Future of GMO Strategies Moving Forward After The Dark Act
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill HR 1599 (the "DARK" Act) consolidating federal control of labeling initiatives for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods. This underscores the importance of consumer education about the health risks of dangerous GMOs. Despite heavy opposition, the measure was approved 275-150.The bill specifically preempts states' rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws moving forward.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently requires labeling of GMO foods if the food has a significantly different nutritional property; if a new food includes an allergen that consumers would not expect to be present (e.g., a peanut protein in a soybean product); or if a food contains a toxicant beyond acceptable limits.
GMOs More Toxic, Less Nutritionally Dense and Less Safe Than Conventional Foods
The claim that GE foods are materially comparable to conventional foods, and therefore inherently safe, falls flat when you consider that GE crops are designed to be different. Among crops, two primary GE modifications have taken place: so-called Roundup Ready crops are designed to withstand the herbicide Roundup, which would normally threaten the survival of the crop if sprayed too liberally.
Glyphosate was recently classified as a Class 2A "probable human carcinogen" by the World Health Organization's (WHO) research arm on cancer, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) admits foods are not tested for glyphosate residues due to the high expense of doing so. So, GE corn, soy, cottonseed, and sugar beets are known to contain higher levels of a probable carcinogen, which the government does not test for, andthat in and of itself is cause for labeling GMOs -- not hiding it on some website that you can only get to by scanning a QR code and hoping the company is completely transparent in its reporting.
In particular, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know)Act - if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Obama - will:
Preempt State and local laws regarding the production and sale of GMO crops, not just the labeling of GMO foods;
Eliminate "GMO-Free" zones;
Unfairly burden traditional farmers and food producers to label their food as "GMO-free," requiring certification from the pro-GMO USDA;
Further muddy the food definition of "Natural," allowing companies to make "natural" claims on packaging even if the food contains GMOs; and
Allow dairy products from animals fed bioengineered foods and foods developed using bioengineered processing aids or enzymes to still be labeled as non-bioengineered.
Although touted as a means of ending a “confusing patchwork” of GMO labeling laws, the DARK Act is really nothing more than camouflage for the removal of Americans’ right to know what is in their food and drink.
Another "Too Big to Fail" System in GMOs
When the financial crisis began, Mark Spitznagel, a senior economic advisor and co-author Nicholas Taleb, a scientific advisor and professor of risk engineering, warned that the "financial system was fragile and unsustainable, contrary to the near ubiquitous analyses at the time." Now the pair is issuing another warning, noting that:
The GMO experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, 'too big to fail' enterprise -- but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails."
Now they're predicting a collapse of the global ecosystem. In both instances, the same set of false arguments is used to dismiss the call for more prudent action:
Critics accuse those concerned about GMOs to be "anti-science," and invoke "scientific consensus" claiming safety and being in favor of forging forward. But, as noted by Spitznagel and Taleb: "Had science operated solely by consensus, we would still be stuck in the Middle Ages. According to scientific practice, scientific consensus is used in telling us what theory is wrong; it cannot determine what is right. Nor can it apply to risk management, which requires much greater scrutiny."
The oft-repeated mantra claiming there's a scientific consensus that GMOs are safe is in fact a lie. Scientists have become so concerned about this fallacy having taken root that 300 scientists, researchers, physicians and scholars signed their name to a statement published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, asserting that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.
According to this paper, the claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is in actuality "an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated." It also states that such a claim "is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue."
The salvation through technology argument. "In fact, only a small minority of technologies end up sticking; most fail because of some flaw identified over time,' they note. 'The technological salvation argument we faced in finance is also present with GMOs, which are intended to 'save children by providing them with vitamin-enriched rice.' The argument's flaw is obvious: in a complex system, we do not know the causal chain, and it is better to solve a problem by the simplest method, and one that is unlikely to cause a bigger problem."
The no-reward-without-risk argument. According to Spitznagel and Taleb: "We were told that had ideas such as ours prevailed in the past, they would have hindered risk-taking. Yet, the first rule of risk-taking is to not cross the street blindfolded."
Relying on primitive risk models. "What is most worrisome, is that the risk of GMOs are more severe than those of finance. They can lead to complex chains of unpredictable changes in the ecosystem, while the methods of risk management with GMOs -- unlike finance, where some effort was made -- are not even primitive."
Relying on prediction models without taking into account or preparing for prediction errors
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.