You know I really think that GM proponents should welcome the idea of labelling food if it contains GM ingredients. The US is in the middle of an ongoing battle by individual states to bring in legislation to label GM food as such, as it is in the EU, and this controversy over labelling make me think about the discussion I’ve had in the past over the ‘organic’ label. Calling a fruit an ‘organic tomato’ instead of just ‘a tomato’ marks it out as different, and it’s usually up the organic producers to explain what that difference is. Some people think it’s just a value-added thing, an expensive or luxury variety, and don’t understand the complete difference in system, and its affect on the soil, biodiversity, the local environment, economy and our health. Many of us growers who grow to organic standards have quite a job explaining how most conventional farming isn’t at all the rosy picture they’ve grown up with, but is in fact heavily industrialised and not at all quaint; and it’s the organic growers who tend to use more traditional practices such as crop rotations, composts and manures, and mixed farming.It’s not at all any easy task, and the systems are so complex, so pretty tricky to fit into quick soundbites.
So why don’t most GM companies want their food labelled as such? Do they think that the general public are prejudiced (rightly or wrongly) about GM, perhaps through media scare stories? If so that surely it’s up to GM farmers and manufactures to explain what they believe the benefits of GM are to the public, just as organic has had to. (Of course personally I think that is the root of the problem: there aren’t actually any benefits when more chemical are needed to grow them; but the people who work for these companies must think otherwise.) Surely this would lead to a much more open debate about GM, and provide greater transparency – which you’d think would lead to less mistrust all round?