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Time to take on anti-biotech crowd over GMO labeling

(For Harry Cline's follow-up to this commentary, see: Anti-biotech crowd convinced GMO food is road to extinction)

The California anti-biotech/anti-genetically modified/anti-science crowd is at it again.

This time around they are calling themselves “advocates for truth in food labeling” and are gathering signatures to get another infamous California voter initiative on the 2012 California electoral ballot. If passed, it would mandate that GMO foods be labeled with some kind of warning.

Bring it on.

It is about time this GMO labeling issue be tackled head-on so the public can be told the truth. Truth is, everything we eat today has been genetically modified, using either conventional plant and animal breeding or biotech technology.

For example, a team of scientists at the University of California has identified no less than 14 so-called genetically modified feedstuffs that are fed to dairy cattle. These are just the biotech products. Of course conventionally genetically modified feedstuff is also fed to milk-producing dairy cows.

These include Roundup Ready corn, Bt grain and silage corn as well as distillers grain; Roundup Ready soybeans, Roundup Ready cottonseed, Bt cottonseed, Roundup Ready alfalfa, Roundup Ready canola, BST used to increase milk production, genetically-engineered Renet used in 90 percent of commercial cheese production, Roundup Ready sugar beets, glufosinate-resistant corn grain and silage, glufosinate-resistant cotton, glufosinate-resistant canola and imidazalione-tolerant corn.

Not all dairy cows are fed this complete list, but enough to dare say if you buy milk in California, it will have to be labeled GMO under the hopefully ill-fated initiative. I suspect organic milk has some of the same ingredients since the overwhelming majority of corn, cotton and soybeans are biotech crops. If not, it would most certainly be conventionally genetically modified.

Of course a lot of those feeds are also fed to poultry and beef cattle.

And we could go on and on, right into the heart of the organic/anti biotech movement - the notorious Organic Trade Association - where one of its board members is a vice president and general manager of Smuckers Natural Foods. Smuckers uses high fructose corn syrup and other GMO ingredients in various jams and jellies. There are other food producing companies represented on the OTA board that also sell biotech foods.

The absurdity of this anti-biotech movement becomes more apparent each day as people realize that the world needs increasingly more food to head off starvation by millions. The most logical way to meet this challenge is with scientific advancement, including biotechnology.

The cost of food continues to go up with the growing scarcity of products as the world competes for food. The public is growing more aware of this each day.

It is time agriculture and food processors take on this anti-biotech crowd straight out with the facts and put a stop to this mandatory GMO labeling nonsense. It is time consumers are told the truth and put this anti-biotech initiative in the same category as the ludicrous anti-circumcision ban initiative a bunch of amazingly arrogant whackos in San Francisco tried to get on a city election ballot. A superior court recently tossed the initiative off the ballot, even though enough signatures were collected to put it on a San Francisco city election ballot. Even the ACLU supported its removal from the ballot because it violated constitutional and religious freedoms.

The mandatory GMO labeling proposal is going nowhere in Washington. Maybe it is time to bury it in California. It would be expensive to defeat. However, the time is right to stop this nonsense where it all started, in California.

(For Harry Cline's follow-up to this commentary, see: Anti-biotech crowd convinced GMO food is road to extinction)

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