Campbells is right – it’s time to introduce federal mandatory labeling

By Mark Lynas

Yesterday, in a hugely significant move, the food manufacturer Campbell Soup Company announced that it was supporting labeling of GMOs. Why is this hugely significant? Because Campbell is not just pledging to support the labeling of its own products, it is asking for the introduction of a mandatory federal labeling scheme. Thus the company has broken spectacularly with the long-standing Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) coalition opposing mandatory labeling across the United States.

In my view this is a smart and very timely move by Campbell. It establishes the company as a leader and gets out in front of the endlessly polarized GMO debate with a stance that clearly supports the principle of consumer choice. Don’t forget, Campbell has already trialled a new website detailing GMO ingredients (and other relevant info) in its products and found that the sky did not fall in.

I have long been of the opinion that GMO labeling is an issue that needs to be addressed with some kind of sensible compromise. (I made a speech supporting mandatory labeling back in 2013 in Chicago.) By taking a stance that appears to be opposing the consumer ‘right to know’, industry has not won itself any friends, and has cemented perceptions – eagerly built on by the anti-GMO lobby – that big corporations are trying to smuggle GMO products into the national food system.

The GMA’s efforts in Congress have also fallen flat. While the Republican-dominated House passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo by a wide margin, equivalent legislation has not been forthcoming from the Senate – and an industry-sponsored attempt to attach a rider to the recent spending bill at the end of 2015 also failed. The Senate has failed to act because no Democrat is prepared to take industry’s side on this issue – to be seen to be siding with the hated Monsanto on the GMO issue would be suicide for any lawmaker with an urban Democrat voter base.

Latterly the GMA has tried to float a compromise, promising a ‘smart label’ approach (probably with a QR code) that would detail the presence of GMOs (and other food chain issues) for tens of thousands of products made by its members. The reason the GMA is panicking is because Vermont has a GMO labeling law that is due to come into force in July this year. Unless Congress pre-empts states’ rights on the issue soon, Vermont’s mandatory labeling law will not only play havoc with the food sector in the state, but may open the floodgates to a patchwork of other GMO labeling laws in other states.

But it’s too late for a voluntary approach. With Campbells’ move, the writing is on the wall for the entire food sector. No company that cares about the perception of its brand can afford to take a stance that appears to oppose any consumer interest. Note that Campbell’s has made its break with the GMA very explicit:

As a result of its decision to support mandatory national GMO labeling, Campbell will withdraw from all efforts led by coalitions and groups opposing such measures.

That means you GMA. The game is up. Thankfully labeling is a good deal better than the total removal of GMO ingredients, a much more threatening move to the food chain that ironically has not panned out too well for those urban hipster capitalists over at Chipotle.

Why must labeling be mandatory? Because otherwise many companies will not label, and those that do may be singled out by anti-GMO lobbyists for consumer boycotts and brand damage. I fully accept that there is no scientific case for labeling, and that for the most part there is no nutritional or compositional difference between foods with GMO ingredients and those without. But that is no longer the point.

Let’s look on the bright side of labeling too. Once GMO-derived products are labeled, there is no logical impediment to having more of them. Celiac-friendly baking products derived from GMO wheat? It’s your choice. AquaBounty salmon? It’s your choice. Labeling does not lead to a ban – quite the reverse. Labeling could lead to many more GMO products on our shelves, if consumers choose to buy them. Once products are labeled, asking then for a ban is illogical.

I want to make this point very clear. Once GMO products are labeled, anti-GMO lobby groups will have sacrificed their best argument. No-one is being denied the ‘right to know’. Moreover, the antis will have no defensible reason to call for GMO bans – because then they would be the ones denying consumer choice. If they lobby retailers not to stock GMO AquaBounty salmon, or White Russet potatoes or Arctic Apples, the antis will be unambiguously reducing choice. Growers should then have a clearer route to market with new GMO products because it will not be an all-or-nothing situation in each case.

The issue here is choice, and more particularly informed choice. Farmers have the right to choose whether to grow GMO crops. Consumers have the right to choose whether to eat them. This is a much better situation to have than either prohibitions – such as the awful GMO farming ban in Jackson County, Oregon, or similar initiatives in Hawaiian islands – or the current lack of transparency in the food chain in general, the basic fuel which feeds the anti-GMO fire.

I’m also very impressed that Campbells has accompanied its labeling announcement with a stout defence of GMO technology.

“Campbell continues to recognize that GMOs are safe, as the science indicates that foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods. The company also believes technology will play a crucial role in feeding the world.”

Amen to that. This once again reinforces the psychology point I have made repeatedly about labeling: identifying the presence of GMOs in food products does not make people feel they are more risky, it makes people feel they are safer. Freedom of choice dissipates fear and exposes the anti-GMO conspiracy theorists for the deluded fools they are. GMOs should be ‘out and proud’, shouting about how they are reducing pesticides, making farming more sustainable and improving food security in developing countries.

On the other hand, simply lecturing people about the science doesn’t work – you have to accompany this with giving them the ability to make informed choices about what they eat. You have to trust the consumer, not tell them that they don’t need to know about something because the experts all agree it is safe. (In these cynical times that hierarchical approach definitely not going to work.)

In my view this looks good for Campbell and will help build the company’s ethical brand. This is not a company that is being dragged kicking and screaming into revealing a dark secret about its products. This is a company that is getting out in front of a difficult issue and forcing change on an entire sector. Let’s hope other key players ‘get it’ sooner rather than later. This is not an issue where any company in the sector can afford to be left behind defending the indefensible for very much longer.

 

 

76 comments

  1. Vance Crowe says:

    Mark,

    I respect your advocacy of GMOs a great deal and as an employee of Monsanto I have seen how your words have changed minds about an important technology. But your logic in this blog has some misses.

    I believe that Campbell’s should put whatever truthful information on their packaging that will help consumers know if they want to buy their product- including a GMO label. Labeling doesn’t give the consumer any information that will help them make better buying decisions but I believe they ought to do what makes them more competitive.

    What I don’t agree with is your logic that they should be applauded for supporting laws that takes this choice away from every other retailer. They are claiming leadership for making everyone submit to fears that are not scientifically valid. If your position is that labeling will protect a retailer from being targeted; why does their need to be a law that forces retailers to protect themselves? The logical conclusion of laws like that are to shrink competition among these companies… force everyone to get into the herd so Campbell’s can’t be singled out for acknowledging GMOs.

    Celebrating laws like this are like celebrating gambles, perhaps this will have your desired outcome of making everyone see there is nothing to fear. Or perhaps it will be used as a blunt weapon to generate more fear so that entire countries will ban safe agricultural practices.

    • Scott says:

      Sure and Monsanto is the leader in safety! LMAO

      While I am not in any way against GE technology, Monsanto itself is the reason there is such a huge resistance to GMOs. The company has repeatedly shown itself to be unethical in a pattern of deception, corruption, false/fabricated safety studies. This is definitely NOT considering consumer safety. Once GMOs became associated with Monsanto, then the resistance to GMOs exploded.

    • Sebastian Larsen says:

      I have heard these allegations a thousand times but never seen any evidence for them. Fabricated safety studies? Can you produce a couple?

      (Naturalnews.com “evidence” incoming)

    • Scott says:

      Sebastian Larsen,
      If I post links, the post will be moderated for days or more. I have been down that route with this site before. However, I can easily tell you where to find plenty of evidence. We will see how good your google skills are…..

      The People of Anniston, Alabama vs- Monsanto

      Two supposedly “independent labs” they corrupted where people actually went to jail for falsifying safety data:
      Craven Laboratories
      Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories
      It is unethical to ask a lab to falsify or change results in any way, but actually illegal for anyone at that lab to comply to that request. That’s why the jail terms.
      I will risk one link though. Just because I have seen plenty of Monsanto apologists claim it is unfounded that Monsanto actually corrupted the labs, and rather that the labs somehow fraudulently hurt Monsanto by fixing their safety studies. Most times Mark doesn’t moderate a single link: So here is actual proof positive that Monsanto directed the corruption.
      http://www.chemicalindustryarchives.org/search/pdfs/anniston/19750718_571.pdf

      There is of course tons and tons and tons more. But this should be proof enough without straying too far from topic. And BTW your snarky comment it noted. I am not the one poisoning entire biomes and even causing species to go extinct. Nor am I corrupting science for a buck. Your attempt at ridicule in such a serious issue is actually offensive.

    • Skeptico says:

      Scott;

      Interesting, but the issue with Anniston, Alabama vs- Monsanto was pollution from a chemical plant, not the safety of GMO foods. So you’re being a little disingenuous here, are you not?

    • Billo says:

      Scotts “killer link” is to a letter dated July 18th 1975 (nearly 42 years old)

      It actually pre-dated the first GMO patent by 5 years. While the first GMO food product licensed in the USA was the Flavr Savr tomato which was licensed 15 years after the first patent and just short of 20 years after the letter.

      Clearly the letter is ancient history and has no relation to a technology that was, at that time, not even patented let alone released onto the market.

      I gather from Scott’s comment that this 42 year old letter relates to a (disputed) fabrication of data, although on reading it nobody could call it a smoking gun could they?

      If this is the best that can be offered against Monsanto then really this pathological hatred of Monsanto looks more like a witch hunt than any rational objection.

    • Justin says:

      1975? lol.

    • Scott says:

      As a few of you guys pointed out that was a long time ago. It could be forgiven as a rather naive time in history, (wrong but nothing to do with the “new” Monsanto) except that this pattern continues to this day and started long before 1975. It is a pattern that has tarnished Monsanto for decades.

      I think most people are aware of this one:
      http://www.enveurope.com/content/26/1/13

      and of course 2 major court cases in France. One related to the above and one related to fraudulent labeling of a pesticide and the poisoning of French farmer Paul François

    • Skeptico says:

      Scott:

      Sorry mate, but anything written by Gilles-Eric Séralini can be immediately dismissed without evidence.

      Scott, you have violated The Seralini Rule: you are either (a) so clueless as not to have spent 30 seconds checking to see if there are any reported problems in the study, or (b) so dishonest in citing a blatantly fraudulent study, that you are not worthy of any more serious consideration. You just lost the debate and you’re done.

    • Scott says:

      Skeptico,
      The defamation of Seralini has been to court too. Seralini won. It was appealed, Seralini won again. There was also a criminal case against those attempting to defame Seralini publicly. On 25 November 2015, the High Court of Paris indicted Marc Fellous, former chairman of France’s Biomolecular Engineering Commission, for “forgery” and “the use of forgery”, in a libel trial that he lost to Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini. The Biomolecular Engineering Commission has authorised many GM crops for consumption. He was found guilty criminally as far as I know. The sentence against Fellous is expected in June 2016.

      There is also a civil case surrounding the sordid affair too. Seralini won that case too. During one of the trials it was found out that the false accusations were orchestrated by a Monsanto? lobbyist by the name of Henry I. Miller. You might remember that name. He was made infamous by the tobacco industry in their attempt to lie to the public cigarettes are safe. Absolutely fitting.

      Seralini of course also was republished. Which was the proper thing to do.

      In fact on that issue,

      In early 2013 the FCT editorial board acquired a new “Associate Editor for biotechnology”, Richard E. Goodman. This was a new position, seemingly established especially for Goodman in the wake of the “Séralini affair”.

      In March 1971, IBT hired Dr. Paul L. Wright, one of Monsanto’s toxicologists, to oversee its PCB testing, seemingly in the wake of Riseborough’s paper “Nature”, Vol. 220, Dec 14, 1968

      The parallels are stunning and I doubt a coincidence.

      Keep in mind, I do not know if Seralini is onto something or not. The follow up study by an independent third party has not been published yet. But for certain the unethical behaviour of Monsanto and others working on behest of Monsanto is well documented and criminal convictions attest to that. I am sure there will be more as the dominoes of corruption start falling.

    • Skeptico says:

      All:

      Science isn’t decided by lawsuits, it’s decided by scientists performing experiments. You’ll note that Scott, above, has no answers to the flaws in the Seralini study. He doesn’t explain why a qualified scientist like Seralini (a PhD, so he does actually know how science should be done) would not design a study that was based on sound scientific practices. He does not explain why he would not, in a study with 200 rats, have 100 controls and 100 experiment rats: 100 just fed on GMO food and 100 fed on non-GMO. He does not explain why Seralini used a breed of rat where most would get cancer anyway for this length a study, and so no matter what, the study would not show “if” glyphosate causes cancer in rats. It was designed to show “that” it does, whether it actually does or not. Scott didn’t address any of the points in my Seralini Rule link above. (And neither has Seralini, for that matter.) He doesn’t try to explain because he either doesn’t understand this study, or he does but he doesn’t care. That is why Scott is not worth debating on this issue. I wrote The Seralini Rule for a reason: some people just don’t care about facts, they are anti-GMO no matter what the facts.

    • Scott says:

      Skeptico,
      Strawman? That’s pretty dishonest don’t you think? Where did you learn that? Monsanto training program?

      I am in favor of GE Technology. I stated that first post in this thread, “While I am not in any way against GE technology, Monsanto itself is the reason there is such a huge resistance to GMOs. The company has repeatedly shown itself to be unethical in a pattern of deception, corruption, false/fabricated safety studies.”

      I proved beyond a doubt that Monsanto is corrupt, and in my opinion Monsanto is the worst thing to happen to GE technology. It is because it is well proven how evil Monsanto has acted for many decades,now the public associates GE technology with Monsanto and doesn’t trust it. That is a shame. If an ethical company was the leader in GE technology instead of Monsanto, I believe there wouldn’t be such distrust. That’s my opinion at least, as an advocate for the ethical use of GE technology.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I think that anybody who quotes Seralini as an authority has blown all scientific credibility. The guy’s reputation as a scientist is totally tarnished. It’s like quoting Donald Trump on presidents’ birthplaces.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “I proved beyond a doubt that Monsanto is corrupt, and in my opinion Monsanto is the worst thing to happen to GE technology. It is because it is well proven how evil Monsanto has acted for many decades…”

      Which*Monsanto* are we talking about? Monsanto the SEED company, or Monsanto the CHEMICAL company? Because the two are quite separate. This is a quote from a very famous Quora article:
      “The first Monsanto was Monsanto Chemical, a company that manufactured food additives, industrial chemicals, and plastics. This Monsanto no longer exists. In the late 1990s, it developed the drug Celebrex.[2] Pfizer bought this Monsanto in 2002.[3]

      The other Monsanto is Monsanto the seed company. In 1996, Monsanto (the chemical company) bought an agricultural company. In 2002, when Pfizer bought Monsanto (the chemical company), they weren’t interested in the agribusiness, so they spun off the agricultural company as Monsanto (the seed company).[4][5] Monsanto (the seed company) was distinct from Monsanto (the chemical company), with its own bylaws, a different board of directors, and different management from Monsanto (the chemical company). Monsanto (the seed company) kept the name “Monsanto” because they felt it would be expensive to change. Changing the name, they estimated, would cost $40 million.[6] ”
      https://www.quora.com/Monsanto/Is-Monsanto-evil

      Oh, you found the man guilty alright, Scott. Just don’t dispense with the identity parade first, next time.

    • Skeptico says:

      Scott:

      You’re the one parroting anti-GMO talking points, so I think you protest too much.

      One final time: anyone referencing Seralini just lost the argument. I’m done responding to you.

    • Scott says:

      Clyde,
      Same company, just a bunch of high finance corporate maneuvering to avoid going out of business due to the 100’s of millions in liability resulting from all the evil stuff they are responsible for.committing. It actually proves my point rather than counters it. Might have an argument if they learned their lesson, but clearly they haven’t. It seems the only lesson the corporation learned was they can get away with murder, and people will defend the company solely based on a gut reaction to defend the technology.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I’ll repeat this slowly for the Hard of Thinking:

      “Monsanto (the seed company) was distinct from Monsanto (the chemical company), with its own bylaws, a different board of directors, and different management from Monsanto (the chemical company).”

    • Scott says:

      Clyde,
      Your logic is fail. I showed both current and past in a pattern of unethical behavior. No doubt every single company on the planet that has been in business as long as Monsanto has had many changes in their CEOs and boards of directors. In Monsanto’s case their unethical behavior has been proven to be systemic and goes back decades through many changes of boards. Sorry, you don’t get a free pass to cherry pick here. Rotten to the core.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Unethical behaviour is a very subjective issue. I don’t think you’ve proved very much at all apart from some past sharp practices in a company that only shares the name.

      Now, if you can actually come up with some evidence that (a) Monsanto-produced BT crops are harmful and (b) the company colluded to hide that knowledge from the consumer then you are onto something.

      Until then, I’ll put your notion of ‘evil’ squarely into context by comparing it with mine:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Popov_(bioweaponeer)

      Get a sense of perspective.

    • Chuck Niwrad says:

      The evidence indicates that Scott is not very discriminating when it comes to evidence that supports his narrative.

    • Scott says:

      Chuck,
      You deny that Seralini’s team won defamation and forgery court cases on GMO and pesticide research? Libel is a serious offense. Forgery to commit libel even worse. Corrupting a government official to commit forgery to defame a scientist personally on behalf of Monsanto even worse. There are layers upon layers of unethical behavior going on here. It just keeps getting worse and worse the deeper one digs.
      You deny that long-term toxicity study by Séralini’s team published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted under pressure from lobbyists? You deny that Richard E. Goodman was a Monsanto employee? Or the conflict of interest in having a Monsanto employee push for that retraction? Or maybe you deny that Henry I. Miller first published the libel in Forbes SEP 25, 2012? Or maybe you deny that Henry I. Miller is a paid lobbyist? Or maybe you think Monsanto paying scientists to lie about its products safety isn’t even unethical? As Clyde put it, “Unethical behaviour is a very subjective issue”. Yeah right. That’s why we have judges and a legal system. It’s also why Seralini won, because despite your naive protestations to the contrary, it is VERY unethical behavior.
      Or maybe you believe all that happened but deny that the courts decided in favor of seralini’s team?

      Or maybe in the poisoning case with Lasso, maybe you deny Monsanto acted unethically by promoting such a dangerous chemical as safe when it was banned in many countries such as Canada, Belgium and Britain already? Or is it you are in complete denial and want Lasso returned to the market and unbanned so it can cause permanent harm to more farmers who might believe Monsanto’s lies? Surely you can’t deny the courts found against Monsanto? Or are you in that huge of denial that you actually claim the French court didn’t hold Monsanto liable in the Lasso poisoning case? Maybe you don’t even believe Paul Francois is a farmer? (sarcasm)

      Or maybe you don’t think the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in March that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, one of the world’s most used herbicides, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”? Probably being the key word here, because every scientist that goes against Monsanto faces the risk of defamation firing etc? Or maybe you believe that Monsanto has the right to DEMAND that IARC retract? We are supposed to allow the megacorps decide scientific results on their own products? Really? Be sure Monsanto is the same evil company that placed an employee in bst to commit fraud on their behest. Different people, same arrogant unethical corporate behavior.

    • Scott says:

      Typo above, should say IBT instead of bst..

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Or maybe you don’t think the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in March that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, one of the world’s most used herbicides, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”?

      WHO class alcohol as a *definite* human carcinogen. Go on – look it up. I don’t hear people like you ranting about Coors and Budweiser being criminally culpable, all the same. How many cancers start with one too many in the bar?

      Or in contrast, atrazine is a definite carcinogen AND teratogen, much more of it is sprayed on crops every year that glyphostae, which is much more benign by comparison.

      You’re looking at this issue – and this company – from the perspective of an organic farmer. I’m looking at from every angle.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Oh yeah, Seralini is at the very least incompetent. That’s why they withdrew his paper. And if somebody wrote an incompetent paper criticising YOUR produce I’d bet you’d be first on the phone to your lawyer.

      Butr of course, Seralini would NEVER have designed an experiment deliberately to show glyphosate up in a bad light, would he? Perish the thought – I mean, the man has a Ph.D!

    • Chuck Niwrad says:

      Scott-

      Of course, nothing you have said is relevant to the observation that the preponderance of high-quality studies show that residues of glyphosate or the adjuvants found in glyphosate formulations actually found on food are harmful. What you have said reveals that you don’t understand the difference between hazard and risk.

      Furthermore, the fact that Seralini happened to win a defamation and forgery case against a particular critic does not magically transform Seralini’s work in to a paragon of scientific inquiry; the case had nothing at all to do with the quality or credibility of Seralini’s work, or did you not read the details of the case, and do you not understand French libel laws? Seralini is a biased scientist doing advocacy research. One glance at the Team Seralini website is all you need to prove that.

      Your attempts to poison the well, dismiss evidence that is inconsistent with your beliefs, and accept weak evidence as gospel if it supports your arguments are very similar to Team Seralini strategies, so I completely understand why you would defend his work. Frankly, the fact that you do tells me all I need to know about you.

    • Chuck Niwrad says:

      Oops, what I meant to say is:

      “Of course, nothing you have said is relevant to the observation that the preponderance of high-quality studies do not show…”

    • Scott says:

      Chuck,
      You said, “Of course, nothing you have said is relevant to the observation that the preponderance of high-quality studies show that residues of glyphosate or the adjuvants found in glyphosate formulations actually found on food are harmful. ”

      And you are right. It is irrelevant, that’s why I never said anything about that. My claim is that the reputation of an unethical company matters. Specifically it matters in this case because Monsanto’s demonstrable unethical behaviour, especially in regards to fraudulent and corrupt activities surrounding scientific safety studies, has rubbed off and is harming the genetic engineering industry in agriculture as a whole People who are not educated in agricultural sciences, (by far the majority of the population of the planet) don’t really understand genetic engineering. So they look to the ethical reputation of the company producing the products, and they rightly see evil. Monsanto is by far the worst thing that could have happened to genetic engineering, simply because they are so distrusted. Guilt by association. Maybe not the most logical thing, but it is a reality of the social condition.

      Since I am an advocate of genetic engineering technology in agriculture, and have been since BEFORE it was banned from Organic, even before RR GMOs, I am particularly angry at the turn of events. How do we stand by and let an evil corporation ruin the reputation of an entire new and exciting industry? Foolish. Instead of defending Monsanto, the entire scientific community should be taking them to task for their unethical behaviour. That’s the only real way to purge the distrust, and allow the rapid advancement of a technology we need.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Monsanto is by far the worst thing that could have happened to genetic engineering”

      No, that Russian bastard who invented a strain of Legionella that not only infects the body but causes a massive autoimmune response that destroys the nervous system, causing blindness, coma and death – THAT’s by far the worst thing that could have happened to genetic engineering.

      I’ve come across unpleasant people many times in my life – arrogance, boorishness, bullying, mindless thuggery, swaggering ignorance you name it. But I don’t think I’ve ever come across true evil. I’ve *read* about it, and it’s going on right now in the world far away from me. And I hope it stays there.

      Like I said, get a sense of perspective. Monsanto are simply a proxy grievance for people who can’t articulate their general disaffection with the way the capitalistic system works. I *can* articulate that and very effectively, which is why I don’t need them as a totem of hate.

  2. Harry van Trotsenburg says:

    “Campbell continues to recognize that GMOs are safe”,

    safe? As far as known!

    We only know whether it is safe or not, when test are done over at least one generation ( and of course a control group is not getting GMO produce.)

    • Clyde Davies says:

      We’ve had twenty years of GMO foodstuffs being available in the US and not one of them has ever been withdrawn for safety reasons. Or ended up being the subject of a lawsuit, in the most litigious country on Earth. Compare and contrast with the number of organic product recalls that have occurred, mainly due to contamination with nasty strains of bugs such as E. coli.

      I’m a member of the control group in the UK. I happen to have high blood pressure, and am much more concerned with the amount of salt and trans fats. Obsessing about hypothetical and imaginary risks is fruitless, especially when there are much more serious and proven risks to our health.

  3. Rurik Halaby says:

    Mr. van Trotsenburg fear is so, so, sad. Makes me think it was the the way most Europeans in the Middle Ages feared sailing too far away from land would risk them falling off the face of the earth. There are so many more important things I would worry about than the safety of “GMO’s.” Eating a burrito at Chipotle’s for instance.

  4. Clyde Davies says:

    I’m undecided to be honest. I happen to think that the motivations behind mandatory labelling are identical to those behind forcing people of a certain ethnicity to sew gold starts to their clothes. They are intended to stigmatise, isolate and eventually eliminate.
    I’d have supported the QR code option. The reason is that I think labelling should allow consumers to decide what’s important, not what Greenpeace thinks is important. We met not so long ago, and I think you would describe me as what can be charitably expressed as a ‘big bloke’ (in more ways than one). Well, I’m currently dieting and going dry for January, and it would help if I knew precisely what was in what I am eating. The color-coded nutritional labels go some way to this, but I also want to avoid trans-fats, not least because of my high blood pressure. A QR code would help me do this.

    But I also agree that once labelling becomes mainstream, the antis will have played their best card. Perhaps it will result in sense and reason prevailing once consumer realise they’ve been buying and eating GMOs for years without any ill-effects. Also, it makes it even less defensible to have an EU-wide ban on these foodstuffs, especially once power to decide is placed squarely in the hand of the consumer.

    But the current status quo cannot go on, as fear, uncertainty and doubt are benefiting the woo merchants far more than the food industry and science. And more transparency has very rarely exacerbated such fears. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as someone once said.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Glenn Needham says:

    I would only approve of mandatory labelling if mandatory education were implemented first. (sarcasm)

    Far too many people have the view that GE is bad – but have no understanding about the matter – other than what they have heard from the likes of Jeffrey Smith or the Food Babe.
    If these people really took the time to understand they would quickly dismiss the nonsense that is out there in the media and on the internet.

    It is absolutely certain that at some point in the future there will be a clear cut winner in this issue and at that point the few “antis” left will be placed in the same realm as the believers of the “bogeyman”

    A clear cut winner in this matter is something that the “antis” fear the most.
    The result would be an end to their scaremongering industry.

    Having followed this “debate” for a few years it (thankfully) has become clear that the side of science is gaining traction – finally. A huge momentum swing is not far off.

    More often than not it is easier just to jump on a bandwagon and not know where this bandwagon is going then to truly take the time to educate themselves.

  6. Mary Mangan says:

    On the contrary: the Campbell’s move illustrates perfectly that mandating labels is completely unnecessary.

    If companies want to make “expensive” (their words) marketing moves, that’s fine. But don’t confuse it with scientific or actionable information. That’s not what we see.

    These labels still don’t offer the anti-choice folks any of what they claim they want–to know if monocultures, herbicides, or patents are invovled in their food. So the goal posts will just get moved again.

    And with a mandatory label, the goal post moving never ends. The next fight will erupt with the next new tech (editing), or they don’t want robots weeding their fields or milking their cows, or whatever the next scary tech after that is as well. This will go on and on.

    I know y’all think that a label stops the shouting. It does not.

    Further, those of us who follow these issues are well aware that the label is, in fact, a target. The organic industry and their minions have stated flat out that a GMO label is their goal to drive more business their way, and it’s how they can figure out who to target for hate campaigns. This is not just a concept. It is their stated goal: https://storify.com/mem_somerville/gmo-labels-the-purpose-is

    Andrew Kimbrell: “We are going to force them to label this food. If we have it labeled, then we can organize people not to buy it.”

    And this is why Campbell’s has to ask the rest of the industry to do the same. They are now the antelope that took a risk. That’s fine to choose to be that antelope. It’s not fair to ask everyone else to spend the money on marketing to do that.

    As before, the 3rd party label choices like Kosher remain the best model. Controlled by people who have matching philosophical goals, it can move faster than the government ever will, and fully support it’s like-minded community.

    I do thank them for showing how awful the Vermont label plan is, though. People should not let flying yogis write legislation. That’s the real take-away from this.

    • Scott says:

      Mary,
      A bit slanted, but you are on the right track. Personally I am a conservative. So my philosophical tendency is to remove the regulatory burden from both organic and conventional models of production. As it is now, organic has far more regulatory costs, and that is a major reason for a higher cost to consumer. While I would prefer that the regulatory burden for organic be reduced, there is a certain irony to watch industry cry like a baby when they are forced to incur even a small amount of those same costs they have been forcing on us for years.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Those regulatory costs for organic were SELF-IMPOSED. In the UK the Soil association writes the rules for the organic food industry, and you either opt into that club and abide by them or you opt out.You don’t complain about the ‘green fees’ if you can’t afford them.
      Now the organic food industry is trying to impose *its* rules upon the non-organic food sector. That’s why that industry is moaning because it’s expected to shoulder its own regulatory burden with none of benefits of selling a premium priced product.
      As usual, it’s *labels* that are to blame, of any kind. Labels are an excuse for us to leave our critical faculties by the door when we walk into a shop. As soon as I come across somebody preoccupied by labels of any kid I write them off immediately, whether food, clothing, cars whatever. That’s probably why I drove Skodas for a while.

    • Lori says:

      You are spot on, Mary, that labeling will at last help the consumer to avoid purchasing. No longer are we, including our al-important children, the guinea pigs. Mark Lynas’ is misinformed on several important points. GMOs have not been proven safe by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the science says that they are not safe. With a label, no longer will pesticide conglomerates decide for us that we are to eat their crap. We can decide for ourselves. An individual right we should have had from the get-go if the U.S. truly is a free, capitalistic market instead of one based on fascism.

    • Lori says:

      You are spot-on, Mary, that labeling will at last help the consumer to avoid purchasing. No longer are we, including our all-important children, the guinea pigs. Mark Lynas is misinformed on several important points: ‘There is no nutritional or compositional difference between foods with GMO ingredients and those without ‘ is parroting the ‘substantially equivalent’ propaganda, and, let’s face it, GMOs have not been proven safe for long-term human consumption by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the science says otherwise for anyone who cares to look into the research with any amount of seriousness. With a label, no longer will pesticide conglomerates decide for us that we are to eat their crap. We can decide for ourselves. An individual right we should have had from the get-go if the U.S. truly is a free market based on capitalism, not fascism.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “Mark Lynas is misinformed on several important points: ‘There is no nutritional or compositional difference between foods with GMO ingredients and those without ‘ is parroting the ‘substantially equivalent’ propaganda,”

      Along with every scientific organisation of note, such as the Royal Society, the AAAS, the BMA etc etc…

      “…and, let’s face it, GMOs have not been proven safe for long-term human consumption by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the science says otherwise for anyone who cares to look into the research with any amount of seriousness..”

      The science says no such thing. A link to 400 studies which show that NO harmful effects are seen in animals (save for the Seralini and Carman studies, which have been roundly trashed).: http://genera.biofortified.org/viewall.php

      Lori: I’ll do what I always do at this point. I’ll bet you a modest amount of money, £50, that in five years NO GMO crop will have been recalled from the market due to safety concerns. I’m sure Mark will steward the cash if I as him nicely. What you do with it if you win is up to you. If I win you can make a donation to Centrepoint, a housing charity I support.

      Care to put your money where your mouth is? I know mine is safe.

    • Glenn Needham says:

      Large doses of tryptophan will kill some people – surprise eh? – an amino acid found in small quantities, naturally in food when ingested in large doses (not natural) as a “supplement” have grave consequences. A perfect example of “its not the poison – but the dosage” saying.

      I suspect this supplement that is still produced – is still produced with genetically modified bacteria – as is many other pharmaceuticals and drugs.

      A good read on this matter.

      http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-content/genetic-roulette/section-1/1-20-gm-microbe-does-not-cause-ems/

    • Scott says:

      Clyde,
      So I can go to Europe, grow veggies according to my organic methods I developed, and legally sell them as “organic” and labeled as such, without having my production methods certified?

      Definitely can’t do that on this side of the pond, excepting the waiver for less than $5,000/yr.

    • Harry van Trotsenburg says:

      In the Netherlands we have two “Organic “brands :

      Demeter and
      Ekologisch

      I don’t think the term “Organic” ( organisch in Dutch) is officially branded

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Well, Lori, if that’s your idea of ‘evidence’ then I’m not surprised you come over as an over-credulous fool. Guess what, all the sites that mention this ‘disaster’ (which is to do with bacteria, not GMO crops) all reference each other! And this is what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:
      “The fact that the Showa Denko facility used genetically engineered bacteria to produce L-tryptophan gave rise to speculation that genetic engineering was responsible for such impurities.[9] However, the methodology used in the initial epidemiological studies has been criticized.[10][11] An alternative explanation for the 1989 EMS outbreak is that large doses of tryptophan produce metabolites which inhibit the normal degradation of histamine and excess histamine in turn has been proposed to cause EMS.[12] ”

      Better luck next time, dear. That £50 stays in my pocket.

    • Lori says:

      I’m sorry to be the one to put it to you, Clyde, but your source (Wikipedia, seriously?) is bogus. I recommend you putting your 50 pounds in your health fund which you’re going to need. Funny that you don’t get the no-brainer: eating GMO crap is a ticking time bomb.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      “So I can go to Europe, grow veggies according to my organic methods I developed, and legally sell them as “organic” and labeled as such, without having my production methods certified?”

      No, but I never claimed that you could. You need to be a fully-paid up member of the Soil Association. And that is and always has been a *choice* not an *imposition*.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      Lori:
      Don’t apologise. I’m not going to apologise to *you* for saying that you’re acting in character by talking bollocks. Firstly, the Wikipedia article references reputable sources, unlike that screed you posted a link to, which references another anti-GMO site, which references another…until it ends up referencing itself. If you have problems, then edit the Wikipedia article yourself – and deal with the flak that will come your way. Put up or shut up.

      Secondly, I don’t think that all GMOs are substantially equivalent and should be treated on a case by case basis. That’s why each new crop is subjected to a battery of tests before it goes near the market. GMOs are the most thoroughly tested foodstuffs ever. Some have even failed allergenicity tests, but then they never got to the market as a result. Just like some drugs never see the market because of their side effects. Doesn’t make ALL drugs harmful by extension.

      But people like you lack the knowledge or critical faculties to discriminate between each case, so you lump them all together and treat them the same. Guess what that means: they’re even SAFER. Simply because when you have N doses of a drug that causes potential side effects, the chance of it causing something you haven’t seen yet is 3/N. Three trillion GMO based meals have been consumed over twenty years and nobody has reported so much as an upset stomach. Do the math: if you’re that farid of being killed by GMOs, stay in doors. You have more chance of being hit by a falling meteorite.

      Want to carry this on?

  7. Roberto Peiretti says:

    Long, tiring and the worst nonsense debate wether or not to label GMO’S.
    Not only science proving that GMO’s are safe but the production and consumption by humans of billions of tons of gmo’s products of all types directly or indirectly plus the itensive use as the most modern medicines GMO derived (directly injected into blood stream ) plus the use on food idustry ( ex.to produce wines, cheeses etc) had also proven GMO’s to be inocuos and safe.
    Hypothetical fears and clear lack of basic knowledge ( most people would not be able to define what a GMO means ) are induced to reject them by anti GMO’s groups and bigger orgnizations like Greenpeace, etc. Wich type of nonclear, nontransparent interest exists behind this?. For sure it is not the intention to take care of consumers health because they do not have a single real argument on which to fund this but just miths and even intentionally lay bssed srguments. The attitude an actions of anti GMO’s hroups csn be easily indentifyied as an strategy aimed to gather pollitical and even economic power. Hope thay readers deeply consider this hypothesis and conclude like me that this is highly probable and even true for most of the cases.

  8. Sebastian Larsen says:

    So whenever a vocal minority decides they want a label we should just roll over and support it?

    Remember, the most vocal organisation in America is the Organic Consumer Association which is a front for the racist Steiner ideology.

    So when they have managed to scare us from homepathic/astrological/occult farming they might just want mandatory labeling whether or not Aryans harvested or handled the food. It might be an unlikely scenario but it’s part of their purist ideological DNA, so we might as well go full Blut und Boden now we are already surrendering.

  9. Bluebell says:

    The bottom line folks is this. We all have a right to know what is in our food, and labelling will give us this information.

    Its called transparency. If you stand by your product, be proud of it and label it.

    Pretty simple…. .

    • Scott says:

      Well said.

      But of course that isn’t really the issue at all. There is a strategy taken by the food industry giants to attempt to make organic production costs unnecessarily high, while at the same time exclude themselves from those same regulatory costs. All fine and good if organic labeling incurs a higher cost to certify compliance, but make them incur a similar cost? That would cut even further into their market share and remove one of their biggest propaganda points, cost. They know they must fight tooth and nail at every point, because real costs of production, excluding regulatory costs, are generally actually less for organic production models. What’s good for the goose is most certainly not good for the gander. That’s why they fight so hard against labels. This label issue is actually the tip of the iceberg. There are other similar regulatory burdens far more costly to the organic producer that conventional industrial ag has excluded itself from.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      The thing is that it won’t give you any ‘information’ at all. Do you know how these crops are produced? Does it matter more whether it’s produced by a gene gun or a zinc-finger nuclease? And does that consideration matter more than the fact it might have been enhanced to produce, say, omega-3 fatty acids to enhance nutritional content? And does the wholesale assault and battery visited upon the plant genome by ‘conventional’ mutagenic manipulation by sodium azide or radiation produce a crop that is more or less dangerous to eat?
      Treating all GMOs as a monolithic entity is like saying that all drugs are bad. The latter aren’t – only *some* are, that’s why we do exhaustive tests on a case-by-case basis to prove otherwise. Sticking a label on foods saying ‘contains GMOs’ conveys as much *information* as one that says ‘contains chemicals’.

    • Skeptico says:

      Bluebell:

      No, you do not have the right to force food producers to add labels advising you of whatever piece of unscientific nonsense you have been conned into believing is important. You have the right to information that is actually scientifically relevant.

  10. Skeptico says:

    Mark:

    Interesting post, and you have made one of the best cases I’ve seen yet for labeling. I’m still not entirely convinced though. Specifically I’m skeptical that once GMOs are labeled, there is no logical impediment to having more of them. Maybe no logical impediment, but when did logic have anything do do with anti-GMO groups? Surely you know labeling is only the first step? Mary Mangan’s comment above (with link) highlights some of the problems.

    So keeping an open mind, but not convinced yet.

  11. Jeff Walther says:

    Maybe next we can have mandatory labels telling us under what Zodiacal sign the seeds were planted and the phase of the moon at the time…

  12. Mark Scott says:

    I want a label that shows the horrible carbon footprint of organic foods. Organic row crop farmers use multiple tillage trips and use 3 to 4 more times diesel fuel than me. Then they flame weed 8 gallons/ acre propane. Look at a the carcinogenicity issues with diesel, fracking, manufacturing ect. Then add all the carbon loss of multiple tillage passes and subsequent release of global warming gasses.
    A label should have all this on it. If I were a food manufacturing company I would appeal to us who have a basic understanding of science.
    I do agree with Mark on labeling

    • Clyde Davies says:

      So how much of all that carbon do they have to burn in order to fix more carbon in the soil? What party does the ‘holistic thinking’ jury find for?

    • Scott says:

      As a rule of thumb, most organic production has a far lower net AGW impact, and in many cases even is a net sink. Of course it depends on the methods used. What Mark Scott described is just an idiot. Of course organic farmers are not immune to idiocy, like any group of people.

      Education would be the key here. The main thing that people seem to be missing is in understanding what the Father of organic agriculture actually did when he coined the term “organic” as it applies to agriculture.

      Sir Howard and his wife, both Cambridge educated scientists, painstakingly looked at hundreds, even thousands of traditional methods, techniques and systems of agriculture and through long years of great attention to detail separated out what could be verified scientifically and discarded what couldn’t. He then called the result “organic” because the primary and most fundamental difference between what they developed and the conventional chemical based agriculture of the day is the carbon cycle. Just as organic chemistry is a subset of chemistry, so organic agriculture is a subset of agricultural science. Keep in mind all life is carbon based, so paying attention to the life cycles is in effect paying attention to the carbon cycle.

      The farmer described by Mark Scott above is not mentioned to be using any organic methodology at all, only NOT using herbicides. No mention of organic methods of production. There is a HUGE difference between simply farming conventionally minus the synthetic chemicals, and actually using modern science based organic methodology. But of course the UK is so far behind the rest of the world in organic technology it is laughable. They seem stuck in the dark ages.

      One organic farmer may sequester less carbon than another due to the level of his skill, education and technology available to him, but organic as a system actually sequester more carbon, yields more and sustainable, all else equal.

      The US definition of organic, “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

      Clearly the so called “organic” farmer described by Mark Scott missed the whole point. Maybe some certification board might certify him because he doesn’t use herbicides, but the farmer himself is obvious ignorant of other options that would actually be a net carbon sink.

    • Scott says:

      Glenn,
      Oh and BTW. Before you start talking again out of ignorance. ALL three of the last world record breakers, Randy Dowdy you mentioned and David Hula being the last, got there by integrating organic technology in their operations. Just a snippet from one of the products they use:

      “Having a total microbial product like Revita-N provides your soil with all five major functional microbial groups; actinomycetes, algae, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. These are all important as they play the roles of; producers, predators, prey, and decomposers. It is not a crop specific product but a soil based product. No matter the geographics, every soil is in need of microbes from these categories to help relief the pressures of yield demands.

      Revita-N microbes are recyclers, regenerators, facilitators, inhabiters, mobilizers, producers, and equalizers. These microbes are not consumed all for one crop or one season, however, with yearly applications Revita-N will replenish the life of the soil. This new life has the capability of allowing the user to reduce nitrogen fertilizer inputs by as much as 50%-75%. ”

      Now of course there are a few that have been doing this longer that have eliminated all ammonium nitrate completely. Gabe Brown being one. Not something that can be done right away though. but as the advancements in organic agricultural science get integrated yields go up, not down.

      I just found it quite ironic that you would praise Randy Dowdy and David Hula who are both setting records by gradually adding organic methodology to their operations and at the same time implying organic methodology is not science based. Your level of ignorance about the subject is almost as bad as the urbanite purists you condemn.

    • Glenn Needham says:

      In a previous post good old Scott called me a liar. So I think it might be well worth my time to stop what I have been doing and provide a little info so people can make up there own mind.

      Scott likely never dreamt anyone would ever do this – so I am glad to be that one that does -just to demonstrate this – these smooth talking kind of people that twist things in these forums without having the facts or worse – not giving out the key facts. They are all part of the same group of anti’s you will find all over the internet with the same objective – to deceive and scare people into buying “organic” products.

      Anyone wants to verify please do follow the links provided.

      He speaks of Randy Dowdy and David Hula as farmers that are evolving to organic practises.

      Obviously Scott wanted to try to appear to know what he was talking about so he goggled Randy Dowdy and then later watched this video on YouTube about David Hula..

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqiKwxFC5DQ

      Scott would have you believe that real farmers are raping the land and robbing the soil for short term benefit/profit -and to the detriment of the long term health of the land – all bull crap!

      In this video Dave talks about his cropping system in which he uses products from http://genesis.ag/

      Scott would like you (the reader) to believe that this company is some kind of “organic” supplement/fertility business. The truth of the matter is that this company is not “organic” though they do offer one product that would qualify as “organic” because of its nature. This product is called Revita N – it is a bacterial amendment to kick start soil bacteria processes. It is only ONE of the products from the Genesis line-up that Dave Hula uses, and the only one that would qualify as “organic”
      Dave also uses Invigor 8 – a awesome seed treatment that the “organic” industry wishes they could use but can not because it is man made – a ridiculous policy of for the “organic” industry. Because we all know that anything man made is evil right?(bit of sarcasm applied there)

      Anyway it appears that the only product that Genesis offers that may qualify for “organic” is the only product they offer that is not man made.

      Here it is..

      http://genesis.ag/products/revita-n/

      He implies that Randy Dowdy uses Revita N also. I have no knowledge of this claim and I doubt he does so I sent Randy off an email to verify. Will repond when I hear from Randy. Maybe he does – maybe he doesn’t but lets just see if Scott is “modifying the story” a little to fit his narrative.

      Here you can find Invigor 8 amongst all the other “man made evils” that Genesis offers

      http://genesis.ag/products/

      Randy achieved his feat with the following evil? Monsanto product.

      http://www.agseedselect.com/product-profile/national/5E2OPP0C2

      http://southeastfarmpress.com/grains/georgia-s-randy-dowdy-hits-503-bushel-corn-top-national-contest-variety-update

      to understand what GENSS value added traits are check this out

      https://www.genuity.com/corn/Pages/Genuity-SmartStax-RIB-Complete.aspx

      Dave Hula reached 532 bushels this year with this Pioneer seed offering (A DuPont company)

      https://www.pioneer.com/home/site/us/products/profile-perf?smo=MHG&productLine=010&language=01&productCode=P1197AM&ts=AM,LL,RR2 (check out all the fancy product logos at the bottom of the page)

      http://southeastfarmpress.com/grains/david-hula-makes-record-532-bushels-acre-top-ncga-yield-contest

      One thing of interest here is that both of these seed varieties are genetically engineered for herbicide tolerance and insect protection (BT)

      So it is a quite obvious that they also use either Roundup or Liberty link or both herbicides in their no till program.

      And you can be 100 percent certain that to achieve those kinds of yields they definitely are using other synthetic fertilizers (evil right?)

      These great farmers are at the top of their field so to speak and they are proof of what sound science can accomplish.
      Yes Dave uses a product from a chemical fertilizer company that qualifies as “organic” but he is the farthest thing – miles apart from being a “organic” farmer, and I would highly doubt either have any intentions of trying to go back in time and farm with “organic” methods, with all their sleazy marketing ploys.

      To suggest that by these growers using Revita N means they are “integrating organic” systems is just silly. How can the “organic” industry claim that product as “theirs” any more that they could plain water.

      Gabe Brown could never become “organic” with the system he uses. He rotates between cash crops one year and “soil amending” crops the next. He will always need to rely on a herbicide such as Glysophate to burn down that refuse from his green cropping in order to kill it so that he can grow wheat or whatever other cash crops he grows.

      This nonsensical idea that “organic” farmers having healthier soil is just garbage as well. If they have such healthy soil – where is there 500 plus bushel corn?
      Remember we can use the same products from your “toolbox” – you “organic” guys can not do the same which will mean you will never compete with modern conventional science based farming.

      – See more at: http://www.marklynas.org/2016/01/campbells-is-right-its-time-to-introduce-federal-mandatory-labeling/#sthash.NE0DRU9u.dpuf

    • Scott says:

      Glenn,
      I realise you spent a lot of time on your so called “scoop”, but all you had to do is ask. No I didn’t google all that info to make a silly post here. I called Genesis Ag directly and had a discussion with them about their products, how they work, the science and technology behind them, and even their philosophy as a company.

      I did not misrepresent them at all. They are an agribiz company that is integrating organic science and technology into conventional models of production. There philosophy is to improve soil and plant health so that less damaging chemical inputs are needed. This results in greater yields than the standard chemical fertiliser and pesticide approach.

      Again, I know this because I talked to them. I talked to them because although I am an organic farmer already, I have the same problem of regeneration of soil and plant health. I called to find out which of their products would potentially be beneficial towards those goals. I did that long before this thread made by Mark Lynas was posted.

      The man I spoke with was very helpful and even so interested as to ask to discuss what my research involves at a future date. See in the real world people doing research on agricultural advancement, the false dichotomies found on websites like this seldom pop up.

      Every thinking person in agricultural research knows agriculture must change. The current models can not and will not last. We may have different approaches, but that core fact of the unsustainability of current production models is in the back of everyone’s mind.

      I come at the problem from the side of using biological sciences to improve organic yields, and Genesis attacks the problem from the side of using biological sciences to reduce the environmental impact of the conventional models, which also increases yields. Either way the same science produces a yield benefit and improves the ecosystem over the older models they replace. Ultimately the goal for both of us would be to produce food without any negative environmental damages by completely eliminating the need for those dangerous agrichemicals, destructive tillage practices and yields improvements at the same time..

      If you can’t see that, sorry. Maybe your next generation of farmer in your family will.

  13. JP says:

    So, you argument is that the government should level the playing field for all by mandating that all foods with GMOs in them are labeled, or the lobbyists for companies that don’t want to label will attack the brands that do. This implies that those attacks on “pro-labeling” brands will come through government, as that is who lobbyists lobby. Otherwise it would be engineered and executed by company public relations and advertising departments…which is where Campbell decision to label most certainly originated. The government should stay out of this fight, including state and local governments and let the market work. If consumers demand this information companies will include it. If they demand to know if the farmer growing the food uses certified sustainability practices the companies can disclose that. Or if they use renewable energy (wind or solar?), vote Democrat or Republican, support gun rights or don’t, employ GAAP or IFRS accounting standards, etc., etc., etc., each as relevant to the safety and nutritional benefit of the product as a GMO label.

    GMO-free and organic food companies have always been free to label their products as such and nearly all have. Good for them. They have created a market niche that commands higher premiums for their products. They have also sewn fears among consumers of imagined effects of conventional food while dodging questions about their own. They have used both lobbyists and advertising professionals to game the system. Each time we allow for a loud interest group to trump science we create inefficiencies that increase costs for consumers at the expense of innovation. I disagree with Campbell Soup’s decision to pander to anti-science activists and the consumers they have duped, but I respect their right within the competitive market to do so. They should not now come running to the government to protect them from the same system.

    • Scott says:

      One problem JP,
      You seem to think that ‘organic” is free. It isn’t. There are regulatory burdens you can’t even begin to imagine, both industry and government originated. Sure in the ideal world removing those burdens and allowing a free market approach would suffice. Clearly organic would easily win that battle too. We don’t live in that ideal world. So the majority of the burden lies with organic to protect the conventional business models. Organic is still taking market share even with those shackles. But the change is slower.

      Well we have about 50-60 years to get the change done. We can’t remove the regulatory burden completely, since ethics in industry is not at all at the required level to allow that. So rather, a labeling law would even it up a bit and speed up that change, to the benefit of all civilization, even all life on this planet.

    • Skeptico says:

      Scott writes:

      So the majority of the burden lies with organic to protect the conventional business models. Organic is still taking market share even with those shackles. But the change is slower.

      Well we have about 50-60 years to get the change done. We can’t remove the regulatory burden completely, since ethics in industry is not at all at the required level to allow that. So rather, a labeling law would even it up a bit and speed up that change…

      And there you have it. Labeling has nothing to to with “choice’ (and certainly nothing to do with “science”). It’s about the organic industry trying to improve its competitiveness and increase market share. Scott’s agenda is made clear. The reason for all the anti-GM tropes (e.g. Seralini’s study was republished as it should have been), the denials that he is anti-GM, all straight from the Ronnie Cummins playbook of increasing organic’s market share.

      …to the benefit of all civilization, even all life on this planet.

      A great argument, except for the fact that it would be no such thing.

    • Glenn Needham says:

      Is it not sad and rather pathetic how the “organic” industry operates?
      They have used the last 20 or so years to lie, deceive and slander safe efficient farming methods, scaring concerned mothers into buying into their scam – and all for what????

      3 to 4% market share – what a shameful, pathetic bunch.

    • Harry van Trotsenburg says:

      They are the Hope for the future.

      Save products, increasing fertility of the soil…..soils which will produce until the end of time…. no soil degradation….

      so no “pathetic bunch”, no for sure not.

    • Glenn Needham says:

      Another point another misconception – but a widely used one.
      These guys want you urbanites to believe that conventional farming is destroying topsoil and they (with access to a tiny percentage of resources conventional ag uses) can somehow do a better job – ridiculous

      With no till cropping (which they can not do) we have much healthier soils and the crop yields reflect that. Last year Randy Dowdy grew 503 bushel per acre corn and apparently this year someone else broke that record.
      Crop yields go up on the average almost every year in regions not hit by drought – so don’t try to tell me that we are hurting our soil somehow.

      The organic industry just haphazardly throws on their manure or compost – not really having any idea what nutrients they are amending and it is certainly not going to be a precise nutrient fix for any deficiency. More often than not because of their limited resources allowed in order to correct a deficiency they create an excess of something else.

      I have farmed for the past 10 years without a drop of manure applied and found that we do not need manure. We can grow the organic matter with plow down crops of rye or legumes and supply exactly what ever elemental nutrient or crops need poured from a bag – and with zero chance of killing someone with a manure borne pathagen.

      Science really is a wonderful thing!

    • Scott says:

      Glenn,
      I can’t speak for the UK but around here everything you said is a lie. Except of course the last sentence, “Science is a wonderful thing.” After all it is the biological sciences and the gradual integration of those breakthroughs in agriculture that have for the first time in history allowed a sustainable model of agriculture that both improves the soil and makes more profits for the farmer even possible. You can thank organic for that, although you are so pigheaded I sincerely doubt you will. Meanwhile the rest of the world understands than conventional agriculture degrades soil ten times faster than it is regenerated and is happy to make the changes required, when they finally learn about them. Your lies and obfuscation of course not helping at all. Hopefully there are few enough listening to you that you are not slowing progress too much. At least you are willing to use green manures, a system developed by organic producers, and no till, also developed by organic producers. In fact most the real advances in methodology have come from organic. Even if you are only integrating a small part, and fighting against yourself for this reason, better than conventional 30 years ago.
      It is true I am an organic farmer. I am not afraid of change. I am the change. I am not afraid of science. I am doing the science. I am not an urbanite, I grew up in a cornfield.

    • Scott says:

      Glenn,
      Oh and BTW. Before you start talking again out of ignorance. ALL three of the last world record breakers, Randy Dowdy you mentioned and David Hula being the last, got there by integrating organic technology in their operations. Just a snippet from one of the products they use:

      “Having a total microbial product like Revita-N provides your soil with all five major functional microbial groups; actinomycetes, algae, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. These are all important as they play the roles of; producers, predators, prey, and decomposers. It is not a crop specific product but a soil based product. No matter the geographics, every soil is in need of microbes from these categories to help relief the pressures of yield demands.

      Revita-N microbes are recyclers, regenerators, facilitators, inhabiters, mobilizers, producers, and equalizers. These microbes are not consumed all for one crop or one season, however, with yearly applications Revita-N will replenish the life of the soil. This new life has the capability of allowing the user to reduce nitrogen fertilizer inputs by as much as 50%-75%. ”

      Now of course there are a few that have been doing this longer that have eliminated all ammonium nitrate completely. Gabe Brown being one. Not something that can be done right away though. but as the advancements in organic agricultural science get integrated yields go up, not down.

      I just found it quite ironic that you would praise Randy Dowdy and David Hula who are both setting records by gradually adding organic methodology to their operations and at the same time implying organic methodology is not science based. Your level of ignorance about the subject is almost as bad as the urbanite purists you condemn.

      PS sorry for the double post, added to the wrong thread.

    • Glenn Needham says:

      Let me quote Scott “listening to you that you are not slowing progress too much”

      Really? Which side is slowing progress? The activists and the “organic” industry or modern science based conventional agriculture?

      And about the silliest thing I have heard in the past many months was you referring to Randy Dowdy and David Hula adopting “organic” systems??
      ARE YOU SERIOUS?

      I will eat my shirt if they are not using GMO seed, spraying modern safe herbicides, using perfectly safe and ethical chemical fertilizers and other modern methods to improve yield, efficiency and protect the environment – all of which are taboo in the “organic” industry.

      And to suggest that the “organic” industry developed no-till farming is absurd. You really must be hoping that all other farmers are too busy farming to read these threads to repsond – and hoping that you might somehow convince someone on the fence with your lies.

      Until the advent of herbicides – no-till was not even possible on any kind of scale beyond back yard gardening.
      Next?

    • Scott says:

      Glenn,
      Oh no, I did not say they were adopting organic methodology, I said integrating. There is a huge difference. They are nowhere close the the point where they can successfully organically produce food and become certified organic. There are conventional farmers getting much closer though. It takes time to get the soil and plant health so vigorous as the make all chemical inputs superfluous. I mentioned Gabe Brown because he is down to one herbicide treatment every 3 years and no chemical fertilisers or insecticides.fungicides at all. So Gabe is very close. There are plenty of others too. A few have managed to be organic certified, some could be but refuse the regulatory burden, but most are still on that journey and in transition.

      The strategy most commonly adopted here in the States is to make a gradual incremental change step by step with the end goal of 100% organic and 0 chemical inputs the final step. Not the other way around where you just wean the whole farm off all chemical inputs 100% cold turkey and wait several years before yields bounce back.

      You can do it either way, but most farmers can’t afford the short term decreases in yields for a time. So the strategy of gradually making that change step by step allows yields to increase incrementally as well. No transition period of low yields. Less risk of losing the farm.

      It always amuses me when people get on their high horse and tell farmers what they must and must not do to be “pure”. It comes from both sides of the false dichotomy.

    • Scott says:

      Skeptico,
      You said, “Scott’s agenda is made clear. The reason for all the anti-GM tropes (e.g. Seralini’s study was republished as it should have been), the denials that he is anti-GM, all straight from the Ronnie Cummins playbook of increasing organic’s market share.”

      Actually my position parallels this quite closely:
      “It is important to understand that solving the problem of food production for a growing population without harming the environment will require the concerted use of traditional breeding and organic farming, as well as GM crop technology, each being used to solve specific problems and needs. ”
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1083872/

      In other words GMOs designed for organic production models. I do not now, nor ever have, supported GMOs designed for conventional production models because they cause such huge environmental harm, even if the GMO might reduce the harm conventional production models cause. We simply must transition to organic methodology. We have approximately 50-60 years to make the transition. Using GE technology to prop up a failing conventional model of production is counterproductive IMHO. Any delays just make it harder to make the transition.

      First thing that needs to happen is a change from conventional methodology to organic methodology, then it will be profitable to design GMOs for organic production models.

      I haven’t read Ronnie Cummin’s playbook, but I am guessing my position is quite different from his.

    • Clyde Davies says:

      I went to our local supermarket last night to buy veggies. Organic broccoli at £4.67/kilo, or the conventional kind at £1.40 a kilo? Guess which I bought.

      Organic produce commands a premium price tag because it sports a label. That’s why people grow it: it’s profitable to do so.

  14. Mary Mangan says:

    I have finally figured out what’s been nagging me about this call for mandatory labeling. It all came together when I read Steve Novella’s post about it: \http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/should-there-be-mandatory-gmo-labeling/

    Steve keenly reminded us of what the “organic” label has played out to be. But there’s even more to it than that.
    .
    The Organic label drama perfectly shows that a label will continue to be contentious, will not stop the shouting, and will never be as pure are the purity trolls need. As I noted in the comments at Steve’s post, organic fights with itself: \http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/business/organic-food-purists-worry-about-big-companies-influence.html?_r=0 Every NOSB meeting now is some kind of big drama.

    And currently the top purity trolls are attempting to remove vaccines from organic standards–because GMOs. \https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/nosb-testimony-gmo-vaccines-organic See? The goal posts never stop moving.

    And it also reminded me of the other goal of labelers–they want to sue for penalties. A perfect real-world example of that is going around this week as well: \http://ecowatch.com/2016/01/08/brazil-fines-nestle-pepsi-gmos/

    So what Mark’s argument does is puts us right back where we started. With some vague ideological notion–lacking definitions, and ignoring penalties. Obviously the Vermont law is absurd. You have to label Spaghettios, but not Spaghettios with meatballs? This is a mandate you want? No. It’s stupid and not informative. And–because of the penalties of this law–$1000/day per product–it’s expensive to get it wrong. Campbell’s had to do something “expensive” (as they said) or you know that anti-GMO folks are going to be running up and down the aisles trying to spot the breaches.

    Labels are not a couple of words on the package, as some people feign. There are real supply chain issues, and real consequences for getting it wrong.

    This real world examples show us mandatory labeling is absurdly defined, with harsh penalties, and demands expensive compliance as a result. All the while offering half-assed “information” that’s nothing of the sort. Calling for mandatory labels without having to think about the actual hard questions is an easy place to stand, that has really no practical value in stopping the shouting.

    [I have tried to escape the URLs so I don’t wind up in moderation purgatory. You’ll have to paste them.]

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