For months now, we've been getting angry, self-righteous e-mails from people on both sides of I-522, the statewide initiative that would mandate labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients. The people on the yes side sound like your hippiest-dippiest Birkenstock-wearing aunt, and the people on the no side sound like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. Whee!
Under I-522, about 60 percent of all packaged foods would carry a label on the front announcing that they may contain genetically engineered ingredients. The state would have the right to enforce the law, and third-party legal cases could be brought through the sort of no-damages lawsuits that only appeal to public interest attorneys.
The no side argues that the labels are misleading and would cost the average consumer an additional $490 a year. That's bullshit. There is zero compelling evidence that adding GMO warnings to food labels would cost the consumer a dime. The yes side argues that it is merely interested in providing consumers with the information they want. That's bullshit, too. The whole purpose of a GMO label is to get companies to stop using GMOs, and yet the overwhelming scientific consensus is that GMO crops are entirely safe to eat. So you shouldn't necessarily be concerned about eating GMO foods—but you should be concerned about the way GMO foods are grown on giant factory farms that use tons of pesticides (usually, hey, made by Monsanto, one of the main financial sponsors of No on 522).
So what to do? Err on the side of too much information.
Give consumers a label they might not need (like country of origin or previously frozen), and then let the GMO and processed foods industries defend the health and safety of their products. God knows they have the cash. Out-of-state giants like Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow, along with the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association, have already spent a stunning $17 million trashing I-522, filling the airwaves with lies. If GMOs are as safe and beneficial as they say they are, let them run ads selling that message to consumers instead of the anti-522 bullshit they're currently flinging at voters.