A typical supply/demand cycle might go like this: Consumers choose food products due to needs or good advertising. Purchases encourage sales, production, and competitive tinkering: Waxed produce keeps longer, pesticides and breeding protect appearance, attributes, etc. We buy…business innovates, consumer expectations peak, then the tables turn.
New! Lack of Variety
As long as a food is approximately right (“we’ve safely eaten that before”) – we’ll buy. But removing variety poses problems: insufficiently diverse species can be wiped out by a single pest. According to The International Institute For Tropical Agriculture (iita.org) – a banana fungus causes up to 100% crop loss, then persists in soil for 30 years. Streamlined production condenses store produce varieties, so while Google reveals that corn varieties number in the thousands,we hyper-commercialize a few, regulate to protect the industry, and generally foster that variety is interesting…if it’s marketable.
In the vacuum left by natural varieties, companies are free to create genetically-modified / engineered organisms (GMO’s / GE). Intellectual property can then be protected by infringement lawsuits when farmers buy GE seeds, save some, and plant reserves later (CFFS). This suing set includes companies that quashed California’s Nov-2012 “Proposition 37”, far outspending supporters by $35 million (CFFS) and according to thinkprogress.org, preventing GE/GM food labeling (ThinkProgress).
It Was Your Money
They Just Used The Proceeds
The proposition failed, so is disclosure important? Well, our long history with “of course it’s safe…” “…oops.” is behind product labeling; it acknowledges that our race struggles to understand the innumerable component interactions in natural foods. Genes create proteins, so corn crossed with Brazil nuts, now corn syrup, somewhere in a company picnic…might be dangerous. GE fish contains different ingredient proteins than natural fish. By quashing this information, companies prevent the risk of disclosure behind an evolutionary message: We’re big. You’re not.
Frankenfish: Over Twice The Fat; Everything Else Less
So, We Added “Growth” And “Why Stop?” Genes. Also, They Keep Escaping.
The Center For Food Safety recently expressed concern that engineered, nutritionally inferior, growth-enhanced fish – intended for global distribution – would do what farm fish regularly does: escape into the wild (CFFS). Additional to crossbreeding concern are prions – proteins that behave wrong, can hide for years, then do terrible things like “mad cow”. How will we know?
Where Are We Going?
Now They’re Everywhere…Oops.
Consider all the foods that contain corn or soybeans. HealthSpectator.com notes that almost 90% are GE (HealthSpectator). In the Midwest, corn spliced with bacterial DNA (once used alone as a safe pest-killer) is common. But pesticides are antibiotics, for which a doctor* might say: Don’t take unless needed. Take the correct kind. Apply at prescribed strength, and for prescribed time. Because if at any time it’s not the right type, long enough or strong enough…we create superbugs.
Today, superworms retake GE fields; instead of less pesticide, farmers need more (ThinkProgress).
The “no need to label” argument – distracting “because this protein pesticide is clearly safe” – pales against these realizations: One of our safest pesticides stopped working; we did that; defenseless, non-GE crops live nearby, in as much variety as a banana crop; consumers might have chosen differently if products were labeled in the first place.
Labeling: What’s The Problem?
Are Consumer Preferences Dangerous?
Instead of modest margins on natural seeds with no additional value, margins today are made on intellectual value of these seeds, for which you buy the right to use this season.
The greatest risk to this income stream – based on money spent to block GE labeling (instead of applied to thousands of minimum-wage earners’ salaries, updated labels, and data entry work) – seems to be the general public. Is it because consumer choice is powerful – that consumers see risk enough to pose a risk? That remains to be seen, but when some companies are so flush with resources they’re free to muddy the water, perhaps it is better to support those keeping the water clear.