOs. I won’t even go into the increase in allergies and disease from eating a plant tainted with animal DNA. Our bodies were not meant to be fooled and are revolting.

      [Report abuse]

    • Mariana

      It would be interesting to take a look inside your kitchen and see if you’re willing to almost literally eat your own words. In an age where sodium and sugar content in foods must be labelled, there is no justification in not labelling GMO foods, that have had radical changes made to them. As for research, we’re all just lab rats for Monsanto, because they really do not know yet what the real extent of the damage will be on the human body over years of ingestion. But of course, the negative effects will be a great future market for bigpharma (yet again at our cost).

      GMO crops are not solving the world’s hunger problems – quite the reverse in fact. And as for using Apple as an argument, it’s so pathetic as to be beyond comment.
      Quite simply, I want to know what I’m putting into my body. It’s as simple as that.

      [Report abuse]

    • Alivia

      I think you should stick to your first statement: “people should have information about what they consume.” No matter what it is, we have the right to know what we put in our bodies! labeling is not going to stop GMOs it will only give people the freedom to choose what they want to consume. Why would you not want people to have this freedom?

      [Report abuse]

    • susan

      I am not waiting for labeling of GMO’s, I like many others will be boycotting foods that could be potential gmo products and starting my own veggie garden. Voting with my shopping cart, so perhaps as more and more of us start doing this, corporate America will need to listen or lose out on our $$.

      [Report abuse]

    • kim hunter

      Occupy Monsanto is a great resource for statistics, news, lab results, and information to stay healthy. I see Monsanto employees won’t eat their own product in their cafeterias. I know personally, when I started getting ill, I did a search on my symptoms and the results of lab rats on Monsanto GMO came back. Removing these petrochemicals and GMO from my diet fixed progressively worrisome health problems in only days.
      Research for yourself. Stay Healthy! One by one communities and countries are banning these ecocide / disease causing practices.
      If only the FDA wasn’t’ stacked with ex Monsanto Shill, human rights would be restored.

      [Report abuse]

    • Pete Kinyon

      Sir, with all due respect, you are not CLOSE to factual in your comparisons. Do you REALLY think that using natural methods of producing new cultivars is equivalent to adding genetic material from ANIMALS into plants? This is IMPOSSIBLE in the natural world. But you claim it to be equivalent to deciding which genetically compatible cultivars of the SAME genus and species to combine to make a hybrid? You sir are either incompetent in this field or you are a liar. I don’t know which, but I have my suspicions.

      Another thing that gets no press, but I think is deplorable. The pollen from Bt corn kills caterpillars indiscriminately and it is carried for miles by the wind. The population of Monarch butterflies, an insect that somehow knows how to migrate to a place it has NEVER been with no one to show it, is decreasing far too rapidly. Coincidence? I doubt it.

      If you TRULY wish to feed the world, research Ecology Action. Yields as good or better than the best of chemical agriculture using a fraction of the water, energy and fertilizer needed by your methods with ZERO pesticides or herbicides and losing 5% to pests and diseases compared to the average of 30% using ALL your chemicals. AND they use open pollinated seed that can be saved and adapt to its environment.

      Your way simply makes more money for the powerful while sacrificing the rest of us.

      [Report abuse]

    • Rob

      “There is evidence that by replacing toxic chemicals in India and China, adoption of GMOs directly saved many lives.”

      Have you seen the figures on farmer suicides from South America & India as they cannot afford to keep buying the seed or the increasing amount of chemicals required to sustain the GMO crops as weeds become tolerant to the herbicides required to grow these crops ?? What about the increased chemical contamination of the environment ??
      You sir are speaking Twaddle…

      [Report abuse]

    • Kevin

      Since when does a professor at a university think education of the public is not a good thing? Perhaps this is a sign that we should be checking who funds the agriculture and resource economics department. And if the professor is sincere in his arguments, he needs to take into account the costs of putting all our survival eggs in one mono-culture basket. If evolution teaches us anything it is that diversity survives, single strategy large dinosaurs do not.

      [Report abuse]

Leave a comment

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


3 + 3 =