Ask Us Anything About GMOs!

Why did your industry fight so hard to water down the recent GMO labeling law passed in Connecticut? Also, why did your industry spend over $50 million in 2012 to defeat similar labeling laws in California?

A:Expert Answer


This is a common question that we’ve answered a number of times:



But, I don’t believe we’ve talked specifically about provisions in the bills that come into play as a consequence of mandatory labeling.


One is the commonly referred-to “bounty hunter” provision and the potential legal burden that would have been imposed on local businesses.  What this means is that anyone could walk into any grocery store, whether it is a small business or a big-box retailer, and file a civil action lawsuit against that store if he or she found an unlabeled product, whether or not any actual harm was done. The burden to prove that product was properly labeled and didn’t contain a GMO would actually fall on that business, which could be a very costly legal process as we’ve seen with California’s Prop 65.


Another reason we opposed these initiatives is that we believe they would lead to higher food prices and limit consumer choice. This Freakonomics article describes how a mandatory “frankenfood” label would impact food availability and cost in your grocery store. 


Fundamentally, though, we oppose mandatory labeling because we don’t believe adding a “May Contain GMOs” label to the front of a package would give you the information you need to make an informed decision. Such a label, without any accompanying information, could be perceived as a “skull and crossbones,” implying that products containing GM ingredients are less safe than other foods. That is simply not the case. Numerous international science societies and health organizations, and literally thousands of studies, have confirmed the safety of GM crops and foods. You can find an extensive list here.


What we don’t oppose is your right to choose. We support voluntary labeling and the existing ability in the marketplace for a company to use marketing claims as a way to differentiate and promote its products. We believe our products are safe and nutritious, but if you are still unsure, you can look for “USDA Organic” or other non-GMO labels. 

A:Expert Answer

The industry is spending money to defeat legislation that is largely drafted out of misunderstanding and fear. Those pressing for this legislation in many cases are ultimately looking to ban a technology that we absolutely need to continue to feed our growing population at affordable prices using less inputs and less land. I’ve recently posted an article that addresses Prop 37,  "Standing Up to the True Mission of the 'Just Label It' Crowd," on the  Truth About Trade & Technology blog.  A previous response on GMO Answers, available here, addresses the Connecticut labeling issue.

The response, included below, addresses issues raised in your question. If you have additional questions after reading this response, please ask.

Anti-biotech activists are like zombies in a horror movie: No matter how many times you defeat them, they keep snapping back to life, determined to wreak brand-new havoc.

"So, a month after suffering a bad loss in California on Election Day, they’re shifting their misconceived movement to Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont and elsewhere. The next engagement is already well underway in the state of Washington, where the frightening extremism of what they really hope to achieve is also on full display.


"Their outrageous goal is nothing less than a complete ban of crops enhanced by biotechnology—and they must be stopped.

"The opponents of biotechnology try to present a reasonable face to the public, but their real agenda is radical—and it’s already on full view in the state of Washington.

"On Election Day, as Californians were casting their ballots against Prop 37, voters in Washington’s San Juan County considered an even more dangerous measure: a total ban on the growing of GM crops.

"San Juan County, home to fewer than 16,000 people, is tiny compared to California and its population of almost 37 million. So its drastic initiative didn’t generate much attention during the campaign season—and neither did the result, in which 61 percent of the county’s voters decided to outlaw the kinds of plants that farmers in much of the rest of the country take for granted.

"This is the true mission of the anti-biotech movement: the utter elimination of genetically modified crops from the United States.

"If the 'Just Label It' crowd wanted to stop at labeling, its leaders would have condemned the vote in San Juan County. But they did no such thing. For people who love to spew out press releases and shout on blogs, their silence was curious—and also revealing.

"The rest of us must speak out against both the effort to push new food-label laws and the even more harmful agenda that lies behind it. We know the truth about modern food and agriculture, and it’s our job once again to make sure voters hear about it as well."

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