GM products labelling battle sure to remain in the news

The last few weeks have seen some news developments involving Genetically Modified (GM) plants and products.

The last few weeks have seen some news developments involving Genetically Modified (GM) plants and products. From a commentator’s perspective, GM issues are the news gift that continues to give.

Last month, the State of Washington held a referendum on the mandatory labelling of food products that contain GM ingredients. It was defeated by only 52 per cent.

It’s not the first state to hold such a referendum, and it won’t be the last. The labelling issue has become an epic battle between the big green lobby groups and the big genetics companies and their allies that develop and sell GM seeds and germplasm. So far, the anti-labelling side has won most votes, but they’re barely hanging on as the pro-labelling side continues its holy war on many fronts.

Firstly, common sense will tell you that labelling a food product as to GM ingredients has nothing to do with food safety or any concern for the consumer. But it has everything to do with ideology, anti-capitalism and in the end — fundraising campaigns by green groups.

Millions of dollars are spent by both sides during referendums to sway an essentially naive public who are but pawns in the struggle.

The end game is that a loss by the genetics companies means that they will face more costs and more research restrictions and perhaps the banning of GM products. For green lobby groups (most are multinational lobbying corporations), a loss is actually a success, as that means they will continue doing their business — that being lobbying. A success for lobby groups is not really desired — it would mean short-term success by extracting more donations from gullible donors. But then they would have to find another cause to keep the donations flowing.

The green group strategic battle plan is that by having mandatory labelling, outraged consumers would stop buying food products with GM ingredients. That would dry up the demand for GM ingredients, that would stop the growing of GM plants and that would bankrupt their arch-enemies — the genetics companies like Monsanto that supply the seeds.

Pretty simple, and in Alberta it probably sounds familiar if you examine the rationale and folks behind the anti-pipeline campaign. The green lobby group rationale in that issue is that if oilsands products can’t reach markets, then the oilsands industry will go out of business. Interestingly, many of the same green lobby groups campaign against oilsands and GM food products (lobby groups like their fellow corporate counterparts need to be diversified to survive).

The GM labelling battle is sure to rage on because green lobby groups know that on the whole, the average consumer/voter is both naive and gullible when it comes to any common sense on the GM issue. Sooner or later, through green group fearmongering, I expect voter stupidity will prevail. In that inevitability, perhaps the anti-labelling side needs to rethink their strategy. If dubious consumer intelligence becomes a consideration, perhaps that could be an advantage in overwhelming the issue. The reality is that a vast majority of manufactured food products contain some GM ingredients. So why not just put GM labels on all such products. With such blanket labelling, it would become quite an effort for a consumer to find and buy a more expensive non-GM food product. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the vast majority of consumers would have little interest in going to that trouble, especially if it was more expensive and has no perceivable health benefit.

I know there is a counter argument to that, but I guess I have more faith in the short attention span of most consumers.

On another GM front, American wheat grower organizations and their industry allies are supporting the development of GM wheat. There has  been some ongoing initial research, but it was slowed by industry concern that consumers would be opposed to GM wheat in their bread. Apparently, the industry has taken the strategic decision that GM wheat will be accepted by consumers.

That’s a fair assumption, being consumers already use and consume products made from GM canola, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, cotton and others. They are probably right — but, of course, the possibility of GM wheat already has green lobby groups chomping at the bit to start the anti-GM wheat campaign to fearmonger the public into more donations to their coffers. After all, business is business and it’s just another cause to exploit.

— Ahead of the Heard