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The Biotech Labeling Debate

March 4, 2011
What’s in a Label?

Responding to a poorly-worded and obviously biased MSNBC Reader Survey about the labeling of foods derived from agricultural biotechnology, the Illinois Farm Bureau posted on its blog an editorial with its own ideas about how to deal with the labeling dilemma.
A rose, by any other name, smells just as sweet.  Unless it’s genetically modified, if you listen to some of the arguments out there.

Last week, MSNBC ran a story about GMO foods and included a poll at the bottom of the story.  Predictably, 95 percent of the respondents answered the question “Do you believe genetically modified foods should be labeled?” by clicking “Yes.  It’s an ethical issue – consumers should be informed so they can make a choice.”

Believe it or not, we would agree, to a certain extent. The proponents of GMO labeling believe the labels should be negative – for example: “This product contains NO GMOs.”

It’s reminiscent of the negative labeling of High Fructose Corn Syrup, which companies are using as a marketing tool, by making the implication that their competitors’ products with HFCS are inferior and/or unhealthy.

Here is what we propose:  if you’re going to use negative labeling, make sure you give consumers all the facts.  Perhaps something like:

“CONTAINS NO GMO though it’s been shown that organic foods are no safer or healthier than conventionally produced foods, and nothing has been shown to indicate that GMOs are unhealthy, we thought we’d indicate that our product is somehow superior by implying that GMOs are bad.  After all, they’re going to help feed a growing world by ensuring consistent production through drought and disease.”

Now that’s truth in labeling.