“Food for Thought”

The question of whether genetically modified foods are safe or not is one of two questions discussed in the article Food for Thought:

But genetically modified crops are not universally popular, because of the hard work of neo-Luddites. Like parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, opponents of GMed food have decided to embrace fear of something they don’t understand.

The second, less obvious argument is “therefore, because I think GMO foods are safe, it is wrong for the government to demand that they be labeled as GMO.”

The problem with that: it is for me to decide what I choose to put into my body. Not you, and not the government.

There’s always this tension between the arguments in favor of free markets and the arguments in favor of regulations. But that shouldn’t be an issue here, because if there’s one purpose for regulations that ought to be uncontroversial, it’s when regulations are about increasing the availability of information available to consumers – and the customer is the one who ought to decide what information is relevant.

Doing it the other way around – letting people do what they want and granting to certain companies the right to have a label on their food signifying “organic” – is not perceived as adequate to all consumers. For one thing, “copycat” advertising meant to mislead consumers can be confusing and hard to detect. For another, there are a lot of consumers who would like to avoid GMO foods, but who do not care about “organic” – which is a far higher standard than merely “not GMO”.

So I don’t see why the people who want to introduce an unpopular, controversial product into the market should be exempt from carrying the burdens associated with labeling. Maybe their food will cost less if people know the truth about it – but isn’t that exactly what “free markets” types say is supposed to happen?

Because a lot of people really do want that information. Whether some scientist – or some government official – thinks it’s irrational or not is really beside the point. Whether it even is irrational is not the point. The whole idea behind capitalism is that it’s supposed to work precisely because people get to vote with their dollars, and people need to have that information in order to know how to decide.

I get that food growers want to pull a profit, but the rest of us are not here to be experimented on. It’s actually unethical to experiment on anyone without their informed consent.

And the flip side is that growers who don’t use GMO crops might actually be able to sell their food for a little bit more money.

If genetically modified foods are really safe, then growers shouldn’t be afraid to label them as such.

The [Weekly Standard] Scrapbook strongly supports everyone’s freedom to think whatever he wants, no matter how silly. The problem here is Connecticut legislators subordinating their judgment to rabble-rousers.

If wanting the truth is rabble-rousing, then maybe the rabble should rouse itself a little more often, because something has gone wrong somewhere.

It’s not wrong for legislators to listen to the rabble-rousers people instead of the scientists. The people – not the scientists – are the ones who have to eat this stuff, and live in the world that some fear might be polluted by this stuff. And let’s face it: science really doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to “it must be safe because we don’t [yet] have any proof it isn’t“.