10-23-14 – Look for the GMO label: A modest proposal

posted by Rob Roper

This week, the Vermont Attorney General’s office is hosting a series of meetings in Burlington, Montpelier and Brattleboro to discuss how to implement the GMO labeling law set to take effect in 2016. That is, if a lawsuit by food manufacturers (GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers) doesn’t scuttle the law before it even gets off the ground.

But here is a modest proposal for the plaintiffs in this case. Don’t attack the “Contains GMO” label. Embrace it. In fact, market it and make it a selling point.

GMO’s have the potential to do a lot of good in this world. Golden Rice, for example, can be used alleviate malnutrition in some of the poorest parts of the world. This rice is genetically engineered to contain vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem, responsible for 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness and 2 million deaths each year.

By increasing agricultural yields on fewer acres of land, GMOs can allow us to both feed more hungry people and save valuable wildlife habitats and to keep pristine natural landscapes that would otherwise have to be converted to food production.

Can’t you picture the ad campaign? Over a background of stunning and heart wrenching images, a voiceover proclaims, “Reach for the box that preserves poor children’s eyesight, and keeps Vermont’s landscape wild. Reach for the GMO label!” Oh, and by the way, you’ll probably be saving yourself some serious grocery dollars into the bargain.

The more information consumers have the better. A free market requires an educated population. This particular labeling law is seriously flawed, shouldn’t have been passed, and is more about cronyism and politics than enlightenment, but that’s another story. Nevertheless, letting people know what’s in their food is a good and fair concept. Both sides in this debate should embrace it.

— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. www.ethanallen.org. 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Cisar October 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm

GMO free food account for about 10 percent of the total processed food market and 20 percent of produce. The non-GMO food market is free to embrace the positive marketing opportunity here and voluntary label their food products as “GMO Free!” So why wont they? Because the GMO labeling law is less about empowering the consumer with the information they need to make values-based food choices, and more about inflicting damage to the competition.

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Rob October 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Couldn’t have said it better, John.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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