The FDA has now declared an answer to the first question, proclaiming GM salmon safe for consumption. For the FDA, the lack of convincing scientific evidence that GM salmon is unsafe for human consumption is good enough to declare that it is safe.
This is lousy logic, but that is the way the FDA works. The kind of scientific research that could document the real health concerns about GM salmon takes a lot of time and a lot of money, money that just isn’t available from public or private sources. The biotech industry proclaims that the gene-altered fish is safe and it doesn’t seem to matter that these companies have an obvious financial interest in saying so.
Can you imagine grocery shopping and having the supermarket manager tell you that the labels had been removed from all the products on the store’s shelves? Unthinkable! Unimaginable!
So why then is there such intense opposition to the idea that product labels should include disclosure of any genetically engineered ingredients? After all, public opinion overwhelmingly favors GMO labeling. A 2011 New York Times poll found 89 percent of Americans want labeling of GMO products. Separate polls conducted last year by MSNBC and ABC reached similar results: Nine of ten Americans favor mandatory GMO labeling.
Accurate product disclosure allows consumers to make informed choices. When it comes to food, we should be concerned and aware of what we are putting in our bodies and in our children’s bodies. Who could argue with an idea so obviously worthwhile?
Agricultural and chemical company interests and their allies oppose GMO labeling, that’s who. And these companies, led by industry bogeyman Monsanto, have the money, the political and lobbying muscle and the financial interest to fight against the popular will.
If you need a science expert to support your cause and you have unlimited cash, what better way to find an expert you can trust than to buy the university where the scientist works?
When it comes to food and agricultural policy, it is hard to know which raging debate burns hotter. Ballot initiatives and grass-roots campaigns in several states, including California, would require labeling on food products containing genetically modified components. Food products falsely claiming to be “natural” or to have health benefits face challenges in court. Policymakers receive more intense scrutiny over the way millions and millions of dollars are spent in subsidies and tax breaks for industrial agribusinesses.
When the media or litigators or regulators tackle one of these issues, they will look for experts in the agricultural “field” of interest, so to speak. That is where the rights and interests of consumers are vulnerable.