What’s the Downside of Food Labeling?

On this Veteran’s Day, I want to begin by saying “thank you” to all who have served. Many American soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice, but all who have served have been affected in some way. As my friend and fellow ag blogger Janice Person writes, “Observing Veteran’s Day is a small town tradition, a small town commitment. Did you know only 16% of Americans live in small towns but 40% of our military comes from those small towns?”

As Americans, we enjoy the freedom of choice. We are free to choose where we live and work, as well as how we practice religion. The First Amendment also guarantees us the freedom of speech. What I don’t understand, however, is why so many folks believe they also have the freedom to spread misinformation and lies. Yet, this is exactly what’s happening!

“What you put in your mouth is a personal choice,” writes Michele Payn-Knoper in her book No More Food Fights!” What a farmer produces is also a personal choice. One should not overpower the other.”

27250755_mWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, food production is again top of mind with consumers. I certainly understand why people want to know more about their food. After all, few things are more personal than what we place in our mouths to nourish our bodies.

Healthy dialogue is needed to promote understanding between producers and consumers. It’s one thing to ask legitimate questions, but it’s quite another thing to develop a fear over certain foods. Too often false information and half-truths are posted online, and those tend to be the articles that come to the top in a Google search.

Why? A blogger who calls herself FoodBabe, has no background in nutrition or food production, yet she has developed a huge following by spreading fear. Dr. Oz, who is a heart surgeon and also “plays” a doctor on TV, gets paid handsomely to spread fear.

Sensationalism sells. Fear sells! If it didn’t, HSUS wouldn’t show videos of sorry looking puppies and teary eyed little kitties. Emotion keeps the cash flowing! If HSUS actually visited a real farm, there would be no audience to play to.

Many groups, like HSUS and those opposing GMOs, instill fear of modern farming practices. Many groups instill fear of modern farming practices like those opposing GMOs. As a result, some large food companies are promoting they’re not part of this “modern style of farming.” Their advertising shows how they only source food from farmers who farm a certain way. Honestly, I believe such ads are merely a marketing tactic. These companies only want to differentiate themselves from the competition in hopes of increasing sales. However, such ads definitely confuse the general public and cause people concern over modern food production techniques.

There’s an entire industry emerging that’s based on food fear, which is also promoting food labeling legislation. Labeling foods as “non-GMO” connotes there is some type of danger. However, there is no proven danger with genetically modified products. There isn’t even a nutritional difference.

Requiring labels for GMO products is redundant and will be costly. Government mandates always cost money. Production prices will increase, and grocery prices will follow. Some affluent people can afford to pay more for food they don’t think they fear, but how will others be affected like the single mother who lives paycheck to paycheck?

Voluntary labeling is already in place… it’s called advertising! If consumers want non-GMOs, all they need to do is buy foods labeled “certified organic.” Consumers already have this choice, yet the food fights continue.

“… the public debate about GMOs isn’t playing out in a constructive way. Both sides have dug trenches, and they’re lobbing grenades over the wall while nothing much changes. It’s the World War I of food issues, and something’s gotta give,” writes Tamar Haspel in a recent Washington Post article entitled, “The GMO debate: 5 things to stop arguing.”

“Stop making these arguments, at least for a while, and see if it doesn’t help,” summarizes Haspel in his Oct 27th Post article. “While you’re at it, reach out to someone you respect who disagrees with you, and listen. If you’re a scientist, academic, activist, journalist or any other type who gets invited to speak on panels, insist that the panel represent both sides fairly; choir-preaching doesn’t help. We need to come to some kind of reasonable consensus on this issue. Give peace a chance.”

Here are some farmers who are reaching out to consumers:

If you’re a farmer, I hope you’ll follow the examples these ladies are setting. If you’re a consumer, I hope you’ll start following these bloggers.