Genetic Literacy Project Infographic: Is labeling GMOs really about our “Right to Know”?

| October 31, 2013 |
GMO labeling

If one believes the backers of Washington State Initiative 522, Tuesday’s vote is simple commonsense: It’s about the “right to know” what’s in our food.

This is the beguiling message pushed by a myriad of activists linked to such organizations as Right to Know GMO, Label GMOs and Just Label It. It’s powerful and superficially persuasive.

“To be clear the Just Label campaign is not an anti-GMO effort,” says Gary Hirshberg, founder of organic food maker Stonyfield Organic, and head of Just Label It.

After all, what but a conspiracy of the federal government and global corporations could be against providing helpful information to consumers about what they eat? But in less guarded moments, Hirshberg makes it clear that the labeling movement has nothing at all to do with science, information and discourse—it is exclusively an anti-GMO effort.

“Genetically modified organisms are one of the most dangerous and radical changes to our food supply,” he has said. Hirshberg has become a millionaire many times over selling pricey organic foods promoted with labeled marketing claims like “No Yucky Stuff,” which falsely suggests that more affordable conventional products are somehow unsafe and inferior.  “Because GMOs are not labeled in the U.S., they might be causing acute or chronic effects,” Hirshberg has also written.

That’s what Orwell would call The Big Lie. The National Academies of Science of almost every country, World Health Organization, American Medical Association and nearly every other medical and food oversight organization in the world along with a host of scientific and scholarly societies have all concluded that GM crops are as safe as any other and pose no special risks to humans or the environment. There is not one proven or suspected case of “acute or chronic” effects from GMO consumption.

Let’s be clear. The leaders of the ‘right to know’ movement are out to dissimulate, demonize and destroy. These organizations play the ‘right to know card’ as a subterfuge to scare people about the safety of the food system and to divert attention from the sustainability benefits of GM. Are there tradeoffs in adopting crop biotechnology or large-scale agriculture? Of course, and there is room for healthy dialogue. But make no mistake here: Rational discussion and transparency are not on the mainstream pro-label groups agenda.

Chris McManus, a sponsor of I-522, has decried those who have said that the goal of pro labeling activists is to scare people. That’s not our agenda, he claimed. This is about transparency. “A little bit more information never hurt anybody about the foods they eat,” McManus said earlier this year—as he unloaded boxfuls of petitions from the ambulance truck he had rented to the footsteps of the Secretary of State’s office, as part of an elaborately orchestrated anti-GMO activist stunt to scare the bejeebers out of Washingtonians.

Internationally respected and independent Scientific American, in a September editorial, demolished the oft-repeated canard that the labeling issue is about transparency and empowering the consumer. “Many people argue for GMO labels in the name of increased consumer choice,” the editors wrote in “Labels for GMOs Are a Bad Idea”. “On the contrary, such labels have limited people’s options. … Ultimately, we are deciding whether we will continue to develop an immensely beneficial technology or shun it based on unfounded fears.”

The GLP has an ongoing series of infographics on biotechnology:

  1. 10 reasons we need crop biotechnology
  2. International science organizations on crop biotech safety

This third entry in our series presents the actual words of the world’s most prominent pro-labeling activists—those who claim on NPR and the Nightly News that this issue is simply about a ‘right to know’ when their real agenda is just the opposite. Here are their comments made when their guard is down—when they speak among ‘friends’—people who are dedicated to destroying the science of genetic engineering and limiting consumer choice and right to know.

GLP GMO label

  • Farmers4Choice

    There is nothing simple about their propaganda campaign…They use fear and deception to instill distrust in the public to further their agenda. They have made agriculture a new religion and GMO’s their devil.

    • Snazzy Architecture

      As a farmer It’s surprising you would go for GMO’s. Economically speaking that is.

      • Aaaarrrggh

        Maybe the farmer knows more about farming than you do.

        • jazzfeed

          He knows all about his farm, his animals, his soil, his plants, his chemicals, his cultivation methods. Farmers4Choice’s world. “Farming” is a much bigger world.

      • RobertWager

        From the 2010 National Academy of Sciences report “Impact of GE Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States”

        “In general,
        the committee finds that genetic-engineering
        technology has produced substantial net environmental and economic
        benefits to U.S. farmers
        compared with non-GE crops in conventional

        GE crops have had
        fewer adverse effects on the environment
        than non-GE crops produced conventionally.

        adoption of HT crops
        complements conservation tillage practices,
        which reduce
        the adverse effects of tillage on soil
        and water quality.

        Insecticide use has decreased with
        the adoption of
        insect-resistant (Bt)crops.”

      • Iowa/Maui Girl

        You’re kidding, right? There is a reason that (as of 2012), 88% of corn and 84% of soy grown in the US was genetically modified. (US Dept. of Ag) A good farmer knows that the use of GE seeds will slightly increase the seed purchase price, but greatly decrease their tilling and spray costs. Tilling uses fuel and time, and negatively impacts the soil. A GMO crop also uses less spray than a conventionally farmed crop. Farmers are not forced into using GE seeds, they have done the research and math and know that this will decrease their production cost and increase their yield.

  • Snazzy Architecture

    It isn’t true that there isn’t science backing up the dangers of GMO’s. Search for scholarly/pier reviewed articles and you can see there are many. More the the point is the biodiversity issue. This may not present the typical health problems associated with GMO’s but a significant biodiversity issue. This is just a glance at the implications. There are serious socio economic issues with the manner in which marketing these products is concerned.

    Any sincere and as unbiased as possible endeavour will show both positive and negative benefits. It isn’t simply one way or the other as both sides of the debate on GMO’s would have you think.

    • Loren Eaton

      ‘More the the point is the biodiversity issue.’ And that would be what, exactly? Which field has more biodiversity? The Bt cotton field or the sprayed cotton field?

      ‘It isn’t true that there isn’t science backing up the dangers of GMO’s.’ There is also very little quality backing up those studies (Pusztai, Seralini, Carman). On the whole, they’re so poorly done that one can’t distinguish REAL effects from those present due to poor design and execution.

      • go go gergie

        The field with the most biodiversity would be the organic cotton field, full of weeds and lower yields thus requiring the use of more land.

        • Loren Eaton

          Point taken!!! Does that mean Norman Borlaug was correct when he said that organic can’t feed the world??

  • Yes Maam
  • Yes Maam

    Feeding the world is not their agenda. They have “sold” a product to farmers that makes them slaves to the corporations and threatens the entire food industry and future of America. See what a Homeland Security rep says about the real reason for GMOs.