GM food: Safe to eat

From an editorial Monday in the Washington Post:

Eighty-eight percent of scientists polled by the Pew Research Center in January said genetically modified food is generally safe to eat. Only 37 percent of the public shared that view. The movement to require genetically modified food products to be labeled both reflects and exploits this divergence between informed opinion and popular anxiety.

Mandated labeling would deter the purchase of genetically modified (GM) food when the evidence calls for no such caution. Congress is right to be moving toward a more sensible policy that allows companies to label products as free of GM ingredients but preempts states from requiring such labels.

Lawmakers and voters in some states have considered requiring GM labeling, but only a few have chosen to label, and none have yet started. That’s good: The GM-food debate is a classic example of activists overstating risk based on fear of what might be unknown and on a distrust of corporations. People have been inducing genetic mutations in crops all sorts of ways for a long time – by, for example, bathing plants in chemicals.

Yet products that result from selective gene splicing – which get scrutinized before coming to market – are being singled out as high threats. If they were threatening, one would expect experts to have identified unique harms in the past two decades of GM-crop consumption. They haven’t.