General Mills recently put up a Facebook app asking consumers to share what one of their products, Cheerios, meant to them. The app was appropriated by proponents of Proposition 37, most of them protesting the company’s $1.1 million contribution to the “No on 37” campaign.
General Mills promptly removed the app from the site.
Obviously, Proposition 37 – a call for mandatory labeling of foods containing GMO’s – is not dead, even though it was defeated in November by California voters. It’s also clear that the social media can be a fickle place to play marketing games.
You have to give the protestors credit, they’re creative and opportunistic when it comes to getting their message out. But 99 percent of them have no inkling of what products contain GMO’s and which ones don’t. And not a single one understands the contribution of biotechnology to sustainable, safe and healthy food.
Rather, many continue to promote the lunacy of a worldwide organic production system.
A recent post on an anti-GMO Web site exemplified this. “Can you imagine what will happen if millions of people, of all races and creeds, unite for a local, organic, non-genetically-modified food chain? Can you imagine what the next generation in your country will be eating if we don’t?”
I would think that when local food is suddenly not available for whatever reason – there’s always a shortage somewhere, right? – a lot of people would be crying for the old distribution system. And what do you do when all the essentials of a healthy diet are not grown locally?
More importantly, the inconsistent results of producing food without current crop protection products, including biotechnology, would not only threaten food security, but put those who put food on the table at economic risk.
And if organic production were to become the prevalent production system in the world as many hope, organic would become a commodity rather than a niche product, and that’s a whole other box of oats.
I would love to put my hands firmly on the shoulders of one of these anti-GMO folks, look them in the eye and say, “Labeling products containing GMO’s is not going to make you or your children any safer or healthier. It’s only going to make things harder for the people who supply you with food. So just assume that GMO’s, which have been verified to be safe by the way, are in your food, and be thankful there’s plenty of nutritious food to go around.”
Each year, the U.S. farmer has to rely on some combination of yield, price, input cost, increasingly more efficient practices, dumb luck or the kind of luck that is the residue of design, to make enough money where he can start over the following year.
It’s becoming harder and riskier every day. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more of a thankless job as well. That has to change.