GMO Irresponsibility Show

Short-sighted pandering to hysteria serves no one

by Christie Wilcox | Updated 18 Aug 2015 at 5:33 AM

One reason Donald Trump appeals to voters is because he doesn’t apologize for making money, or anything else.

By contrast, most American corporations are vilified for that same goal and are forced to sugar-coat their intentions.

One way they try to improve their image is by setting up “Corporate Social Responsibility” programs to show how they’re giving back to communities, organizations and more.

Costs, of course, are passed along to consumers. But a cheap way to gain credit with us is by pandering to baseless fears, such as the dread of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

One convenient soapbox for braying about an anti-GMO cred is the recently passed controversial Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. Tagged H.R. 1599 and approved in July by the House of Representatives on a 275-150 vote, it now awaits action in the Senate.

Many have spoken out against the bill, which effectively bans states from requiring labels for genetically modified foods and invalidated laws that already exist in several states, including Vermont and Connecticut.

One very cheap way of trying to gain cheap credit with consumers is by pandering to baseless fears, such as the dread of GMO.

While many have criticized H.R. 1599, including celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow, few have been as loud as Ben and Jerry’s, the ice cream maker owned by Unilever.

“Like a majority of Americans, we’re pretty sure you want the right to know what’s in the food you eat,” the company said on its website in a call to arms urging customers to call their representatives.

It’s a stance that has garnered the company a flood of praise.

Ben and Jerry’s and other companies, including Chipotle, that have jumped on the anti-GM bandwagon are doing their customers a disservice by caving to conspiracy theorists and ignoring science.

Just imagine if, instead of taking a stand against GMOs, these companies spoke out to say that the climate isn’t changing, and therefore they will increase their carbon footprint. Or imagine if a company said that vaccines are dangerous, and therefore they would selectively start hiring only those who are unvaccinated.

If those positions sound ridiculous, it’s because they are in sharp contrast to scientific consensus  — and so, too, is any rhetoric that questions the safety of genetic modification.

The House was right to pass H.R. 1599, and one hopes the Senate is equally as wise. Appeals for a “right to know” sound righteous, but they’re not based in science.

Ben and Jerry’s and other companies jumping on the anti-GM bandwagon are doing their customers a disservice by caving to conspiracy theorists and ignoring scientists.

Ben and Jerry’s and the politicians against H.R. 1599 like to tout opinion polls showing that more than 90 percent of Americans favor GMO labeling. But they conveniently ignore that the same polls find more than 80 percent of those surveyed also favor mandatory labeling for foods containing DNA, revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of basic biology.

We don’t ask the average American whether a company can claim that a particular drug works, or what the recommended daily value of folic acid should be. Some decisions require experts. And when it comes to expert opinions, there is clear consensus: GM foods are just as safe and nutritious as their non-GM counterparts.

Ask the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Ask The Royal Society of Medicine, the American Medical Association, the European Commission, or other major scientific societies around the globe. They all agree that GM foods are safe and healthy.

Overwhelmingly, these scientific organizations are against GMO labels because, as a statement from AAAS states, “Legally mandating such a label can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers.” To continue to raise concerns about the safety of GM foods in the face of scientific consensus isn’t being cautious — it’s cowardice.

By standing firm against GMOs, Ben and Jerry’s and others are contributing to a cultural climate that already devalues facts and evidence in favor of ideologies. Corporations now pander to snake oil salesmen, stocking water labeled as medicine and jewelry claiming supernatural powers. Shirking science when it’s convenient makes a company untrustworthy and irresponsible.

Let's stop treating science and reason like four-letter words. It’s long past time that “corporate responsibility” include a commitment to evidence-based practices, and any company that turns a blind eye to the facts should be denounced.

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