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May anti-GMOers choke on a ‘Phil Robertson’

'Anti' groups constantly perplex this blogger with their tunnel vision approach to issues.

I'm continually perplexed by the tunnel vision and "my way or no way" attitude of socio-politico activist groups – anti-frackers, anti-GMOers, anti-gunners, anti-food animals, and more. They've gained power and influence, at least in part, due to a generally clueless, gullible populace who'll believe just about anything posted on the Web.

The antis are no different than the self-righteous who attacked Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson for his personal viewpoint. Worse, they've soiled our society's fabric – replacing tolerance with intolerance, common sense with no sense, and free market with regulation by judicial and executive order decree. Unless we can fix it, America – as it has prospered – will die.

I can't believe I said that! I'm an optimistic realist. I believe common sense can prevail in most human environments – unless it's intentionally run down – flattened – by intolerance.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. put it well: “Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor.”

So we can hope that Whole Foods will choke on a “Phil Robertson” – the decision to drop Chobani Greek yogurt – one it should regret. And we can hope that those vehemently opposed to genetically-modified organism technology or genetic engineering – including GMO Inside, an anti-GMO instigator – will suffer the same.

Not all is as it seems

Why Chobani was singled out is puzzling. Perhaps GMO Inside simply went after the most successful Greek yogurt maker. Or in this fiercely competitive market, perhaps seeds of discontent were planted by Dannon or Pepsico, now bringing on its Theo Muller brand.

Consider that after four-stage feed rumination by cows, Chobani's nonfat milk is pasteurized and fermented with bacteria into yogurt. How likely is that GM ingredients in feedstuffs make it through that process?
More food for thought: Chobani's competitors use low fat milk plus corn-based ingredients; Chobani Greek yogurt does not.

The answer to the previous question may be in Cheerios. Despite GMO Inside’s crowing about forcing General Mills to make Cheerios with non-GM ingredients, their success was greatly over-touted.

Cornell University Plant Geneticist Margaret Smith explains: Corn starch and sugar are highly refined products – containing no DNA (genetic material). So, asserts Smith, corn starch and sugar from GE corn are nutritionally and chemically identical to that of GE-free corn.

If more Cheerios can be sold with a GM-free label, great! Giving consumers a choice is the way markets should develop in America.

Imminent hazard ahead

So far, Uncle Sam has let sound science, not activist polls, dictate food safety and labeling. But today’s politicization by narrow interest groups and biased opinion polls threaten to flatten science.

The hazard even has a name – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein from the state of fruits and nuts. In a recent letter to President Obama, she contended GMO labeling is so pressing that the President should skip the Congressional process and direct his Food and Drug Administration to require labels on food containing GM ingredients.

"It’s my view,” noted Feinstein, “that FDA does have the authority to require labeling for genetically engineered food products." According to her, the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act prohibits misbranding of food articles, which includes if a label is 'misleading.'"

Citing a New York Times poll, she said, "It’s also clear that consumer interest in whether their food is genetically engineered has increased dramatically." She doesn’t see the imminent danger of regulating on the basis of opinion polls – allowing politics to replace science.

It could easily lead to severe food shortages in this country. Higher food prices would be a certainty.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Ag and consumers impact?

Segregating storage of major GM and non-GM crops, such as corn and soybeans, would add about 20% to storage costs, calculates Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes. The director of University of Missouri’s Economics and Management of Agrobiotechnology Center adds that it’s not economically doable.

Likewise, trying to reformulate food products or use non-GM commodities to avoid labeling would be expensive – 10% to 20% or more than commodities presently used. Who’s going to pay for it? Consumers, contends Kalaitzandonakes

Not all agree. Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist with the Food and Environment Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, argues that GM products such as high-fructose corn syrup or lecithin from soybeans or soy oil account for small ingredient percentages in processed food. So he surmises the impact would be very small.

But the biggest issue surrounding the reduction of GM crops is the long-term impact on U.S. agriculture and even that of the world. Growth of crop yields for food, fiber and fuel could slow appreciably with mandatory GM labeling. The world will need all the food that it can raise in the next 20 years to meet growing hunger needs. And we certainly don't need more reasons for making food less affordable for those families already struggling to make ends meet.

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