Genetically modified crops have increased the productivity and improved the lives of farmers — and the people who depend on them — all over the world. Now, they are banned in two counties in Oregon.
Voters in two Oregon counties have chosen to outlaw the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the productive Rogue Valley. They are not the only ones going in the wrong direction. Several places in California, Hawaii, Maine and Washington state also have bans in place, though the Oregon counties are the first in which GMOs had been actively cultivated. Farmers have a year to remove the genetically modified crops from their fields. Several states also have or are considering a requirement that food containing genetically modified crops be labeled.
There is no mainstream scientific evidence showing that foods containing GMOs are any more or less harmful for people to consume than anything else in the supermarket, despite decades of development and use. If that doesn’t convince some people, they have the option of simply buying food bearing the “organic” label. There is no need for the government to stigmatize products with a label that suggests the potential for harm. Outright bans, meanwhile, are even worse than gratuitous labeling.
As with any field, there’s room for reasonable caution and study using real science. But there is nothing reasonable about anti-GMO fundamentalism. Voters and their representatives should worry less about “Frankenfood” and more about the vast global challenges that genetically modified crops can help address.