Alan McHughen
University of California

This thin book—less than 70 pages of text—succinctly counters every argument made in favor of mandatory labeling of GM foods. Each of these arguments, including the ‘consumer’s right to know,’ enabling consumer choice, and public opinion is systematically analyzed and rebuked.

The “consumer’s right to know” argument seems most compelling as, superficially, it seems a truism that people should have a right to know what they are buying. This point appears so self evident that many regulators and politicians around the globe assume it prima facie. However, delving past the surface and more deeply investigating typical market practices shows that this “right” is not upheld in the case of many, if not most, consumer products. There are innumerable examples in the market where consumers are not given full information on a product, apart from a general product description and nutritional composition. This is particularly true for ‘no-name’ products or generic brands. Consumers enjoy a reduced price, with perhaps some reduced quality (but still safe and within certain quality thresholds) in choosing such products, even when the label may only say, for example, “sliced carrots” or “pickled beets.” How many consumers feel the need to know the named varieties of wheat that went into the loaf of bread they are buying? In actuality, even manufacturers cannot answer such a question, as the bread is undoubtedly a composite of dozens of different wheat varieties grown by many different farmers. Specialty breads baked using specific wheat cultivars might seem an exception, but they are segregated products to meet a certain market segment, and they are more expensive than regular bread (which lacks wheat-variety labels). Read more…