GMO labeling based on unsound science, lousy logistics

This election cycle, two significant initiatives went under the radar, partly because they failed. Both Oregon and Colorado decided to block the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which would require companies to specify whether a food product contains genetically modified products.

Although it is experiencing a rise in popularity, GMO labeling is an unconstitutional, impractical and completely unsupported idea.

The most obvious problem with GMO labeling is that it is unconstitutional, namely in that it regulates interstate trade. If, for example, Oregon had chosen to enact GMO labeling, it would mean that all food companies in other states sending food to Oregon would have to keep track of which products have GMOs in them and label them appropriately.

This controverts the idea that regulating interstate trade is done at the federal level rather than the state level. As such, should these initiatives have passed, they would have soon been struck down by the Supreme Court.

Even if that wasn’t a problem, practical issues remain. For instance, if a cake used GMO wheat in the flour, would the cake have to be labeled, or only individual sacks of flour? If a cow ate GMO grain or corn, would its meat or milk have to be classified as a GMO product?

The question would involve consideration of where the introduction of GMO crops becomes dangerous. However, that line is not just blurry, but nonexistent; there is no danger from GMO crops.

Though it is controversial among scientists in the political world, the stance is unequivocal: Increased adoption of GMO crops would be hugely beneficial. In fact, only a week ago, the largest analysis of GMO crops was completed, published in PLOS ONE, and the result was overwhelmingly positive. Crops can be grown cheaper, using fewer pesticides and more profitably using genetically modified strains rather than conventional ones.

Moreover, according to one of the most comprehensive meta-analyses conducted on the subject, published in The Journal of Animal Sciences, of 100 billion animals studied, no difference was found between those which consumed large amounts of genetically modified crops, compared to those raised before the crop’s introduction.

It is bizarre to see a scientific question so firmly and unequivocally resolved in one direction, with such a large uninformed popular backlash. Though an analogy can be made to climate change, they are two separate beasts: While the steps necessary to combat global warming may trade short-term losses for long-term benefits, GMO labeling has absolutely zero upside, and, if passed, will only cause damage.

It is of vital importance that the science be understood so that intelligent, sensible policy can be made.

Andrew Langen is a sophomore majoring in economics and mathematics.

November 18, 2014


Andrew Langen

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