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

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | June 6, 2012

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.

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

  1. Noone has mentioned the bees. Even EPA has published a correlation between glycophosphate and the disapearance of the bees. Do you know bees are now being imported. Bees are getting fewer all over the world, but perhaps the numbers are more staggering here in US.

  2. David Zilberman,

    We are NOT talking about labeling *selective breeding* and *hybridization*, AS THOSE ARE THE TRADITIONAL METHODS.



  3. why do so many of you fail to understand that starvation is a problem that has been impacted by the use of GMO food sources here in Asia.

    As there is no definitive evidence, that there is harm with this technology. and because malnutrition and starvation have been impacted in a positive way.
    Maybe is is time to stop and think about what you feel. How many third world deaths are your what if worth? Please do not let you shortsighted opinions lead to tens of millions of unnecessary deaths as in the banning of DDT.
    Of course most of the deaths were in Asia and Africa and were unseen by residents of The United States and Canada.
    The bottom line here is you may be scared to death and uniformed but we do not want to pay again for you irrational behavior leading to millions of deaths.

  4. I agree that if a professor of agriculture confuses selective breeding and hybridization with genetic engineering, then how can one believe anything at all he says about genetic engineering?

  5. The second commenter said it best: If GMOs were truly bad, it wouldn’t take anti-science fearmongering for opponents to make their case. The anti-GMO crowd mindset is the same as that of the anti-vaccine and home birth crowd, thinking that doing some research on the internet somehow makes them as much of an expert as doctors and plant biologists. This same kind of anti-science thinking is behind things like climate change skepticism, disbelief of evolution, and rejection of stem cell research.

    What have actual scientists concluded? The National Academy of Sciences (, the World Health Organization (, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (, the American Medical Association (, and the International Council for Science ( (just to name a few) have all concluded the safety risk of GMO-derived food is no greater than non-GMO food.

    I bet most of the anti-GMO crowd believe climate scientists that global warming is real. So why don’t they believe doctors, food scientists, and plant biologists that GMOs don’t pose a health risk?

    Oh, and don’t forget GMOs are also better for the environment, with the National Research Council ( concluding that transgenic crops lower use of pesticides, allow use of lower toxicity herbicides, increase no-till farming which reduces top soil loss through erosion. All that and it also allows double cropping, which increases food production.

    At the end of the day, GMO labeling will limit food choices, harm the environment, and make food more expensive, which will hurt the poor and developing nations. Don’t believe me? Ask the late Norm Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work fighting world hunger (

    It’s ironic really, given labeling supporters think the opposite will happen.

    • Don’t compare anti-vaccine and anti-GMO. THEY ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT ISSUES.
      There are PLENTY of people who DON’T belong to both groups.

    • And I weep for you ……It is proven over and over. I am living proof. I became allergic to everything I ate. I “had cancer”. ( didn’t….it was GMO food allergies). Well, Now I am not allergic to those foods. You don’t have to believe. I hope for you sake that you never have to experience the experiences I have had. Genetically Modified food is very dangerous. As is big pharma, modern medicine, the chemicals we produce in the enviornment, our water, our air, our streams, our lakes….ect. If we would have never started producing GMO’s, given incentives to local fresh organic farms, and subsidized the right people, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But both of us are entitled to our opinions. Just not entitiled to our own facts 🙂 Peace to you.

      • Beryl and the other above posters,

        I suffer from a GMO food “allergy” as well. While it could be considered an allergy, it can also be considered a violent immune response. I wasn’t diagnosed with cancer at all – that seems a bit weird, but interesting all the same. I’d love to hear more about that.

        Personally, I suffered from mysterious edema for five years before I figured out it was genetically modified food that was causing the issue. At first, I thought it was just a corn allergy (BT corn and other GM corn varieties are in approximately 60-70% of processed foods), but then I did a food elimination diet and I also reacted to wheat, canola, soybeans, meat, certain types of milk, and so many other things it’s ridiculous. I also reacted to vaccines containing recombinant DNA (HPV and H1N1).

        Labeling for GMOs/GEIs would majorly impact my life in a positive manner. I’m not sure how many other people suffer from GMO allergies, but – for us – it would help so much. Unfortunately, it sounds like the author of the article and many pro-GMO activists care more about the businesses than the people, which seems to be the norm.

        I do think that GMOs have their place. Humulin is produced by genetically modified E. coli and yeast and has had a positive impact reducing the instance CJ disease in diabetics. Yet, when it comes to our food, I really don’t think that GMOs have much of a place. The risks seem to outweigh the benefits and many of the studies touting the benefits seem largely misrepresented or a bit “fishy”. Monsanto’s “end user agreement” is also made of pure sketchiness – it makes me wonder what they’re hiding.

        By the way, GMOs lower the use of pesticides and herbicides? You might want to read this article.

  6. If GMO is as so terrible, it wouldn’t take anti-science fearmongering propoganda to make the case.

    It would be easily demonstrated. The studies indicating possible health hazards have been highly criticized for poor experimental design, improper feeding trial protocols and flat out poor conclusion drawing. Most can be summarized as “we found nothing directly wrong, but maybe think there is still an issue due to minimal findings that in some instances could indicate slight health problems…study more.” It’s a scheme to keep moving the goal line until maybe a silver bullet is found. But never admit the results that the slightly negative results would not ever add up to pulling GMO from the market, restricting it in any way or requiring hazard labeling. Even if (big IF) they are seeing what they report, it would still indicate such a small risk that it would be cleared. There are more activists than scientists in the anti-GMO realm and that should tell us something.

    The labeling push is simply a scare tactic relying on an unscientific, non-analytical un or misinformed public. It is working if the anti GMO nonsense peddelers commenting here are any indication.

    • IF you want to eat GMO food, THAT is Your choice. GMO labeling will help you find your own food preference in your local supermarket. MY Choice is to AVOID GMOs and I have a right to know which foods contain GMOs. Simple as That!

  7. The GMO products are not materially different from a safety and nutrition standpoint. It is the other traits such as herbicide tolerance or insect resistant that are patented. There is no contradiction.

  8. I dislike your article immensely and brighter people than me have pointed out numerous valid points that I agree with! You do need some references; especially since you are a professor… you would expect your students to give you references, right?
    There is a HUGE difference between Selective Breeding and Biotechnology that produces GMOs. Our ancestors didn’t change the DNA of the seed and use antibiotic markers and plant tumors to produce GMOs. GMOs are so gross!! DNA from diseases, pests, and animals are being manipulated with nature and nature is rejecting it! Not only nature but 50 other countries including Japan, Australia and all of the countries in the European Union! Those countries have significant restrictions or have out right banned GMOs because they don’t consider them safe to eat. How can all 50 of those countries be wrong???

  9. How can you compare Apple and Monsanto. One makes computers, if you do not like the hardware, you can return em. When you ingest harmful food, you directly injure people. Your bottom line appears to be economics, not nutrition. GMO food is just plain bad.

  10. Since most food related disease and deaths is caused by fecal bacteria, how about a requirement that all food that is grown using fecal matter as fertilizer be so labeled so that consumers can know what they are buying?

    • Most animal manure is used to grow chemically grown produce, ie there’s more used on chemically grown than organic produce. So an awful lot of food would bear your ‘fecal bacteria’ warning label. However, most fecal bacteria gets on food via handling. So why not require all handled food to bear a warning label too? Plus of course there’s the fact that chemical agriculture allows human sewage sludge to be used as fertiliser, which not only has bacterial contamination but PCBs, heavy metals etc. Why not require that to be labeled also?

  11. You failed to mention the round-up resistant pigweed and other superweeds that are taking over midwest farming lands because they have overcome Monsanto’s round-up. As we speak, Monsanto and other companies are working on even stronger seeds to resist the new chemicals needed to kill the super weeds.

    Also, GMO farming invades organic farming. Their seeds wash into organic lands (Monsanto then sues the farmer for “growing” their patented seeds that they didn’t license) and there is cross-pollination between GMO crops and organic crops. One cannot put up a 50 foot wall between them. This ends up leaving everyone else no choice. I thought capitalism was about people being able to make market choices? I guess we only like that when the companies win, not the consumer.

  12. GM Products are not totally dangerous to us.Many have been very helpful to mankind.Take for example medicines.Lets not be negative to it.We must be wise in choosing the bad products.

    DIY Wardrobes

    • LOL hit yourself for me. Mercury is inside vaccines its known to cause brain damage. Don’t believe what people tell you just because they’re un touchable by law or because they’re in a high place of power. Listen to the facts do your own research and find out why around 50 places banned GMOS.

  13. The argumentation in the article can be summarized to: you do not have to be informed to make a free choice decision because infallible exports are making decision for you. Why then we have democracy in the first place? And not simply those “experts” to decide everything? If we want democracy, people have to be informed. And this boils down to information about food, too. Or is democracy and free choice only for when people are deciding according to wishes of this or that lobby?

  14. Why be so afraid of labeling? Why not design the labels to be happy, sunny & reflect the real positive qualities of these foods? Companies have first amendment rights in the areas of labeling. I would prefer to buy GMO over non GMO, because I understand what amazing benefits GMO products really can have. The luddite fools who are afraid of genetic engineering can grow their own or pay top dollar at an organic market. I just hope they are smart enough to wash any traces of manure containing potentially pathogenic organisms off their organic veggies first!

  15. I see a great effort by Monsanto to “hide” their GMO foods. Makes me wonder what they are trying to hide. We need to demand more testing on these foods on humans and the environment, as well as how they affect neighbor farmers crops. Call your representative now!

  16. A concerned citizen writes ; It truly doesn’t matter what Monsanto thinks, a majority of America is going to want GMO’s labeled. Stop trying to fight it and just do it already. How many people in America really dont care what they stuff into their faces and it wont matter to them at all. Others of us on the other hand wont touch your products with a ten foot pole. Why do you think a large group of the population are going back to nature and gardens and herbs and organics. Because we are the ones who see that the mainstream population is being slowly poisoned by foods and chemicals unnecissarily. We have a right to chose healthy alternatives. Dont worry, you will still have millions that will never wake up and will eat themselves to death.

    • Ginger, AMEN and well put…. God made things the way he did for a REASON!!! And that did NOT include GMO’s

  17. To Tony Osborn: Your examples are depicting products that are unlike the real thing. That is not the situation with GMO foods. If you take a GMO tomato and a non-GMO tomato and examine them…every fiber, every cell of it would be exactly the same therefore giving you the exact same nutrition!

    • Firtly, while that might be your, understanding definition, the rest of us who do not share it are not going to be seduced by that argument. In any case, if the GMO tomato were the same as the non-GMO tomato, why not use the real thing? The fact is that whatever credible, or spurious arguments are made for GMO, while we have the freedom to make choices in life, we insist on at least knowing what we’re paying for. I am unrepentent in that!

  18. I think the point that most of you on here are missing is that if GMO’s were labeled, EVERYTHING would be labeled GMO!!!!!!! And if something didn’t get labeled, it would be a pure and simple LIE that it is not a GMO!!!!! Everything has been “Genetically Modified” over time….it’s called evolution and natural selection! Now if you wanted to label things that have been “Transgenically Modified” that’s another story entirely! I might actually be in favor of that kind of labeling. But as for labeling items as “GMO” that would be a complete waste of time and money for everyone involved.

    • There is a HUGE difference between things NATURALLY evolving …. VS HUMAN intervention of MODIFYING food!!! IMHO!

      • Actually, evolution in humans is no longer relevant. We have adopted technology in such a way that we can force our abilities to evolve at a rate 1000s of times faster than natural selection.

        In that sense, technological evolution has forever replaced natural selection-based evolution for the remainder of our existence.

    • Evolution takes place over hundred and thousands of years. If a mutation is not beneficial to the host it dies off. Genetically ENGINEERED food starts in the LAB (not in nature) with the scientist inserting a gene from ANOTHER species such as an animal, plant, virus, bacteria and INSECT into a different species. Call it whatever you want, GM, GE or Transgenically modified it shoud be labeled. There has NEVER been a study on the safety of GMOs on humans. NEVER.

      This article is so wrong in so many aspects.

  19. I had posted a response to the great deal of misinformation and some of the lies posted in response to the article, but I see the website folks agree with the false information and hyperbole posted by the majority.

  20. I am stunned at the lies posted as comments and lack of thinking.
    1) “Independent studies on GMOs show very concerning health changes in animals fed GMO food” Not true. They weren’t real studies. Many claiming hazards from GMO foods are from organizations seeking to push their cause – creating fear of food technology. Do more research.
    2) “In 2011 a survey in Canada showed 83% of women tested had the BT toxin in their blood …” Debunked by numerous scientific groups and studies. Heck, even labels this a myth.
    3) “The only evidence of the safety of GMO foods is that tendered by the biotech companies that produced the genetic modifications, which USDA and FDA accepted as gospel.” Distrust the government and you fail to actually look for the scientific studies showing they are safe. Every vegetable you eat was genetically modified, they just used different techniques over the years.
    4) “I managed to talk to several beef ranchers and they all said the same thing. Yes they used GMO feed. Yes they had miscarriages, still born, and birth defects.” Lie. You did not find cattle ranchers blaming the feed for any such incident. It makes you lie sound better, but birth defects happen for various reasons, same with still born, and there is no proof it is connected to feed. The cattle ranch my family owns never had this problem, nor our neighbors or the ranchers at the conventions.
    5) “To understand the author’s views, he must disclose whether he is affiliated with companies who produce or promote GM products. Has he received or is trying to funding from GMO companies?” Then please start by honestly admitting to which green groups you support, donate money to, advocate for, etc.
    6) “oh, that’s crazy, because the biotech firm Syngenta has JUST been charged with actively denying and withholding evidence involving cow deaths linked to Bt corn.” The story reference does not cite sources or even provide sufficient information to confirm its allegations. Probably because the link for the story goes to an anti-GMO website. Credible? Not at all.
    7) “GMO foods should not be used until there is undisputed scientific evidence by third parties that food is safe to eat” It has been done repeatedly but you refuse to accept it. So what anti-GMO groups are you associated with? Greenpeace? Please, go first before demanding other to announce ties that may not exist. He wasn’t opposing transparency, just the wrongful condemnation labeling can bring. When you have yet to support country of origin for our food, why should you demand to know that it was a GMO? I can save you the trouble. All groceries you buy have GMO food. Even “organics.”
    8) “… be accountable for the experiments that are being performed on us without our knowledge or permission” Seriously? You do realize this is paranoia?
    9) “For those of you reading this who have already figured out that what is said here is, at best, misleading; and, at worst, untrue, I invite you to go to and join the fight for labeling GMO products.” So you call him misleading yet utter a call to arms to “fight for labeling GMO products” and direct people to a website that posts lies to further their anti-GMO cause? Hypocrite.
    10) “Product transparency is the cornerstone of the free market economy. Managing what goes in your own body is a basic human right. Over 90% of the people polled since 2001 support honest labeling laws.” Wow. Product transparency is NOT the cornerstone for the free market economy. I will give you a hint – check the name of the economy for the cornerstone. You do manage what goes into your body. Stop blaming others. Your statement about a poll is a lie. For example, the poll has not continued for 11 years and if it were true, we would have country of origin labels on our meat and produce. That effort has been underway for years by American farmers who want you to know what strawberries and chicken are grown closer to you under the strict guidelines of the USDA, instead of countries without any controls on the amount or type of pesticides used.
    11) “I’m concerned by the precedent established by allowing exemptions from a basic human right to know,and labeling practices we have come to expect, based on the possibility of a stigma effect.” It’s not a precedent because it is not an exemption. It has never been required by law. It is not a right for you to know where anything comes from. You have the responsibility to ask for the information to make your decision before you buy anything. Or did you not know that Toyotas and Nissans are also made in the US, and Camaros are build in Canada? How can you expect labeling that has never happened? I guess we can expect to win the lottery next week too.
    12) Emmy has the only reasonable sound counter-point to the article. She cites a Scientific American editorial (opinion) that poses some good questions even though it noted there are peer review studies on the GMO seeds from the three companies, failed to discuss USDA reviews and studies conducted by and within other nations that are independent – meaning not with the seed companies nor anti-GMO groups.

  21. “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.” That is all well and good professor but the cigarette industry and our Govt told us cigarettes were safe for decades, before people started dying..and then they labeled them..but only after much “discussion”..the point one knows if they are safe because we rely on the “scientific” studies that are done by the companies that produce them..just like we did with cigarettes..personally..I don’t want to find decades from now that these “foods” are dangerous..we have a right to know..even if it is inconvenient to label them.If it is good enough for 50 other countries to require labeling..then it’s good enough for citizens of the US..if 50 other countries require labeling..then it can’t be that inconvenient or costly to label them here..They are just afraid that we won’t buy them..and they would be right!! I am not a science experiment.

    • GMO’s have not only been studied by seed companies but many more studies have been conducted by colleges and universities across the country. Additionally GMO’s have been used long enough to see if their where any damaging effects to humans or animals (so cigarette compairison not real feasible). Additionally GMO’s work with DNA cigarettes work with carcinogens, tobacco, and who knows what else… Obviously not something that would promote a healthy lifestyle. Additionally if you think eating GMO’s makes you part of a science experiment you should probably stop eating all together since GMO’s are everywhere and used in just about everything.

      • Pseudoscience carried out by seed companies to increase their profits is not science I trust/respect especially when it comes to making decisions affecting my own and my children’s health. There are No benefits from GMOs to Consumers. None!
        Why accept risk when there is no benefit to anyone except a few biotech scientists play with DNA + a few consolidated corps making obscene profits?
        And you are absolutely wrong- there is lots of non-GMO food in the fruit and produce section (for the time being) and many processed items only have one or two GMO ingredients. Easy for processors to get rid of, when they are incentivised to do so.

  22. Any argument against total freedom of information is a step toward totalitarianism. The elements of Adam Smith’s Capitalism are: an open market, full knowledge of the products benefits and detriments, and freedom to choose where to spend your money. Not labeling violates the full knowledge part.

  23. Why would a professor of agriculture economics equate selective breeding and hybridization with genetic modification.? it’s not the same thing at all!
    To say that labeling should only be applied to that which is proven harmful is absurd. Especially when almost no testing is done on the safety of these crops. Suppose we let drug companies sell their wares without testing? Crazy!
    I’d like this writer to cite those studies that say there is a big increase in production ore acre. I have read repeatedly just the opposite, that the desired increase in productivity has not been realized.
    What about the weeds, such as amaranth, that have become resistant to the herbicide Roundup, what about the insects that have become resistance to pesticides? no mention of that in this article. what about the large amount of fossil fuels required to produce these chemicals? What about the health effects on humans, pollinator bees and butterflies from the increased use of pesticides and herbicides.?
    People have the right to know what they are consuming, pure and simple. it does not effect the starving children of Africa. That argument didn’t sell me on cleaning my plate at the age of 7 and it sure doesn’t work for me now.
    Food items are traditionally labelled, with ingredients and qualities; is there a stigma to whole wheat flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup , 180 grams of sodium per serving or “Certified Organic?” these are all labels that appear on food. As consumers, WE decide what is a “stigma effect,” if there ebb is one, and that is our right.

  24. As others have noted, there is a vast difference between genetic modification within the same species and TRANSGENIC genetic modification. On the subject of risk studies of GMO crops, everyone should be aware of a Scientific American article which shows very clearly why there is no truly objective research being done on the risks of GMOs. I sincerely would like David Zilberman to comment on that article.

  25. I’m concerned by the precedent established by allowing exemptions from a basic human right to know,and labeling practices we have come to expect, based on the possibility of a stigma effect. That’s an extremely slippery slope, and it’s certainly not warranted in this case.

  26. Product transparency is the cornerstone of the free market economy. Managing what goes in your own body is a basic human right. Over 90% of the people polled since 2001 support honest labeling laws. It’s just a natural extension of existing labeling laws, people expect it. It’s apparent that David would blame the newspaper for the news, and then make sure your not allowed read it. Engineered to be “Round-Up Ready”, means it’s covered with glyphosate, proven extremely toxic. This author could not come up with a creditable, non-corporate bibliography for these fantastic claims to save his own life.

  27. If you are so sure these statements are true, then you should be in support of labeling. For those of you reading this who have already figured out that what is said here is, at best, misleading; and, at worst, untrue, I invite you to go to and join the fight for labeling GMO products.

  28. If one is so sure that GMO’s are good for the population, you should be proud and put a label on them. Take responsibility and be accountable for the experiments that are being performed on us without our knowledge or permission.

  29. In my view Mr. Zilberman, GMO foods should not be used until there is undisputed scientific evidence by third parties that food is safe to eat. Why do you reject transparency? Is it because according to Monsanto spokesperson, Kelly Clauss, “Monsanto and UC have at least twenty agreements “that include licensing, sharing materials for research, sponsoring research, and utilizing their specialized, technical services.” or perhaps, because UC patents are routinely licensed by biotech companies to develop GMO crops.

    Not only do I demand transparency by labeling GMO food, but I also demand transparency in both your and UC Berkeley’s relationship with biotech companies.

    As for your simplistic argument about the poor, starvation is not caused by a lack of food, but by politics and poverty. We have plenty of food crops in the United States, but we also have plenty of people who go to sleep each night without enough to eat.

    • “Starvation is not caused by a lack of food.” Wow. Anyway, so, droughts and overpopulation aren’t real? We need to look outside the United States, that’s the point. Climate change IS real, and it’s going to continue to make food shortages worse. If making hardier and more productive crops isn’t the solution, what is? Stopping climate change? Too late for that.

  30. Professor Sounds like you are very proud of GMO process – so then you should be for labeling GMO food 🙂 let everyone know its is GMO food with pride. But for those who still want to know like me please use NxtNutrio iPhone App.

    • you clearly don’t understand the point. His point is that GMO labeling will scare people off of GMO products (it’s labeled!? gotta be dangerous!!) therefore reducing demand for GMO, decreasing research in GMOs which are potentially beneficial for agriculture and consumers.

      • I beg to differ, who are you to say he does not understand the point? The professor IS obviously in favor of GMOs, then why should it necessarily be a stigma to label them? Foods are commonly labelled with ingredients like flour, sugar, thiamine, riboflavin etc. Does that automatically mean they are dangerous? Foods are labelled with carbohydrate, protein and fat percents. Will that make people think these things are dangerous? The consumer has the right to increase or decrease demand. The consumer has the right to know. if GMOs are so safe, why conceal them, why shy away from identifying them?

      • To Ed: so, if people should worry that labelling GMOs will scare people off, how much worse do you think it will be when more and more people realise it’s been concealed – and if health problems become evident? At the moment, I don’t believe we have any true idea what problems are bubbling away – how do we really know if the increases in some diseases may yet be linked to GMO? Even without that, I remain insistent that we should be told. If you’re so confident about the technology, why fear the truth?

  31. I am PROOF that GMO foods do indeed do harm to people.

    Since the 1990s after I needed a surgery I have been a severe asthmatic. Not a single medicine has ever been able to control my asthma – and I have tried EVERYTHING. Then a year ago I was told I was going to need anther surgery to remove my gallbladder. That was when enough was enough. I detoxed and started eating non GMO foods and a lot of gluten free foods that specifically do not have any traces of GMO substances. My asthma is improving, I still have my gallbladder and I haven’t had a single instance of gallbladder trouble since I’ve stopped eating mostly GMO foods. I literally have a new life.

    because I want to live without pain and fear of wondering when the next attack could happen. Someday I want to leave my home without my inhaler (on purpose) and know I’m going to be fine.

    I WANT GMO labels and I’m promoting the genuine dangers of GMO foods!

    • And maybe you’ve lost a little weight? And are eating healthier in general? I think I’m going to have “Correlation is not causation” tatooed on my forehead. This country.

  32. To understand the author’s views, he must disclose whether he is affiliated with companies who produce or promote GM products. Has he received or is trying to funding from GMO companies?

    • I agree with your inquiry of the professor. If he is not personally receiving the funds, is his department at the university? If so, then his statement is biased due to conflict of interest.

  33. Those who refuse to believe that GMOs are dangerous just aren’t paying attention.

    This article is incredibly dishonest. We now have superweeds and Bt contamination on a planetary scale. These GMO seeds are cross pollinating with organic seeds, ruining them reproductively, deminishing strain diversity, forcing farmers to drench the earth in Monsanto’s freaking RoundUp, promising great results that only happen briefly before turning into a nightmare. Others have more-eloquently replied to this articleso let me just say that it is thoroughly disheartening to think that some people actually buy that bull.

    Bottom line: I (we) have a right to know what we’re putting in our bodies–period. We shouldn’t even have to defend that position. Labeling has always provided us that choice and now you want to take it away? I don’t think so! This is corporate America at its worst. Shame on you and the elephant you rode in on!

  34. GMOs require more chemicals, not only spray into the air and soil but inside the plant itself.

    Go organic, diversify into more indigenous species, get yourself and your agriculture fit and healthy.

    I’m surprised at you Berkeley.

  35. Almost 4 years ago I found myself in Eastern Colorado. Beef Country. I managed to talk to several beef ranchers and they all said the same thing. Yes they used GMO feed. Yes they had miscarriages, still born, and birth defects. Yes there bulls became sterile and there cows became barren. When given a choice the livestock would eat the real feed and wouldn’t touch the GMO feed till the real feed was gone. Surely were smarter than dumb cows!

  36. Hmm – hybridization is essentially the same as genetic modification. Does repeating the same lie for forty years make it true?

    And that nice argument about feeding the world? The world is not feeling very appreciative, what with Indian farmers committing suicide and crops failing on every continent. Check for a detailed refutation of all of Dr. Zilberman’s assertions – courtesy of the farmers and food coalitions of the world Dr. Zilberman’s hoping to save. I would think Berkeley would be embarrassed to have this propaganda on their campus blog.

  37. You say, “In my view, labeling requirements are appropriate when there is undisputed scientific evidence that a food component is damaging..”

    That’s great for YOU. I would like labeling if there is not undisputed scientific evidence that a food component IS NOT damaging. (Like European countries NOT run by governments owned by business.)

    The people’s right to know trumps both of our opinions, by the way.

    • The only evidence of the safety of GMO foods is that tendered by the biotech companies that produced the genetic modifications, which USDA and FDA accepted as gospel. There have been no independent double-bind studies evidenced thus far and probably never will be as the the biotechs and aforesaid governmental agencies are conjoined twins.

  38. Gee – and this is from my beloved school? You’re putting shame on my degree!
    Where the hell is the dislike button?!?

  39. There are a couple of small problems with this article:

    1) The theory that “all the studies say GMOs are safe” doesn’t stand up to an actual analysis of the facts. See: New study: Monsanto’s toxins kill human kidney cells and Monsanto blocks research on GMO safety, harasses scientists.

    2) The theory that “foods modified by GMO are just like foods modified by breeding”. The problem is, there IS a difference between selecting between traits that have naturally evolved in a corn plant to produce a better crop, and cramming a gene that evolved in a bacterium, that has NOTHING to do with corn and isn’t even in the same KINGDOM, and cramming it into a corn plant. Just as there’s a difference between spraying a natural pesticide onto a corn plant, and creating a corn plant that makes the same pesticide in every one of its cells (hint: you can wash off the first one; the second one you EAT.)

    3) The theory that “We’ve done a few tests so everything is going to be fine! What could possibly go wrong?” Science teaches us that unintended consequences can be a HUGE problem. See: “The trouble with Monsanto and GMO – Dr. David Suzuki spells it out.”

  40. In 2011 a survey in Canada showed 83% of women tested had the BT toxin in their blood and in the umbilical cords as well as in the blood of the fetuses they carried . When BT was released the biotec company that did it swore that horizontal transference could not happen .They said the scientists that warned it would happen were wrong . It happened . No one knows what will happen to these women or the generation of babies they birthed . If it’s in the blood of Canadian women who ate a normal North American diet you can bet it’s in the men’s blood too. There is no difference between a Canadian Diet and an American Diet . We all buy the same food from the same manufacturers and we have all been poisoned . Many of us would have avoided (especially many pregnant women ) this food had it been labeled and the dangers of eating it had been common knowledge . We deserve to know what is in our food.

  41. Monsanto wants its cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, it says its products are “materially different” enough to be patented. On the other hand, it says its products are not “materially different” enough to be labeled. So, which is it?

    Independent studies on GMOs show very concerning health changes in animals fed GMO food. We have the right to know if our food has been adulterated by DNA that has been altered (read damaged) or contains ingredients that have been bastardized. Most countries in Europe require GMO labeling.

    Hell, even China labels GMO products. What’s the problem with truth in labeling in the USA?

  42. Here’s anpother angle: Imagine this scene: –

    Local planning authority: ‘Prof Z, we’ve received your application to build a holiday villa in natural, sustainable timber, but you need to know that the law now states that timber may be synthetically produced with polywolymer-xyz/991 because it will help keep the world supplied and it won’t decay like wood, etc – but it will look and feel exactly like timber – but anyway the law also prevents you from being informed about this’.

    Would you accept that science has to win here, or would you as a consumer and, (as an actor in this scene, for a moment) a lover of natural timber, feel that your right to any choice was being just a little comrpomised?

    Supposing that the lady to whom one proposes finds out 20 years later that her beautiful ‘gold’ wedding ring was in fact a ‘modified product’ that he thought would be ok because it was cheaper and less of an insurance risk…

    OR, how about some genetic modification of foeti to eliminate all naughty and mischievous characterictics and programme them to attain the highest grades – imagine how parents would welcome that….oh, but of course, no…I’m being ridiculous…. silly me… science would never go that far, now would it?……

  43. Sounds like you get all your information straight from Monsanto. Really, professor, do a little real reading!

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