Have you ever heard of dihydrogen monoxide? Perhaps not, but let me assure you that we're within its presence at all times.
Did you know that thousands of people die each year from accidental inhalation of dihydrogen monoxide? Not only that, but it's an industrial solvent and coolant, used as a fire retardant, and over consumption can lead to death.
This compound is a danger to our environment and must be banned!
If you aren't familiar with chemistry nomenclature, it's entirely understandable why you would call for this dihydrogen monoxide to be banned. But, would this video clip change your mind?
Yes, dihydrogen monoxide - H 2 O - is the chemistry name for water. And yes, all of the above does accurately describe water. If you inhale too much of it, you die (that's called drowning). It dissolves many compounds (which is the definition of a solvent). It can cool you off (most notably, all the cool city kids with the open fire hydrants in the summer, which speaks to water's use as a fire retardant).
What's the point of the above exercise? It shows that an ignorant citizenry is susceptible to hysteria campaigns when uninformed, or perhaps more relevant to the discussion as I shift to GMOs, misinformed. Sure, you can argue that the general public should not be familiar with chemistry nomenclature, and thus the above example is absurd. But if you want to stay fair, you must concede that the general public knows what DNA is, even at a rudimentary level.
So when 80% of the general public supports "mandatory labels on foods containing DNA" - the same percentage of people who want mandatory labels on GMOs - I hope you start to see why mandatory labeling of GMOs would cause unnecessary panic among our scientifically ignorant society.
Let's discuss further.
In case you may have missed the absurdity of labeling foods containing DNA, I'll explain it in full. Most foods that we consume contain DNA. Anything that is composed of cells contains DNA. Meat, leafs, fruit, mushrooms, etc. - if you're eating cells, you're eating DNA. Unless you're having a beverage (most of them, anyway) or eating pure sugar, you're eating DNA.
In fact, your body needs to consume DNA. When we repair our own DNA sequence, or when our cells are preparing to divide, we need the building blocks of consumed DNA to be used for DNA replication and repair.
So what does this have to do with requiring mandatory labels on GMO products?
Mandatory labeling of GMO products will unnecessarily confuse and alarm the general public, even though to date there is no risk of consuming GMO foods. A recently published meta review, entitled "An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research" (behind a pay wall, abstract available; impact factor of 7.837, so a very well-cited and respected journal), concluded:
We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety during the last 10 years, built a classified and manageable list of scientific papers, and analyzed the distribution and composition of the published literature. We selected original research papers, reviews, relevant opinions and reports addressing all the major issues that emerged in the debate on GE crops, trying to catch the scientific consensus that has matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide. The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of GE crops; however, the debate is still intense
If the science should change, then my viewpoint will change (just as I have come around on fracking's effect on seismological events). But for now, according to the review, there are no "significant hazards" identified.
A publication frequently cited by anti-GMO members that says GMO maize caused cancer in rats has been universally destroyed by the research community, and rightly so. The study, conducted in the lab of Gilles-Eric Séralini, was so poorly designed it's laughable to any legitimate scientist. It has been retracted.
A cliff notes version of how terrible that study was:
1) Rats used (Sprague-Dawley strain) have a pre-existing high rate of cancer at old age
2) Only 10 rats used per group, even thought a post-hoc power analysis states that at least 65 rats should have been used per group to eliminate statistical uncertainty with regard to point #1
3) NO statistical tests were done on the Kaplan-Meier survival curves. So, there is no evidence that the deleterious effect of RoundUp was real instead of being classic Type I error.
4) Rats that consumed 11% RoundUp had higher incidences of cancer than rats that consumed 33%; this does not follow with normal concentration-dependent toxicology norms.
It's the same playbook that anti-vaxers have used - hold up a fraudulent study peddled by a charismatic snake oil salesman as "evidence" of a giant conspiracy of Big Pharma. Except that individual (Andrew Wakefield) and his more-than-willing spokeswoman Jenny McCarthy literally have blood on their hands.
With the anti-vaccine movement, we have a clear example of where scientific ignorance combined with hysteria and deliberate misinformation is causing direct harm in our communities. And the same will be true if mandatory labeling of GMOs is implemented.
Mandatory labeling for GMOs will cause unnecessary panic and confusion among consumers, who will think that GMO food must be unsafe if it requires a label identifying it. Additionally, there are different types of genetic engineering, so the term GMO is quite broad. Will labels distinguish between recombinant DNA GMOs, hybrid GMOs, etc.?
Lastly, food labels can be meaningless without proper context. How many food items are currently identified with loosely-defined terms like "natural"? Marketing teams are quite savvy and will find ways to abuse the labeling system to their company's benefit. Labeling terms can be and are regulated, but who's to say that the labeling requirements won't have loop holes or be easily revised?
I can understand the desire of folks to have their food labeled, but in this instance it would cause overreaction and unnecessary alarm for a class of products that is not dangerous.
The floor is yours.