Wednesday, January 14, 2004

INFORMED CONSENT AND GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS
I am a big believer in the social concept of 'informed consent.' What this means is that you give people the information and let them make their own decisions... and let them accept the consequences for that decision. For example, you tell them that eating Big Macs is not good for your heart. They can still choose to eat Big Macs if they want... but they won't (or shouldn't) get a penny from McDonald's to pay for their heart surgery.

'Informed consent' is the reason I oppose the 'fat tax' proposed by a legislator here in New York state. This is why people should be allowed to smoke cigarettes (so long as I'm not forced to breathe their smoke). This is why I oppose mandatory seat belt laws for automobile drivers/passengers and mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists... even though I always buckle up when I'm in a car and wear a helmet when I'm on a bicycle. It's my choice.

However, 'informed consent' is why I supported food labelling. Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, the US Food and Drug Administration insisted upon standardized food labeling. They made it so serving sizes listed on labels had to be reasonable. Before, a bag of Lays' might list the serving size as '2 chips.' I think this change was incredibly important.

I read on Deutsche Welle that the German government has ok'd the labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods.

'Informed consent' is also why I strongly support labelling of GM foods. After all, what is 'informed consent' without the INFORMED part?

Now, the big biotech corporations will say that such labelling is unnecessary because GM food is much safer than its critics contend. I think the goodness or badness of GM foods is irrelevant to the issue of labelling.

The bottom line is that citizens have the right to know what they're ingesting. They may not care, but give them the info and let them make their own decision. If they have the right to put something into their body, they have the right know what that something contains. Period.

If GM foods are going to be legal, then they must be labelled. By all means, the biotech industry can launch a campaign to convince people that God himself would eat GM foods, if he'd thought of it. In fact, the biotech corporations argue that GM foods are actually BETTER than non-GM food because mutated crops don't need pesticides. Great.

If biotech companies think GM foods are the best, then they should SUPPORT labelling, as it would help people choose the allegedly superior product.

If the government shouldn't decide what we eat, then why should Monsanto? Label GM foods as such and let people decide for themselves.

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