By Alex Formuzis
Mark Lynas—maybe the most famous apologist for GMO foods ever—this week urged a gathering of food and biotech industry employees to stop battling the growing movement to label foods made with genetically engineered ingredients.
Lynas shocked his audience, convened for a food packing and processing confab called the Center for Food Integrity Summit, when he dropped this bomb about half way through his speech:
People are getting increasingly scared of GMOs precisely because the industry is fighting a rearguard battle not to tell people which foodstuffs contain them. [The industry’s tactic] has to be the worst PR strategy ever: can you think of a single analogy where an industry uses every media tool, every electoral and legal avenue possible to stop people knowing where their own products are used? This is the opposite of advertising—instead of telling people about the benefits of your product and encouraging them to seek it out, you have to smuggle your core products into peoples’ shopping baskets so that they can only buy them either unknowingly or by mistake. Does anyone here [think] this is a winning strategy? … You have to stop opposing labeling. Instead, you have to embrace the consumer right to know.
We could not agree more: it’s hard to think of an American activity other than, say, the intelligence community, that works harder and spends more money trying to hide its very presence from the public.
Survey after survey shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans support labeling of GMOs. A recent poll commissioned by the Just Label It campaign found that fully 93 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Independents and 89 percent of Republicans favor labeling.
As Lyans put it to his biotech audience, “You cannot, you should not, fight against democracy. What consumers want is transparency—and you must deliver this to them. Do not dig yourselves deeper into the wrong side of a winning argument.”
Lynas and Just Label It make the same point. Whether you’re pro or anti-GMO, you can still be on the side of consumers and support their right to know what’s in their food. Major food companies argue that genetic engineering is the only real solution to providing enough food to feed the globe. That’s debatable, as is Monsanto’s claim that genetic engineering is perfectly safe for human health. Still, if they believe in their products, then they should embrace them and shout from the rooftops about the benefits of their genetically manipulated foods. And, they should proudly stamp labels on all of the edibles made with their laboratory creations.