CON: GMO beneficial to farmers but labeling hurts sale of crops

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

June 7, 2013 at 1:07 a.m.
Updated June 10, 2013 at 1:10 a.m.

Since genetically modified crops were first commercially grown in the 1990s, they have expanded globally to offer farmers advantages over drought and insects.

With the help of current technology, what would take 100,000 years to evolve through crossbreeding and crosspollination can be done extremely rapidly, said Peter McGuill, Victoria Agrilife Extension Agent.

McGuill said growing genetically modified crops is just part of the business.

"If a farmer doesn't control his weed and insect problems, then he's not going to make a crop," he said.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received multiple citizen petitions requesting the FDA change its position on the labeling of genetically modified food, McGuill said, economically speaking, it does not make sense.

The FDA is reviewing those petitions and considering the issues presented.

"I never say something isn't possible," McGuill said.

However, he said labels are not the answer.

Because the U.S. imports and produces many crops, the cost of rebuilding the infrastructure would be expensive.

A study published in the Journal of Agrobiotechnology Management and Economics found that mandatory labeling fails to provide consumer choice.

"The policy results in additional taxpayer costs due to enforcement and testing," according to the study.

In addition, consumers who prefer to buy lower-priced genetically modified food lose.

"Mandatory labeling acts as an import barrier and diverts trade," the study found.

Linda Crisp, a registered dietician, certified oncology specialist and licensed dietician, said she thinks genetically modified food needs more research on humans rather than animals.

"So far, I don't have any reason to believe it's not safe," she said.

She said she does not have a position on whether genetically modified food should be labeled.

"Different people have different opinions," Crisp said. "It's up to the individual person if they feel it's worth the extra cost to buy organic food."

Tim Striedel, manager at Dick's Food Store, 1302 E. Crestwood Drive, said food politics and the battle over labeling genetically modified food is up to legislators, not himself.

"We label what they tell us to label," he said. "We just try to comply with the law."

If any rules were to change, the store would likely not see any extra responsibilities, Striedel said.

"We may get a piece of paper telling us the law changed, but we have no control over manufactured goods that come in with the labels already on it," he said.

Prices drive the purchasing power of many consumers, said McGuill, the agrilife agent for Victoria County. The infrastructure to provide for labels likely would increase the overall cost of food, he said.

"There's a lot bigger things in this world that we should be worrying about that are more likely to affect our health and wellbeing than GMO crops," McGuill said. "Water quality is a bigger issue and more urgent than GMO."

Consumers already have a choice, he said.

"They know they can purchase organic food, and those foods are not going to be GMO," McGuill said. "Anyone who has a backyard can grow their own."

Everything has a tradeoff, he said.

"We can all eat organic if we're concerned about GMO, but the tradeoff is cost and, to some degree, the quality."

PRO: Call for labeling about money, health, choice



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