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Banning states from requiring GMO food labeling is a very bad idea

Banning states from requiring GMO food labeling is a very bad idea
REUTERS/Jason Redmond
Labels point out products verified to not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) at the Central Co-op in Seattle, Washington.

WINONA — I usually agree with positions taken by 1st District U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, but I strongly disagree with his recent vote in support of HR 1599, which would ban states from requiring that foods containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled.

The bill, written to protect Monsanto, Syngenta and their allies in the Grocery Manufacturers Association, not only prevents states, such as Vermont, from implementing mandatory GMO labeling laws, it would prevent the Food Drug Administration from ever requiring GMO food labels. It also prevents states and counties from enforcing bans and restrictions on the planting of GMO crops, which are already in place in California, Oregon and Hawaii.

90% support for mandatory GMO labeling

Polls consistently show that 90 percent of Americans support mandatory GMO labeling. Sixty-four countries, including our major trading partners, already require GMO foods to be labeled. The U.S. is losing world market share because biotech crops and food products are not labeled.

(Walz was not alone in Minnesota in his support for the bill. Among the state's representatives, only Reps. Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan voted against it.)

In a July 24 MinnPost article, Walz, in talking about GMO labeling backers, is quoted as saying, “I respect their worries but the science isn't there with them.” 

In reality, science is not on the side of the biotech industry. They place severe restrictions on the ability of scientists to conduct research on their patented products, as reflected in the language in their licensing agreements prohibiting farmers and researchers from conducting research. When scientists do conduct independent research on genetically engineered crops and publish critical findings, they are viciously attacked and discredited by biotech company representatives.

Higher pesticide use on GMO crops

Science has shown that GMO crops use more pesticides and contain higher pesticide residues than non-GMO crops. These residues include glyphosate (Roundup), which has recently been named by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen.

Jim Riddle

Animal feeding trials have linked the consumption of GMO crops to increased obesity, reproductive problems, digestive system disorders, tumors, liver and kidney disease, and early death. It’s no wonder that the biotech industry does all it can to suppress science and prevent foods containing GMOs from being labeled.

I don’t blame the biotech industry for trying to hide the effects of their products, but I do expect our member of Congress to protect the interests of Americans, including his constituents, over the financial interests of the industry.

Jim Riddle coordinates organic research grant programs for Ceres Trust, a charitable organization that distributes $2M/year for organic research in the Upper Midwest. He and his wife own and operate Blue Fruit Farm, a diversified fruit farm in southeast Minnesota. Riddle serves on the board of Right to Know MN, which advocates for GMO labeling, and is treasurer of the Winona County Farmers Union.

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Comments (39)

Boogie man will get you!

Unfortunately this gentleman is making a grave error in where the science of GM food is and where it will help us. He pulls the Monsanto boogie man trope out to scare us all about GM organisms and that is not only misleading, it is dangerous. His actual beef is with their business practices but he falsely blames the science.

Our own University of Minnesota is a leader in the science of genetically modifying (via breeding as well as gene editing and other techniques). The scientists doing this work at the University do so to dramatically reduce pesticide use, increase yields on shrinking arable lands and frankly, to feed the world.

As climate change quickly shifts our farming landscape which in turn puts unknown and novel pressures on our food supply, fast genetic modification will be vital to give our farmers robust crops and our belly's nutritious food. Having to scare us with boogie men, false correlations and big bad agra-business to try and get mandatory labeling laws is sad and dangerous.

GMO

It would be nice if you would cite specific studies when you say "Science has shown....."

Another and much more detailed take on the subject from Slate.com:
http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/07/are_gmo...

Argh

Why oh why do these hacks insist on destroying scientific credibility with their pointless attacks on the health risks of GMOs. We get it, you have business interests to protect amongst your organic brethren, but you damage the fight on everything from climate change to vaccines with your myopic self interest.

This Advertizement Brought to you by

Big Organic. More illnesses are caused by organic foods than GMO foods. According to a study published in the June issue of Agriculture and Human Values organic is also worse for the environment than conventional agriculture. Not one argument against GMO's cannot also be applied to every other method of plant breeding. Organic crops are also artificially selected (bred). If we are to label GMO's then we should also label organic foods since they have been subjected to plant breeding. The overwhelming majority of the scientific community believes GMO's are safe just as the overwhelming majority also believes climate change. Why would anyone believe climate change but not that GMO's are safe? There is zero nutritional difference between GMO foods and organic foods so what exactly would labeling GMO foods do for the consumer besides scare them into buying organic? A GMO label would provide zero useful information to consumers.

"Science has shown that GMO crops use more pesticides and contain higher pesticide residues than non-GMO crops. These residues include glyphosate (Roundup), which has recently been named by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen." This statement is absolutely false. GMO's are letting farmers apply less pesticide and recent studies by the USDA/FDA have proven that. Those studies show that residues are below FDA limits for the majority of foods. Organic growers also use toxic pesticides in higher amounts due to a lower effectiveness of those chemicals. No residue testing is conducted at all on organic crops. How much pesticide residue is on those crops? I would like to know and not have this information kept from the public.

It is clear where you get your funding from and how you intend to be a representative for them.

Glad to see

You've finally seen the light on climate change Joe. We'll just pretend at least for the sake of our agreement on at least one issue anyway.

sure

Lol. For the record I was never in disagreement that climate change was real. Just that who and how much was debatable in my opinion. Let's not get off track though. As far as banning individual states from forcing GMO labeling, it would benefit all to do that since it would force all states to have the same labeling or not labeling. It would also force them to be accurate about it rather than using scare tactics.

They can get back to me

When they make as big a push for FDA oversight of the supplement industry. That folks who are so vehemently opposed to eating food without knowing it's exact constitiution down to a molecular level turn around and take what ever herbal wazoo they can get their hands on despite having NO IDEA what's actually in it is mind boggling.

Two words

or actually a name. Norman Borloug. Because of his early work on GMO's, he has been credited with saving over 1 billion people (yep, that's a billion). Now I suppose there are some that will argue what he did was different, but it's not. Oh, and he's a Gopher too.

When have large busninesses ever lied to us?

Okay, there was that one time when all the CEO's of the Tobacco companies raised their right hand before a congressional committee and swore that they did not believe that nicotine was addictive, even though their own researchers were telling them different, but that was a one off right, that couldn't be the case here, could it? And of course there may have been one of two other things, here and there, but in the long run bowing to our corporate masters, as so many commenters here appear to be doing, has been a good thing, right? Right?

Hell no, when a large corporation tells us to trust them they know what they're doing, when they fight tooth and nail to protect their products from scrutiny its time for a closer look. The truth is we have no idea what the effects of GMOs on our health and our environment will be and if these greedy companies are allowed to have their way it will be far too late when we do find out.

If their products are so great they would be happy to label them as such. But they won't, they give us this happy horseshit about they've been given a raw deal and public opinion has been skewed by big bad environmentalists. BS, that 90% number comes from years and years of lies told to us by major corporations. Americans know that they can't trust these guys. If they believed that their product was so safe they'd be out there telling us to let the market decide, but they're not, they're looking for government protection and Walz and his ilk are happy to give it to them. Consequences be damned.

buninesses

So are we to believe that big organic has our best interests at heart and would never lie to us? Who is trying to hide what? It looks like it is Big Organic that is trying to hide things to me. It isn't just Monsanto's own researchers either that are telling you GMO's are safe. It is a general consensus from the majority of scientists that have studied them.

We do have an idea of the effects of GMOs on our health and our environment. There have been numerous studies done on those effects and GMOs have undergo a very rigorous approval process. Let's not keep perpetuating myths please. You can't find one reason to label GMOs that wouldn't also apply to all other methods of plant breeding.

The problem you are running into

Is that you are being duped by one huge group of business interests (the organic, "natural" foods, and supplement industry), into carrying water for them in their fight against another huge industry (corporate agribusiness). Make no mistake, both have no interest beyond increasing their holdings, and hurting the other. This isn't a case of independent science vs corporate obfuscation (ie climate change), or outright falsehood vs truth (the antivax debacle), this is simply business wearing the mask of grassroots activism. Find me a study by someone who isn't a shill for either team and you might have something, but as yet all I see is fear mongering for profit.

not exactly

The majority of studies that say GMO's are safe have been peer reviewed while those opposed to GMO's have mostly been debunked by other scientists. While there has not been a lot of independent science that isn't to say there has been none. The anti-GMO crowd would call him a shill because he got a sandwich out of the deal but the study done by Dr. Folta would be one. He's defended himself numerous times from attacks by the organic industry and anti-GMO activists who when shown the science resort to nothing but name calling and derogatory language.

companies

If you are that concerned about evil corporations making money perhaps you should compare the amount made by Monsanto in 2014 compared to Whole Foods in 2014. Many people were duped into purchasing $6 asparagus water from Whole Foods.

By the way, do you have any idea where insulin comes from? Neil Young, anti-GMO fear mongerer and diabetic, doesn't either.

Don't people have the right to know?

I fully support Jim's take in the article. The "science" meant to assure us that GMOs are safe is consistently funded by companies with the most to gain. Given the general agreement that groups and people (lawyers, politicians, businesses, school teachers, preachers, etc.) are often motivated by self-interest, how can it be reasonably argued that we don't have a right to know what's in our food? Is it because people who know what's in their food might make different choices, and that's somehow bad? Let's give people information and let THEM decide what to eat. Boggles my mind.

what"s in it?

Exactly the same stuff that's in non-gmo food. Labeling it would not provide any usefull information to consumers and would only pander to the fear mongering about concerns that have already been addressed. Would you also like to know what is in your organic food? They use chemicals and have used breeding methods to alter the genetic makeup of their crops as well.

What a joke

"In a July 24 MinnPost article, Walz, in talking about GMO labeling backers, is quoted as saying, “I respect their worries but the science isn't there with them.” "

There is not science on either side! We're talking about possible health issues here by using the product! It isn't the consumers job to prove that it isn't safe it's THEIR JOB to prove that IT IS SAFE with neutral 3rd party studies. If the studies aren't there then the products shouldn't be on a shelf!!!!

quacks

The GMO labeling backers are backed by quack science and nothing more. They have not been able to show any reason to label them that would not also apply to all other methods of plant breeding. This would mean all foods would need to be labeled. It has also been a consensus of the majority of scientists around the world that GMO's are safe. Plenty of neutral studies have been done. The refusal to accept any type of proof no matter what has led to the anti-GMO movement.

why not

What is the harm in labeling? If GMOs are so great than so be it. If people just want to know so be it. I understand the cost in changing labels, but really what;s the harm? Thou doth protest too much.

Fear

Fear mongering is the reason. There is no useful information that can be gained by labeling them because they are not different than other methods of plant breeding. It would only cause fear in consumers over a silly label.

Fear mongering

The fact that companies are spending millions of dollars to fight labeling is supposed to instill confidence in their products?

I don't find labels silly they inform me what I am putting in my body.

By the way breeding is not relevant to a gmo debate.

labeling

Then why is the organic industry fighting labeling of their products since they are also subjected to selective breeding? If you want to know what foods are GMO then you should also want to know which ones are ASO as well. Will that provide some useful information to you? Will you also want to know what pesticides and fertilizers (animal or commercial) were used on the crops grown to create the foods both organic and conventional?

Yes

More information is better.

information

Why aren't you asking for information on organic food then? Does knowing whether food has GMO's I it or had manure applied to it or had a certain pesticide to it somehow affect the nutritional value of it? Hint: the answer is no. Foods produced by conventional agriculture have been tested for residual pesticides. Organic food has not. Wouldn't a uniform set of rules for displaying information be better than states having their own?

If the publics fear was what policy was based on then Jenner's smallpox vaccine wouldn't have been developed.

subject

The article is about GMO labeling.

I am aware of that

It is about GMO labeling but you need to be aware of the reasons why some want it and why it is not necessary.

Hubris

It amazes me that humans continue to think that they can introduce an unnatural element into something that was designed by nature and there won't be consequences.

Also, you GMO proponents need to stop muddying the argument with discussion about plant breeding and hybridizing. Selection is a natural process, whether done by nature or humans. Nature doesn't splice genes between vastly disparate species.

We are being experimented upon by the chemical companies, and you don't even care. That's sad.

Plant Breeding

Plant breeding has been done for thousands of years. Were the people who made your organic foods by selective breeding "playing god" as you call it too? I'm not sure why you think there is some vast conspiracy of companies to experiment on you when the majority of scientists (including independent ones) agree GMO's are safe.

As I clearly stated in my initial comment,

selection is a natural process, whether done by nature or humans.

GMOs are not created by a natural process, and are therefore unnatural. If you can get two species from different kingdoms to successfully cross-breed and hybridize, I'm sure you'd win a Nobel Prize. Have at it.

You know those weeds that are becoming resistant to Glyphosate? Their resistance is being created naturally due to human interference. Humans are inadvertently selecting the most herbicide-resistant strains of the plant by killing off the less-resistant ones. Life finds a way, but we may not like what it will do.

breeding

You simply do not understand plant breeding at all. Selective breeding is not any different than GMO. Not one argument against GMO's cannot also be applied to all other methods of plant breeding. Whether someone thinks it is "natural" or not is not a factor at all.

Raising GMO crops will reduce the chance of weeds becoming resistant to chemicals since less will be used. In the last 30 years the amount of pesticides used has been reduced greatly. GMO crops allow even further reductions.

breeding, continued

Golden rice:

In the past, if you wanted to develop a new strain of rice, you would have to go through years of cross-breeding different types of rice plants and select for the traits that you desire.

Golden rice has a gene from daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) and a gene from the soil bacterium Erwinia uredovora. Now, please tell me how long it took those 'plant breeders' to get the daffodil and soil bacterium to successfully reproduce with a rice plant. To call this process 'breeding' is to not understand the meaning of the word.

"In the last 30 years the amount of pesticides used has been reduced greatly. GMO crops allow even further reductions."

Please provide citations to back up this claim. It makes no sense. By definition there has to be more Glyphosate being used than in the past, because it is now being sprayed on entire fields of crops where it was not possible to do so 25 years ago.

pesticides

Only 22 ounces per acre is the required dosage for roundup (glyphosate) on a field of soybeans. The label is my source. That's less than 2 cans of pop. The rest of the tankful is water and possibly a surfactant to make it stick to the leaves better. It makes perfect sense that less is being used since the crop is resistant to the glyphosate. USDA is my source of information for this. You can look there and see a reduction of pesticides applied.

"The overwhelming evidence is that the GM foods now on the market are as safe, or safer, than non-GM foods" "Every credible scientific body that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion"

These quotes direct from this article: http://farmprogress.com/story-genetic-modification-critical-tech-feeding...

pesticide reduction data

"Other studies cited conclude that, over 20 years, GM crops have reduced pesticide use by 37%"

http://farmprogress.com/story-genetic-modification-critical-tech-feeding...

genetic modification

"Humans practiced genetic modification long before chemistry entered agriculture," Fedoroff explains, "transforming inedible wild plants into crop plants, wild animals into domestic animals and harnessing microbes to produce everything from cheese to wine and beer. Oddly, it is only our contemporary methods of bending organisms' genetic constitution to suit our needs that are today recognized as genetic modification."

http://farmprogress.com/story-genetic-modification-critical-tech-feeding...

"...harnessing microbes to produce..."

Is not genetic modification.

If I put a saddle on a horse and ride it, am I changing its genes?

Utter nonsense. In none of those cases above have humans inserted foreign genes into the genetic make-up of those plants, animals, or microbes.

Yes...selection for traits changes the genes of a plant...in much the same way you having a child with your wife changes the genes of homo sapiens. Yet we don't consider having children to be "genetic modification". I presume you selected your wife for her traits and vice versa, no?

"Genetic Modification" has a specific meaning in the modern world, and it doesn't include the above.

again it is

It is if you use microbes that have been genetically modified to produce the wine and cheese. It is a well known fact that cheese is produced by genetically modified microbes. Many different varieties of grapes for wine have been produced by genetically modifying grapes for different traits as well. How do you think we are able to grow grapes for wine in MN? I suggest you look into the process of making wine, cheeses, and also insulin since all of those utilize genetic modification to produce them. This in no way is similar to you breeding with your wife to produce a child.

The scientific prowess of ancient people.

It is quite astonishing to me that you think that wine and cheese are only made from genetically modified microbes. It makes me wonder how it was possible for people to have such things hundreds and thousands of years ago. How ever did they genetically engineer these things?

Humans figured out how to use already existing microbes to create wine and cheese. They didn't have to genetically engineer them to get them to do it. It's a natural process harnessed by humans. This is not difficult to understand.

You are decidedly ill-informed about the way things have been done for centuries. It is not a well-known fact that cheese is produced by genetically modified microbes...because it is not true. There may be *some* cheeses that are, but the cheese-making process has been around for a very long time and need not involve genetically engineered microbes.

And how do I think we are able to grow grapes for wine in MN? It's a very simple answer: the University of Minnesota has a grape breeding program that finally started yielding a viable plant in the mid-1990s. Breeding...as in 'selection'...a time-proven process to create plants that have the traits you desire. The grape DNA is 100% grape. There are no foreign genes in these plants.

ancient people

You have still yet to name one risk for GMO's that do not also apply to another method of plant breeding. I've posted links to supporting evidence that shows GMO's to be safe and good for the earth but you continue to choose to ignore it. The fact that people willingly accept wine, cheese and insulin made with genetically modified organisms yet think other GMO's should be banned just shows how uneducated and ill informed those people are. You are also ill informed of how plants and other things have been genetically modified for thousands of years. Take for instance the pet wolf you walk daily bred to have it's 4 inch long legs and respiratory issues. It is a fact cheese is made with genetically modified microbes and while it may not be every cheese it is quite common. In the past this was not used/common but things have advanced quite a bit. I never said in my post that all cheese and wine are made from genetically modified microbes and you are simply putting words where there were none.

Grapes grown in MN have been artificially selected to have cold tolerant traits as well as other traits changing the genetics of the plant which is no different than GMO's.

Already doing it - so what's the problem?

GMOs have been labeled in the Euro zone since '97. The information is readily available and already printed on the packaging by some of the same companies who don't want to do it here. The only reason to not label the foods is because they know people would choose not to buy it if they knew what was in it. Whether you agree with the choice is meaningless, it's still the consumer's choice. So a company needs a law so they can sell us what we don't want to buy. Who are we protecting here?

Fact-checking

Let's check Mr. Riddle's claims.

* it would prevent the Food Drug Administration from ever requiring GMO food labels.

False. The bill allows the FDA to require food labeling any time it finds a specific health risk.

* It also prevents states and counties from enforcing bans and restrictions on the planting of GMO crops, which are already in place in California, Oregon and Hawaii.

False. The bill simply applies to labeling and has no provisions on cultivation

* Polls consistently show that 90 percent of Americans support mandatory GMO labeling.

Dubious. No GMO labeling initiative has ever succeeded at the ballot box (see California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon) and consumers rarely answer "GMO Labeling!" when asked what additional information should be added to food labels. It takes push polling to elicit a yes to GMO labeling.

* The U.S. is losing world market share because biotech crops and food products are not labeled.

False. The US exports GMO crops all over the world by simply adding labels where needed. Europe loves US GMO corn and soy particularly.

* In reality, science is not on the side of the biotech industry.

False. Every major scientific institution in the world has found GMOs just as safe as conventional crops, including the EU's science advisors and all large nations except Russia. Congrats, Putin.

* They place severe restrictions on the ability of scientists to conduct research on their patented products, as reflected in the language in their licensing agreements prohibiting farmers and researchers from conducting research.

Dubious. Yet researchers study them anyway, either with research licenses or just buying them at a seed store and having a ball.

* When scientists do conduct independent research on genetically engineered crops and publish critical findings, they are viciously attacked and discredited by biotech company representatives.

Dubious. This has happened exactly three times, and the studies in question were severely flawed, kinda like this article. And how is this even possible given what you just claimed about licenses? Oops.

* Science has shown that GMO crops use more pesticides and contain higher pesticide residues than non-GMO crops.

False. 90% of US corn and soy are now GMO with no increase in overall pesticide use. Some GMOs have built-in insecticides (that's a type of pesticide) that reduce pesticide application by 80%.

* Animal feeding trials have linked the consumption of GMO crops to increased obesity, reproductive problems, digestive system disorders, tumors, liver and kidney disease, and early death.

False. If this were true, why would ranchers use them? In case we forget, the purpose of animal feed is fattening-up the livestock, but alas GMOs are no different from any other grains in this regard.

* It’s no wonder that the biotech industry does all it can to suppress science and prevent foods containing GMOs from being labeled.

In fact you're the one suppressing science. If your opinions are based on a reading of the research literature rather than organic food industry talking points, kindly show your sources. And no, retracted studies don't count.

Bottom line: just because you can publish nonsense doesn't mean you must.