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Monday, May 6, 2013

Labeling Justice

Ridiculous labeling. 
In a guest posting on Keith Kloor's Collide-o-Scape blog on Discover, Ramez Naam presents his case that (genetically modified organismsGMO supporters should embrace labeling. I was rather puzzled by this piece. He starts the article by being careful to state that he himself is a GMO supporter - pretty much in those terms. And then he expands on his thesis:

"by fighting labeling, we’re feeding energy to the opponents of GMOs"

He uses the term "fighting labeling" quite frequently in the piece, as if there's an active force preventing labeling. This buys into the straw man fallacy, as the fight is against mandatory labeling. Labels do not appear spontaneously on foods, and supporters of GMOs are not somehow marshalling forces to remove them. Enforced labeling, under penalty of law, is the serious debate at hand.

But then, over on Twitter, I confirmed that he was already referring to voluntary labeling, although it sounds like it's coerced voluntary labeling. Basically, Ramez has a hard time countering the contention

“If you’re so proud of your GMOs, why don’t you label them?”

Because he is proud of the technology. I pointed out to him that voluntary labeling already exists - it's branding. I think, though, that Ramez is stuck with the idea that the battle is already lost - he bemoans the fact that multiple states have mandatory GMO labeling laws in the works, all of which are, of course, not based on science and merely fanned by propaganda and hysteria. So, he's playing the same game - never mind the science, let's take away this one talking point by actually labeling the products, albeit with labels that GMO supporters find less objectionable than those being proposed. He doesn't address how these consistent labels will be funded or enforced. He thinks that if we concede this one point, to win the greater war, we blunt the impact of the coming labeling laws.

This is where I find the stance insidiously repugnant. The imposition of such labeling laws are an injustice, plain and simple. Those that cry "lack of consumer choice" in the current climate are flat out wrong - there are plenty of consumer choices, and that choice is not guaranteed by the market. It's an entitlement mindset that demands enslavement of our farmers and food producers, that a select group of consumers should be able to shackle their means of production beyond reasonable scientific precaution. In order to provide the desired "consumer choice" - they take away choice from the farmers. If not the point of scientific validity, then we stand in support of farmers.

The logic of Ramez's piece is that a heinous crime is about to be committed - so let's do it sooner, at least we'll be gentler. If a girl is about to be brutally raped, let's choose to be the kinder rapist. All the while blurring the fact that horror need not happen at all. No, it's cowardice that rationalizes aligning with, rather than opposing, injustice. AntiGMO propaganda paints a false dichotomy, that somehow labeling is being suppressed - it isn't. Preposterous labels are all over our food products right now ("all natural"), some even with ridiculous health claims. We don't foster better science understanding by giving succor to unjust labeling demands by carrying it out for them.

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