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Former Ag Secretary John Block’s Weekly Commentary – “A Case Against Mandatory GMO Labeling”

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This Is Rick Frank sitting in for John Block. This radio commentary is brought to you by John Deere and the National Corn Growers Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary—

The air waves are filled with paid announcements arguing the public has the right to know when GMO ingredients are used in food products sold in the U.S. I say no to mandatory GMO labeling but yes to voluntary labeling.

The FDA, USDA, and EPA have concluded that GMO products on the market are safe and pose no unique allergenicity or environmental problems. Both Republican and Democratic Administrations have reached this same conclusion.

The first GMOs were developed over 140 years ago by Gregor Mendel…remember biology? – cross-breeding peas to create better peas. Most of today’s fruits and vegetables are the product of cross-breeding and we all benefit. No labeling required, nor should it be.

Modern day GMOs are similar except the new gene is often from a different species. There is absolutely no reason to think there will be any safety issues.

The “right to know” argument only goes so far – under modern labeling theory, consumers should have the right to know what ingredients are in a product and they do in the ingredient list. They should have assurances that the product is safe and doesn’t pose any allergenicity risk. But that’s it. The “right to know” to satisfy religious, political, economic, or geographic interests should not be satisfied through mandatory labeling or each label will ultimately become an encyclopedia. Of course, Nebraska farmers would like to require all corn coming from Kansas into Nebraska to say “Product of Kansas.” But where will it stop?

We need to find better ways to feed the 1 billion hungry on our planet; promoting organic farms in every back yard or discriminating against GMO science won’t get us there.

Voluntary labeling should be permitted regarding whether GMOs are present or are not present. Unique state labeling laws like the one in Vermont are politically motivated and just flat wrong. FDA, USDA, and EPA must continue to monitor the health safety and environmental impacts of these products on the public. In my view, this issue will ultimately prove to be a “tempest in a tea pot.”

Until next week, I am Rick Frank sitting in for John Block from Washington, D.C.