Put labels on GMO foods

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board May 30, 2014 11:27 am

The issue of genetically modified organisms in food — GMOs — has become a major political topic in Oregon.

Last week voters in Josephine and Jackson counties in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley voted to ban GMO crops.

And it’s likely that in November voters statewide will decide whether to require food containing GMO ingredients to be labeled as such.

We see no reason for consumers to worry about GMO foods. Americans have been eating them, in products containing soybeans, corn and wheat, among others, for more than 20 years, and the consensus among scientists who have studied GMOs is that these foods pose no unique health risks. That consensus is about as strong as the conclusion that climate change is happening.

That said, we support the effort to require labels on foods that contain GMOs.

After all, food companies festoon packages now with meaningless euphemisms of what their products supposedly contain — “all natural goodness” and the like.

Certainly consumers deserve to know the actual ingredients they’re eating.

The best solution, in fact, is not the current state-by-state piecemeal approach, but rather a federal labeling requirement.

This would avoid the inevitable confusion that would results when, say, a box of crackers in Oregon bore a GMO label while the same product sold in Idaho had no such label.

Equally important, the label law must be worded such that the labels are not perceived as warnings, akin to the Surgeon General’s warnings on tobacco and alcohol.

Ideally, this campaign to inform consumers about the presence of GMO products in their food will also serve to educate the populace both about the many potential benefits of biotechnology (more efficient use of land being only one) and the absence of any credible evidence that these products are harmful to us.