Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Why Doesn't California Want To Label Genetically Engineered Fish?

A salmon genetically engineered to grow faster and an unmodified
salmon of the same age. - New York Times, 2010
A little bill in the California State Assembly, called the Consumer Right to Know Act AB88, that would require labeling of genetically engineered fish was voted down last week.

Consumers Union Dismayed by California State Assembly's Failure to Pass Historic Labeling on First Genetically Engineered Fish, Consumers Union, 19 January 2012

Isn't it odd that polls consistently show around 90% of Americans want labels on GE food, but the FDA and state legislatures consistently snuff this kind of regulation?

I guess it comes down to money. In fact, one place that did pass a law requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food, specifically fish, was Alaska. And the vote was unanimous. Republicans, Democrats, everyone. Why?
"This bill helps highlight Alaska seafood as distinct from genetically modified seafood, doing away with any vagueness that may exist to the consumer when purchasing seafood without labeling, and reinforcing the natural message."
Alaska was protecting their seafood industry.

Not that Biotech didn't try to thwart it. In their testimony opposing the Alaska bill, they said:
"State-based labeling requirements that differ from previously established, stringently enforced federal guidelines, provide no value for consumers and only serve to disparage biotechnology foods."
Biotech's defense was, and is, that since FDA doesn't require labels, states shouldn't either. Why doesn't FDA require labels? Because the FDA, in their own words, "is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way."

According to the sponsors of the Alaska bill (passed in 2005), legislation requiring labeling of genetically engineered fish already exists in the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

How can so many rich, developed countries see a difference between GE fish and conventional fish, but the US cannot? I think they do see a difference, a costly difference.


Bix said...

I'm trying not to be cynical, but the Biotech industry, in saying there is no value to consumers from labeling, is treating the consumer with contempt, not respect. It makes me want the label that much more.

Dr. Mel said...

I agree Bix. The great 19th-century social critic John Ruskin spoke of wealth as "wellth", a condition of well-being in all senses of the word: being content and happy with the world, with nature, and with what you have. He contrasted that with "illth," which resulted when people were too grasping and greedy and tried to manipulate nature for their own profit. And that's what we have in this country--illth and increasing wealth for large corporations, but no sense of Ruskinian "wellth".

Bix said...

Love that!