GMO Labeling: a Debate for the Well-Fed

GMO Labeling: a Debate for the Well-Fed

BIO wanted to bring to your attention a great piece by Dr. Richard Raymond, former USDA undersecretary for food safety and scheduled keynoter at this month’s BIO Livestock Biotech Summit. Dr. Raymond wrote for the Feedstuffs Foodlink blog a commentary on the push to source non-GM products and the drive for mandatory labeling:

Ben & Jerry’s, which dishes out pricey ice cream, long ago made the claim that its products are made with milk from cows that were not supplemented with “growth hormones,” i.e., recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST). Never mind that cows make their own bST, which promotes lactation.

In truth, rbST is almost identical to bST. On milk cartons that state that the milk came from rbST-free cows, the Food & Drug Administration even requires the labels to carry a disclaimer that there is no difference between milk from cows that were supplemented with rbST and cows that were not.

Now, Ben & Jerry’s says its plan is for all of its products to contain non-genetically modified (GM) ingredients by the end of the year. That is just fine, if you want to pay the inflated price.

The problem, in my opinion, is very complex yet very simple.

First of all, the push to source non-GM products, and the drive for mandatory labeling, will surely turn uninformed but fearful consumers to non-GM products if they can afford that option, just like labeling did in the European Union. This will drive up the cost of food. Period.

Second, passing laws that require labeling of GM products because of consumers’ unfounded fears will drive producers to go the non-GM route. However, the consequence is that this eliminates so much good technology that helps feed a growing world population, most of whom cannot afford the inflated prices.

This move will markedly decrease or even eliminate beets that are herbicide tolerant, corn that is insect resistant and soybeans that are drought resistant. Corn production per acre doubled between 2001 and 2010. Please do not take this increased production away from producers.

This whole issue of whether to label GMOs or not is just another case of well-fed people seeing several problems to solve, while hungry people have only one problem. There is a less expensive solution to this debate that would not have the international repercussions of more children starving to death because of increased prices and decreased production. If you want to buy GMO-free products, then go shop at Whole Foods, the grocery chain for the rich and well-fed.

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The budding animal biotechnology industry has potential to solve numerous human, animal, and environmental challenges but its potential is unrealized and the industry is at a crossroads due to the lack of a clear and predictable regulatory pathway and access to the capital necessary to bring applications out of the lab and in to our everyday lives.

BIO’s 2014 Livestock Biotech Summit is an opportunity for the community invested in finding solutions through animal biotechnology to learn about new technological applications, the regulatory and commercial environments, animal care requirements, the impact of public acceptance and how to tell your story about animal biotechnology.

Official programming information on this year’s Summit can be found at www.bio.org/livestockbiotechsummit.

Registration for this year’s Livestock Biotech Summit is officially open to attendees and credentialed media!

Filed under: Farmer Gene, Food And Agriculture,