FDA’s approval of blight-resistant potato a blow to anti-GMO movement.
If we could go back in time and avert the Irish potato famine, in which a million people died, who would possibly oppose it?
No one, obviously, including anti-GMO activists. But the question presents itself in light of approval last week by the Food and Drug Administration of a genetically engineered potato that resists the blight that destroyed Ireland’s crops in the 1840s.
That same blight remains destructive to this day.
The blight-resistant potato by J.R. Simplot Co. is just the latest advance that raises awkward questions for the anti-GMO movement. And in another development of perhaps greater significance, the Campbell Soup Company has decided to become the first large food company to disclose the existence of genetically modified ingredients in its products.
The company is betting on the good sense of consumers and their trust in scientific consensus. Let’s hope its faith is warranted.
Most so-called GMO labeling has been on products that do not have genetically altered ingredients. In effect, the sellers are boasting of that fact. But as Campbell’s chief executive freely acknowledged to The New York Times, three-fourths of her company’s products include GMO corn, canola, soy beans or sugar beets.
Obviously, Campbell believes consumers will go on buying its products at the same pace once labels are in place, which will take 12 to 18 months. If so, the decision will go a long way toward ending the shrill GMO labeling wars.
In 2014, Colorado voters rejected a deeply flawed initiative requiring GMO labeling. And while similar ballot initiatives have failed in other states, Vermont passed a law requiring GMO labels by July 2016. The issue isn’t about to disappear.
Campbell Soup supports a mandatory federal requirement for GMO labeling as a way to avoid a patchwork of state laws with slightly different requirements. But most food producers oppose a federal mandate because the labeling movement has nothing to do with food safety and they fear labels will stigmatize thousands of safe and wholesome products.
But what if the vast majority of consumers take the labels in stride? What if the labels demystify GMOs and lead to greater public understanding of their potential to battle malnutrition and reduce the use of pesticides?
The anti-GMO movement, fueled by the organic food industry and anti-corporate activists, has maintained for years that all it wants is to provide the public with more information. Campbell Soup is about to call their bluff.