Counterpoint: Decisions about our food system must be made based on science, not innuendo

The Minneapolis StarTribune recently published a piece by Mr. Jim Riddle calling into question the vote of United States Senator Amy Klobuchar to advance much needed GMO labeling legislation (“Counterpoint: Shame on you, Amy, for betraying us on GMO labels”, March 3).

The proposed legislation enjoys broad and deep support. Prior to the hearing, every member of the Senate Agriculture Committee received a letter of support signed by at least 652 organizations representing the entire food chain, including a large number of consumers, agricultural interests and food companies from Minnesota.

Furthermore, Senator Klobuchar was not the only Democrat to support the bipartisan legislation in hopes of reaching a compromise that will protect consumers from escalating costs and American agriculture from a disjointed patchwork of state-by-state and local laws. At least six Democrats are now on record having either voted for the bill in committee or saying they will support a compromise version on the Senate floor.

I am also befuddled by the points raised by Mr. Riddle in regards to pesticides when the issue at hand is GMO labeling. One does not equal the other and, in this particular case, there is a large disconnect between GMOs and the labeling of products and the role played by pesticides in both conventional and organic agriculture.

The reality is, GMOs have been tested extensively – in over 2,000 studies. These studies, and the leading regulatory and food safety organizations in the world – including the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health, have found GMOs to be perfectly safe.

Foods produced utilizing advanced agricultural technologies have “officially” been in the food supply for approximately 20 years. In reality, we are late-comers when it comes to using technology. Nature has been naturally using genetic modification on its own for millions of years.

Biotechnology also helps reduce the environmental impact of agricultural practices, can increase nutrient absorption by livestock and can create crops that are tolerant of poor environmental conditions (e.g. drought).

One of the deceptive arguments posited by GMO opponents is that consumers have a right to know what they feed their families. This claim, however, simply doesn’t pass the “smell test”. The issue of GMO labeling is not necessarily one of consumer choice. Consumers already have a choice to purchase non-GMO products, if that is their preference, and misguided labeling initiatives could unnecessarily scare consumers away from safe foods that offer nutritional benefits.

It is critically important that decisions about our food system are made based on science, not innuendo. The vote by Senator Klobuchar and her colleagues in support of advancing a common-sense solution to GMO labeling will benefit both Minnesota farmers and consumers.

Dave Ladd is President of RDL & Associates and a frequent guest commentator regarding the agriculture sector public policy environment.

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