For the past several years, opponents of genetically engineered products have misinformed and misled the general public with scare tactics and, sadly, an anti-science message.
Connecticut has been a hot spot for this rhetoric, and unfortunately in 2013 our lawmakers chose to listen to fear rather than facts and passed unnecessary legislation regarding GMO labeling.
Thankfully in the process, lawmakers found some reason and chose to add a trigger clause (requiring other states to enact similar legislation before ours can go into effect), so that Connecticut hasn’t been forced go it alone in this assault on science. Other surrounding states like New York and Massachusetts have refused to pass similar laws, and residents in other states like Washington and Colorado have smartly voted against similar measures.
The anti-GMO activists have said that they plan to continue to chip away at the trigger legislation here. I have little doubt that will be the case, which is why it makes sense for the federal government to pass legislation that keeps any labeling at the federal level. Labeling of GMOs is nothing more than an attempt to put a scarlet letter on these products. It is, in any event, unnecessary since the “organic” label already means, by definition, the products are GMO-free.
By instituting a voluntary federal standard, perhaps we can put the fear mongering to rest and have a real discussion about why genetic engineering is not only safe, but critical to our future.
The fact of the matter is that science is on the side of GMOs. Multiple, peer-reviewed studies have consistently shown that GMOs are not only safe, but critical to our society and the ability for our farmers to feed the world’s growing population. We must not fall prey to the false equivalency perpetrated by GMO opponents – that there are an even number of scientific studies of equal validity and reliability on each side of the GMO issue. Not true. The overwhelming body of scientific literature is on the side of GMO safety and indeed, necessity.
It used to be that we as a nation had to look to the developing world to see the devastating effects of drought and climate change and in turn, the sustainability of the food supply. Those days are over. We need to look no further than our own shores to see that innovation must be used in order to keep certain aspects of our agricultural industry from literally dying on the vine.
The drought in California has had a major impact on the agriculture industry there. Some crops are at major risk— as are the livelihoods of the farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole. Almond trees, vineyards, fields of vegetables simply don’t have enough water to produce their yields. Genetic engineering helps to solve that problem by developing crops that are drought resistant and need less water on a daily basis.
That science can solve for these problems is not scary— it’s something that should make us feel, authentically, safer. Through true innovation, we have learned how to harness a process that has been a part of the farming process since the beginning of time, making plant cross breeding safe and faster through genetic engineering.
What is scary is that misinformation threatens to undo this progress.
We can’t continue to defeat the science that will serve to feed our growing population.
Paul Pescatello is the chair of Connecticut Bioscience Growth Council.