A piece in Slate serves to remind us that conservatives don’t have a monopoly on anti-scientific notions. The GMO anxiety seems mostly driven from the left. (I say this as a liberal).
Those who see the GMO label leading to higher food prices begin (as they should) by highlighting the sham science that’s been used to vilify GMOs over the past two decades. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that GMOs are safe to eat. That hasn’t prevented the disingenuous association of genetic modification with maladies ranging from cancer, autism, impotence, allergies, and infertility tofarmer suicides in India. Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at Oklahoma State and an editor of the Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Food Consumption and Policy, explained in an email, “requiring GE labels serves to promote the kind of thinking” that’s rooted in “pseudo-scientific theories that have no basis in solid science.” Perhaps it’s not “new and improved” that will pop to mind when consumers see a GMO label, but rather something more like “skull and crossbones.”
Personally, I suspect the reaction from the public, once they got used to seeing the labels, would be a gigantic “meh”. I doubt it would change the buying habits of most people. After all, how many people actually look at the labels? (I look at them, mostly for the nutrition info, but I rarely see anyone else in the aisles bothering.) At least, that’s what I hope their reaction would be since I’m not eager to pay more for my groceries.
Labeling might perversely make people more comfortable with GMOs once they realized that it was in just about everything. Irrational though it is, denying the desire for this labeling is probably fueling the GMO scare more than anything else. I can definitely understand the concern of farmers as discussed in the article. But I suspect they’re fighting a losing battle.