Anti-GMO ‘Big Lie’: Is labeling really about our “Right to Know”?


If one believes the backers of mandatory labeling initiatives, it’s simple common sense: consumers have a “right to know” what’s in our food.

That is the beguiling message promulgated 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,” Gary Hirshberg, founder of organic food maker Stonyfield Organic, and director of Just Label It, has said repeatedly.

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?

Call it the Big Lie of many high profile pro-labeling advocates who use the fig leaf of the “right to know” meme to cover their true intentions: to undermine public confidence in crop biotechnology. 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.

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. According to a poll of scientists with the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, more scientists embrace the safety of GM crops than accept that climate change is partly human-induced (87%). Now that’s a consensus. There is not one proven or suspected case of so much as a sniffle from GMO consumption, let alone “acute or chronic” effects. Gary Hirshberg’s comments befit a scare-mongering demagogue–with the organic industry that he has come to represent as the main beneficiary.

Let’s be clear. Many of the leaders of the ‘right to know’ movement are not being honers; the public record of their comments indicates they are out to dissimulate, demonize and destroy. These pro labeling 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 genetically modified crops and modern agriculture. 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.

Internationally respected and independent Scientific American, in an 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.”

In this infographic, the GLP 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 the evidence suggests are dedicated to undermining public support for the science of genetic engineering and limiting consumer choice and right to know.GLP-GMO-label

Download pdf here

  • 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.

        • ThatGuy

          We do, and what few I’ve met who don’t laugh at organic labels as total nonsense, are the ones growing their food in backyards and producing next to nothing for a sustainable crop.

      • 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
    • First Officer

      Moms Across America. The low carbon corn people.

      • Yes Maam

        Moms Across America: “Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids.” That includes your kids.

        • Cairenn Day

          How many of y’all refuse vaccinations, also?

          I bet that the kids growing up on farms are a lot more healthy than yours.

  • 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.

    • Yes Maam,
      If you think that any farmers are “slaves to corporations” you clearly don’t know any farmers.

      • Yes Maam

        I know farmers who have gotten out of that cycle, have greater yield, more diversity, healthier soil, produce and less pests and weeds. I know farmers who were sick and could not procreate when they were using chemicals and after they stopped using GMOs they got better and could bear children. I know farmers who I would be proud to call my father. And they speak the truth.

        • Randall H.

          It takes skill to use the proper chemical and fertilizer.

          I have had, (and I require handlers in our operation to take,) cholinesterase tests. This tell us if the applicator is being careful with the handling of organophosphates.

          I would respectfully (and carefully if I may without insulting you) suggest that the farmers you know are not qualified to handle chemicals, and they would be better off not being involved with them. They certainly made the correct decision for them.

          All of my associations are with cautious and precise farmers, so of course, I don’t know anyone with the problem of the farmers you know.

          I suggest that you are quite limited in your knowledge of modern farming practices. I’d be happy to discuss modern farming practices with you in a respectful manner.

          • Benjamin Edge

            Or the chemicals her farmer friends were using included THC, which I believe has negative effects on fertility.

    • Randall H.

      I’m a farmer. I don’t feel that way at all.

      I know hundreds of other farmers. I’ve never heard them think that way.

      I saw the Moms Across America corn comparison, and was quite amused. There is zero validity in that “study.”

      • Yes Maam

        How is it not valid? How do you know? Have you done testing on your corn?
        You don’t know farmers who feel that they have to buy more and more chemicals to spray on their GMO crops because they are resistant to weeds or pests? Stuck in a cycle of more and stronger chemicals? Unable to get off the treadmill of buying seeds every year from the same few seed companies which also make the chemicals? That is a cycle of corporate profit. Farmers used to be able to keep their own seeds an replant, they used to have diverse crops and the soil would supply the nutrients for the crops, not chemicals. And they used to supply jobs to hardworking people to rid the fields of pests and harvest the crops. Farms should make jobs, not take them away with more chemcals.

        • Randall H.

          Yes, I have tested my corn. In detail. For all different nutrition, and also for lignin, and the digestibility of the lignin.

          I raise non-GMO corn, also. I have some fields that wouldn’t benefit much from it, so I don’t pay the extra fee to have it.

          I have used GMO products to “clean up” a field, then I went back to conventional–so my experience is exactly opposite of what you are saying happens. EXACTLY opposite.

          Furthermore, I have tested my crops at certified food labs for chemical residue, not because I was required to, but because I wanted to know.

          I have walked fields with a shovel with a crew weeding the field–the last time was in the ’70’s.

          Suggesting that hand-weeding is a productive method of providing jobs is just silly.

          GMO’s provide MORE rotation, not less. They HELP the resistance problem, not add to it.

          Many of the anti-GMO myths are simply upside down and backwards…..they couldn’t be more wrong unless they were purposely trying to lie. Just like getting 0% on a 100 question True/False test.

        • Randall H.

          As to the seeds thing, we quit saving seeds 30+ years ago.

          Other farmers with excellent seed conditions do a better job of raising disease-free and excellent seeds–which raise a vigorous and healthy crop.

          That has ZERO todo with GMO. I buy ALL of my seeds, and we have here for over 30 years.

          Incidentally, I also raise some crops organically–not certified–but with compost and zero commercial fertilizers or pesticides. Why? It is the best practice for the conditions I have. Why do I use GMO’s on 30% of my crops? Same reason.

          You are spreading myths.

        • Judy Nonarchi

          The farmers I work with use less and less. Tiny amounts of Roundup, vs. the past practice of spraying Atrazine (much more toxic). I don’t know who has brainwashed you to think they use “more and more” — uh, pesticides cost money. They use as little as they can. If you knew any farmers you would know this.

        • Benjamin Edge

          The reason farmers use chemicals to control pests and machinery to harvest the crops is because they can’t afford the labor costs, if they can find anyone to do the work, without being called slavedrivers. That plus herbicides save on fuel costs and tend to reduce soil erosion when combined with minimum till practices.

        • marie72

          They now have to pay for there seeds and buy so much more chemicals.

  • Its really about the “right to be frightened” into spending money on unregulated supplements and pricy organic. This is already a multi-billion$ industry, but that isn’t enough for these actors

  • Kim Furtado

    Can the people commenting against GMOs please comment whether or not they’re farmers, and if so, farmers of what crops specifically? Organic vs. non and state they’re from. I find that passionate people can have a respectable opinion, but opinions are not facts and using another organizations articles to argue with a practitioner of what you disdain can often give light to a more helpful discussion that is fact based.

    • Hannah

      I am from Michigan. I am not a farmer but have been an agricultural advisor for many years. Most people (99%) know nothing about farming in the practical sense. If I could gather all these anti GMO non-farmers together and take them to a half dozen farms, to a food processor, a shipper and a retailer it would straighten them out. The next day I would take them to a University laboratory where they test the efficacy of fungicides, insecticides, or herbicides, ask these fine researchers how these studies are funded and dare them to accuse these scientists of bias based upon the funding source. Obviously I am only dreaming.

    • ThatGuy

      Grew up around two dairy farms run by my uncles, aunts and grandma, who had several acres of corn and alp-alpha as well. They all reject “organic” food in general as a joke, and will go out of their way to tell strangers in a supermarket not to buy food with that label. “Organic milk” was something they were especially unfond of, and treated as both more expensive and more dangerous for consumption.

      So.. the family business says no to GMOs, but I’m not a farmer myself. Take that how you will.

  • dada scape

    You supporters of gmo foods know that the day they get labeled is the day your paycheck ends. No thinking person will choose a gmo product when they can choose natural instead. The fear comes from you and you know it. You can’t walk your talk. You say they’re safe, but you won’t agree to label them. That’s cowardly.

    • Judy Nonarchi

      I absolutely DO choose gmo! I don’t want corn borer fungus in my corn. I support local farmers.
      “Natural”? Like what? poop-fertilized organic? wow.

    • Cairenn Day

      Why doesn’t organic come with a label, that states “Caution, grown with animal manure, may be contaminated with bacteria or viruses. Please wash and peel all root vegetable throughly and wash all other well.

      Many organic crops are grown with the use of pesticides/herbicides. None are tested for the residue of those.

      Organic food has not been shown to encourage health, nor is it more environmentally friendly”

      Now that would be TRUTH in labeling.

    • Good4U

      I WANT GMO crops & animals. I agree with the others who have pointed out their benefits and lack of risks. Dada, in response to your point, the fear comes from YOU, and YOU KNOW IT. It’s you who can’t walk the walk of being truthful. You don’t have to eat GMO foods yourself if you don’t want to. Go be a self-sufficient farmer, raise all your own food, and stay where you belong: on some commune away from society. At least have the decency to not stand in the way of GMO technology development which would benefit the other 7 billion people on this planet, many of whom are starving & malnourished.

  • Schratboy

    What’s 20 years of substantial equivalence if we can’t continue to hide it in the food?

  • Padraig

    Jon Entine, after reading many of your articles it’s become quite clear that you are a profoundly ignorant man – particularly about science – and your risk assessment analysis is callous to non-existent.

    Here’s a hint that your own genetic “literacy” isn’t up to scratch: all your articles and websites are filled with ad hominem attacks coupled with some scientific articles that support your view, you give no real scientific commentary or contributions at all… “anyone who disagrees with me believes in creationism or is against vaccines” is not a scientific debate.

  • marie72

    They have labeling in the UK and it did not scare there public away.I saw it on a M&M package.