Dr. Oz and Genetics

Dr. Oz- that strange television creature of Oprah Winfrey- has shed light on the controversy surrounding genetically modified food.  His cause is one of mandatory labeling of foods that contain so-called GMOs in an effort to allow the consumer of food (everyone) choice.  Recently, a cabal of ten doctors sent a letter to Columbia University  (where Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon) requesting that he be removed from their staff for his support of quack medicine.  In fact, Oz was raked over Congressional coals for his endorsement of dubious weight loss products not that long ago.  Oz’s response was that these doctors are shills for the food industry and that his call for labeling prompted them to write this letter.

Leaving aside the efficacy of this letter-writing campaign which only garnered sympathy for Oz and shed an unnecessary spotlight on a subject that really is a non-controversy, let’s look rationally at the idea of GMOs.  Genetically modified food has been around since agriculture began.  Technically speaking, cross-breeding is a form of genetic modification.  What upsets the “organics,” as I will call them, is that laboratories and scientists are now speeding up the processes through recombinant DNA procedures that create plants resistant to drought (thus saving water), disease (thus decreasing fertilizers) and pests (thus decreasing the use of pesticides).  To the environmentalist, they want us to conserve water while decreasing fertilizers and pesticides, yet when science creates those products, they also resist them based on groundless studies.

They trot out a few laboratory experiments.  For example, they cite an incident in India where sheep and goats died after eating genetically modified cotton plants.  I for one never knew cotton plants were on the list of preferred foods for goats and lambs which leads me to believe their genetically modified nature had little to do with the death of these animals.  In the laboratory, mice fed genetically modified foodstuffs tended to have lower birth rates, smaller litter sizes, and smaller testicles.  If true, perhaps this partly explains the “pussification” of American males.  The fact is that the science is, at best, still out when it comes to these laboratory or real-world examples.  There is one report out of the UK that suggests that soy allergies increased 50% after genetically modified soybean products hit the market.  Its easy to draw the straight line from its introduction to the allergy, but there are likely many other potential causes.

The fact is that we have had GMOs in our food supply for years.  It is estimated that GMOs have created over 7 TRILLION meals with no adverse side effects.  I think this real world experience far outperforms the laboratory “maybes.”  But this then begs the question: why should labeling be opposed?

If you consult any Leftist site like Mother Jones, they will direct you to studies showing that labeling would cost the average family of four anywhere from $2.30 to about $10 extra in food costs per year.  “Not bad,” you say, “I could afford that.”  BUT IT IS NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH.  Yes, placing three letters (GMO) on food labels would not be an expensive endeavor if all it took was placing three letters on a label.  But these assertions are totally ignorant of the complexity of the food chain from seed to supermarket shelf.

Besides segregating the seed and crops, once harvested they would have to be segregated, stored separately, transported separately, processed separately, canned separately and then ultimately labeled separately.  It is this final stage that would cost you an additional $2.30 per year.  Ironically, another study out of Cornell in response to a proposed New York labeling law had the cost at $66 per year.  When all these other factors are considered- segregation throughout the supply chain- the estimated cost passed onto the consumer comes out to about $800 to $1,556 per year with the variation in cost determined by how organic or non-GMO they want to go with the definition.

Vermont passed a labeling law which shows the ludicrous nature of these efforts.  A typical can of Campbell’s vegetable soup would have to be labeled genetically modified since the vegetables in that soup come from such crops.  However, your typical can of Campbell’s beef vegetable soup avoids the labeling requirement by virtue of the presence of the beef.  Further, virtually all proposed labeling laws effectively excludes 67% of all genetically modified foods.  In effect, you are increasing the average consumer’s annual food bill $800 to $1,556 while addressing only 33% of the alleged problem.

Also, by requiring labeling, proponents are effectively saying that the FDA is not doing their job.  They are tasked with labeling for safety and nutritional purposes.  If one looks at a food labeled “Organic” and one not such labeled, there is not that great of a difference in the nutritional value of either.  And since they are both sitting on a shelf, they are likewise equally safe.  The Mayo Clinic reviewed 50 years of studies showing that there was no difference in the nutritional value of organic and non-organic and GMO foods.  Hence, since the FDA regulates the labeling of organic food, there is effective labeling in place right now which allows consumer choice.

This all boils down to more non-scientific hocus pocus scare tactics by the environmental Left.  Their depictions of Frankenfoods is the logical next step should labeling be required.  Soon thereafter, the scare tactics would increase leading people away from food they safely eat right now with good nutritional value.  Not content to bring down the energy sector of the United States economy, they are also going after one area where America excels- agriculture.  In terms of safety, bulk production and nutrition, American agriculture far outstrips other countries.

The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the environmental Left has a disdain for those mechanisms that allow this country to excel in any area.  That primary mechanism is capitalism which fosters an entrepreneurial environment of innovation and science.  It disturbs them that companies like DuPont and Monsanto make money off of that innovation.