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Friday, September 28, 2012

Of Straw Men and Misdirections

I've been in a number of discussions about the upcoming Prop 37 in California, which proposes to require mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. I'm fairly clear about my opposition to proposed law on a number of grounds, particularly because it isn't based on science, gives legal teeth to quasi-religious ideology, and that it carries an unreasonable fiscal burden. And my concerns stem from Prop37 setting a legal precedent that has repercussions into the future.

I am trying, however, to understand the point of view of supporters of the proposal. The most common rebuttal I've had is the question: "Why do you oppose labeling?"

Let's put that straw man out. On the contrary, I (and others of my position) do not oppose labeling at all. Nothing in current law forbids truthful labeling - and in the case of things like homeopathy, in fact allows some misleading labeling. It's the mandatory labeling aspect that is the problem, and the built in exceptions in the way the law is written.

The second misdirection is the accusation of defending Monsanto - a non sequitur argument. As frequently as Monsanto is invoked, I fail to see how it is even connected to the discussion. Could it be that in the all encompassing rebellion against the multinational company, any way to strike back must be good? Except, of course, no one thinks of the collateral damage. Mandatory labeling will be an inconvenience to Monsanto, but will levy heavier tolls on smaller farmers who cannot participate in Organic Certification.

The third is an accusation of concealing information, of denying consumers "the right to know". Far from concealing the truth, scientists are adherent to reality. Fact is, even without the law, producers can already put on consumer demanded labels - and pass on the costs of that. And we have protections in place against fraudulent labeling already.

I understand that passionate defenders of Prop 37 are doing so because they believe that they have the best interests of society at heart. And I can sympathize. But make no mistake, for all the fancy flyers and propaganda, they are being distracted from logical evaluation of the consequences of Prop 37.

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