GMO Labeling Runs Amok

Genetically modified crops have been vilified by the modern discerning green, who wouldn’t dare to offer up GM food at a potluck dinner. As such, there’s unsurprisingly a growing appetite for foods labeled as non-GMO—even when the food has no chance of being genetically modified. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Last year, Evolution Salt Co. proudly slapped a label on its packages of Himalayan salt proclaiming they contained no genetically modified organisms. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because salt has no genes. But Hayden Nasir, chief executive of the Austin-based company, said advertising the absence of GMOs was good business. […]

Exact data on how many products claim they are GMO-free isn’t available, but the number is growing. Of the 33,000 newly launched products that market-research firm Mintel adds to its global database each month, 3.8% of food and beverage products included a GMO-free claim on the package last year, up from 1.6% in 2010.

It can be difficult to keep up with the fads of healthy nutrition (Is kale still in? Are we still doing gluten-free?), but if you want to fit in with the superficially food-conscious crowd, you’ll start hunting grocery store aisles for packages containing GMO-free labels. Meanwhile, companies are taking great pains to use the now-trendy labels on their products.

But this is more than just a story about the latest diet fad. The anti-GMO movement rejects our best scientific understanding of these technologies, ignoring the mountain of evidence that these products are safe and instead choosing to focus on their “non-natural” qualities. It’s fear mongering with a real cost, too, because genetically modified crops are one of the most promising methods for feeding the world’s growing population in more extreme climates. In other words, if the future will really be as grim as greens say it will be, then we’ll need to be chowing down on GM food to survive and thrive.

These Luddite biases can have impacts beyond the trendy circles looking to snatch these labeled foods up. Scotland recently moved to ban GMOs in an attempt to protect its “clean and green” image, a clear capitulation to eco-thinking unmoored from the facts. If these sorts of national bans proliferate, it will be the world’s poor who will lose out. Like the rest of the offerings you might find at Whole Foods, these non-GMO options aren’t coming cheap.

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