Food fear could lead to out-of-control labeling

By Mike Barnett

Over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on food containing DNA.”

So says a recent survey conducted by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agriculture Economics, as reported by The Washington Post. And it’s the same numbers that support labeling of GMO foods.

According to Oklahoma State Economist Jayson Lusk, a government-imposed label on foods containing DNA might look something like this:

WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both humans and animals. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

A little scary, huh? No, not that DNA is in food. Of course DNA is in food. It is the building block of life. Most of us learned that—or should have learned that—in school. It’s frightening as 80 percent believe DNA should be labeled.

Then look again. Why shouldn’t they? We are bombarded with 10-second messages constantly on social media, television and the internet. It’s an age of instant gratification. If you need to research 10 minutes to find the truth about something, it probably ain’t going to happen.

That continues to be a huge problem for agriculture as technology evolves to produce more food with fewer resources. Modern methods like biotechnology are misunderstood and easily blown out of proportion by activists who think you should eat differently.

It boils down to consumers without knowledge about genetics or biotechnology and who aren’t real interested in learning. If consumers are misled and allow excessive and unnecessary warning labels, real dangers will get lost in the shuffle.

So does agriculture hunker down and let the masses have their way? Or use the tools and methods like social media to go directly to consumers and tell our story.

The choice is apparent to me. Meanwhile, here’s the food label I’d like to see:

WARNING: This product contains fresh, wholesome ingredients and is grown with care by a farm family. The Surgeon General has determined it will be good for your health.

That’s the story we need to tell.

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
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