GMO DEBATE, PUBLIC HEARINGS, AND A TIDE OF PUBLIC OPINION

Lindsay Mitchell

Sep, 10, 2013  |  Today's News

Whether or not you’ve noticed it, all around you, the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) debate is heating up.  Of course, those seeking a GMO Labeling bill are talking about it because they want to keep the anti-GMO argument in the front of voter and consumer minds.

But little by little, the “other side” is showing up.  The “labels should be based on science” side.  The “transparency for all and not just some” side.

See, the bill introduced in the Illinois General Assembly is much like the California bill in that certain sectors of the food industry are exempt.  Restaurants don’t have to label the food they serve.  Alcoholic beverages don’t have to be labeled.  Call me crazy, but I think if GMOs are so harmful that you choose not to eat them, you should choose not to drink them in your wine either.  Transparency for some should equal transparency for all.

And though any farmer would probably agree that customers have a right to choose what they are buying by reading labels, past legislation allows choices that are based on scientific evidence.  Peanut products are labeled because we have scientific based facts on peanut allergies.  Nutritional information is labeled because of scientific fact dictating nutrient requirements for the human body.

All other labels are marketing.  We believe non-GMO is a label that falls into that category.

What’s even better is that as the GMO debate really begins in earnest, we see the media trending towards unbiased coverage of the technology.  We see the conventional agriculture side of the story actually included, and in an endearing way.

Take this recent New York Times article by Amy Harmon.  She tells the story of Ricke Kress, an orange grower in Florida.  His industry is concerned about complete decimation due to the disease they call citrus greening.  GMO orange trees can fight the disease, but Kress and his colleagues have consistently been forced to choose between death of their trees and their livelihood by this disease, or death by public perception due to GMO foods.  This article is a must read.

Different from the Florida orange farmers, well over half of the Illinois corn crop is already genetically modified.  We are past that crossroads of using the technology or not to use it, hoping that our quest to provide enough food for the world’s growing population in a sustainable and economically friendly way is more important than a tide of public opinion.

But is it?

You might consider learning more at the upcoming public hearing regarding the Illinois GMO labeling bill.  (September 17, 2013 at 10:30 am at 160 N LaSalle, Room C 600, Chicago)  I know it would promise to be an eye opening experience.