Labelling GM Foods: the debate goes on

American consumer rights advocate Michael Hansen is in South Africa this week to talk about Genetically Modified (GM) foods. He had this to say:

Why is it that South African law allows shops to label their food as “halaal”, “kosher” or “vegetarian” – yet all sorts of government hurdles are thrown up when people demand compulsory labelling of genetically-modified (GM) food?

Where do I start? Each and every one of those examples cites labelling that is required because of a dietary restriction, for socially acceptable religious, moral, and health reasons. Labelling on food is in place to protect the consumer from foods that their religion, physician or lifestyle dictates they should not eat. When it comes to GM foods, there is nothing to protect the consumer from. Labelling of GM foods will imply that there is some need to protect the consumer, which is rubbish, and may be detrimental to the marketing and sale of otherwise perfectly safe foods. You have to be either a complete idiot or willfully ignorant to miss the point.

Hansen also adds:

We hear so much about GM foods being ‘totally safe’ or ‘good for small farmers’ or even that they are ‘better’ than normal foods. So, if that really is the case, then surely the GM industry would be proud of this and want to advertise these facts?

Oh, sure. In South Africa we have a policy where citizens who were previously disadvantaged by apartheid can purchase land through government grants and enrol in a mentorship program whereby they become sustainable commercial farmers. They are very proud of their accomplishments, but I can imagine the furore that will accompany the labelling of their produce as ‘grown by black farmers’.

There is a long tradition of genetic modification of foods, in the formation of cultivars from cloning and hybradization. Bananas, for example, exist only as a small number of cultivars that must be reproduced asexually. Should we start labelling bananas as Clone Foods?

Hansen, and others like him, think that just because something is created by science, it is somehow different to that created by nature. Their basic misunderstanding of both science and nature only ends up manifesting itself as irrational fear. These are the same kinds of people who, when human cloning becomes a reality, will require that all cloned humans bear a scarlet letter, lest real humans not know they are clones and mistakenly…i don’t know…treat them like people.


7 Responses to “Labelling GM Foods: the debate goes on”

  1. Exactly! Stupid hippy whack-jobs are trying creating a new social and cultural norm which claims that anything GM is BAD, mkay.

    Fundamentally, though, their arguments seem to be based on the misunderstanding that putting frog DNA in apples means that you are actually making apples out of frogs. *sigh*

    From what I hear, their demonstration last week met some opposition. At least that’s something.

  2. What worries me most about human cloning is that if you run the numbers, we’ll end up with even MORE idiots than we have now.

  3. You’re not wrong, because it’s inevitable that the first human clones that actually make to world will be made some backyard nutjob who patents the entire process and starts selling it dumb red-necks who want to clone their dead husbands.

    Or maybe I just don’t give a damn about clones. Why don’t we have these “but do they have souls” arguements about identifical twins? It’s essentially the same process, with a similar (if mirror imaged result).

    Or maybe I’m just be facetious.

  4. Salman: given that humans share 15% homologous DNA with baker’s yeast, by their reasoning anyone who eats bread is a cannibal. One gene doth not an entire species make.

    kyknoord: the first rational argument against cloning i’ve ever heard

    Andy: nah, you’re not being facetious at all. What i want to know is why these people waste time arguing whether cloning is against the natural order when IVF is a thriving industry that is helping hundreds of thousands of couples worldwide to conceive. It’s certainly as much against the ‘natural order’ as cloning.

  5. because IVF was never the subject of a well-known sci-fi story, where the world is up to shit and an IVF-bred “human” tried to take over the world. what we need is a series of popular movies where these luddites are shown to be the cause of our downfall.

  6. I say label foods Genetically Modified – and I’ll buy them in bulk. I am so sick and tired of these morons trying to tell us that modifying food sources to be more robust, more nutricious, easier to grow is going to upset some imaginary friend of theirs that doesn’t speak to them (unless they’ve been drinking), but will show his displeasure when they die and go to meet him.

    How many people are living half-lives or dying now because of food shortages and the lack of stem-cell research? How many cures are waiting for religiously-driven zealots to get punted out of office so they can go ahead?


    Now I’m moerig. Again.

  7. I’d buy them. In fact, most people already do… a huge whack of all soy and wheat in this country is GM, and I don’t see people getting horribly ill or turning into genetic freaks. Well, any more than usual, that is.

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