Let's Get Real About GMO Labeling

Prairie Gleanings

Before banging the GMO labeling drum, let's try to understand how this sort of thing would play out. I think a lot of folks are confused.

Published on: June 4, 2013

A Rebuttal to the Monsanto Protestors garnered a lot of attention.

The GMO haters turned out en masse to tell me why I was an idiot (and a few other things I can't print here) on this topic.

One thing came through crystal clear – nearly all of them want GMO labels for our food supply. Another thing was clear – very few of them understand how food makes its way from the farm to the fork.

I’ll start by addressing the farm to fork information gap that seems to exist. Many of these GMO protestors seem to think GMO labeling will hurt the biotech corporations. I doubt it. Here’s why.

Look at this long list of ingredients in a bag of Doritos. Do you really think Frito-Lay will spend the money to make certified non-GMO Doritos?
Look at this long list of ingredients in a bag of Doritos. Do you really think Frito-Lay will spend the money to make certified non-GMO Doritos?

These biotech companies spend millions on R&D to insert new traits into seed. The seed is then sold to farmers. Contrary to what many non-GMO folks seem to think, the farmer chooses what seed to purchase. And, yes, he/she can choose non-GMO seed.

Before moving onto the next step, let’s address why a farmer would choose GMO seed. To farm is to gamble. The odds are more in a farmer’s favor if he/she plants GMO seed. Yield reductions due to insects, disease, weather and weed competition are very real threats.

Growing non-GMO crops is typically harder. If one were to choose this route, they should fully expect a premium for doing so. Keep this mind; we’ll come back to it later.

If Frito-Lay did spend the money to manufacture non-GMO Doritos, how much would you pay for them? Ill bet youd be looking at a cost of at least $10 per bag.
If Frito-Lay did spend the money to manufacture non-GMO Doritos, how much would you pay for them? I'll bet you'd be looking at a cost of at least $10 per bag.

Now, the crop is planted, it grows, matures and is harvested. The farmer trucks the corn, soybeans, wheat to the local elevator (a place where grain is stored). It is mixed with numerous other farmers’ crops from the same area. From here, it probably goes to a larger elevator, and is mixed again.

Next, the elevator sells the commodities to various end users. In some cases, that’s a feed mill, which grinds commodities and produces rations for cattle, hogs, chickens, etc. In others, it goes to companies that make food additives. These folks then pass the additives on to food manufacturers.

Point is we do not directly consume the corn and soybeans that are stored in the silos which dot the Midwestern landscape. They are processed in some manner before coming to our dinner table.

When they do land on our table, they’re in a familiar packaging, with a brand on said package. Folks, the food manufacturers are the ones who do not want to slap a GMO label on their products.

And, should you begin to think the farmers and biotech companies are in bed with the grocery manufacturers, think back a few years to the debacle over ethanol production. The Grocery Manufacturers Association launched a vicious food vs. fuel campaign that the farm industry did not appreciate in the least bit.

Knowing this, let’s refine our position on GMO labeling a bit, shall we? If you purchase a 12-pack of Pepsi/Coke, and it comes with a new “May contain GMO products” label, will you lash out at Monsanto? Or, perhaps you’ll purchase a different type of soda?

I know what you’re thinking. “Ah, but if I buy a different soda, Pepsi will get the message and they’ll stop buying GMO high-fructose corn syrup, so eventually it will trickle down to Monsanto.” Are you sure about that?

Consider this tidbit from the U.S. Soybean Export Council. The EU put GMO labeling into place in 2004. Food companies scrambled to find non-GMO products to avoid the label.

This year, the cost of non-GMO commodities reached a point where virtually all the UK’s large poultry producers are now buying GMO products. British supermarket Tesco ended its 11-year commitment to non-GMO poultry because they could no longer source it in an economic fashion.

So, what about forcing farmers to plant non-GMO seed? First off, aren’t a lot of you mad because you think Monsanto is doing just the opposite right now?

That point aside, doing so will reduce the amount of grain/food. Less food means more money for the remaining amount food. Yes, this isn’t just a feeding the world debate. It’s a feeding the U.S. debate.

Viewed through that lens, which politicians do you think will want to pass a law that takes food out of people’s mouths? Last time I checked, everyone, regardless of economic stature, gets a vote in this country.

This brings me to my final point. Remember the bit about non-GMO food coming at a premium? U.S. citizens are already voting on this issue. They’re doing it with their pocket books.

It’s tempting to get all hopped up at an anti-GMO rally and think you’re in the majority, but you’re not. For every one of you willing to paint a sign, there are countless others silently purchasing cost-effective, safe food at their local grocery store.