This Washington

Bill Gates Advocates Expanding GMO Production

By Erica C. Barnett January 31, 2012

As Washington State discusses legislation that would require food companies to label genetically modified foods (also known as GMOs), Bill Gates (Junior, not Senior) came out strongly in favor of genetically modified foods, saying they were the only solution to the world's hunger crisis.

Describing the GMO issue as a stark choice between starvation and survival, Gates told the AP that resistance to genetically modified foods is ""again hurting the people who had nothing to do with climate change happening."

"I think the right way to think about GMOs is the same way we think about drugs," Gates told the AP. "Whenever someone creates a new drug, you have to have very smart people looking at lots of trial-based data to make sure the benefits far outweigh any of the dangers."

Meanwhile, Marion Nestle, the food-safety guru and author of more than a half-dozen books on food and nutrition, argues forcefully today (including a shout-out to Washington) that companies should have to let customers know whether their food is genetically modified. Her list of arguments for labeling GMOs is eminently reasonable:

  • Consumers have a right to know

  • Consumers want to know (polls showed this overwhelmingly, even in 1994)

  • Not-labeling will induce distrust of biotech foods and the biotech industry

  • Not-labeling will end up hurting the biotech industry (in Europe, definitely.  Monsanto is no longer selling GM corn in France and BASF has moved its biotech operations to the U.S.)

  • Not-labeling will stimulate the organic industry (it did!)

  • The FDA allows plenty of process labeling (e.g., made from concentrate, irradiated)

  • Not-labeling will make the FDA look as if it was in bed with the biotech industry

  • Transparency is always the right thing to do

Not to mention the fact that, according to a recent study, the stuff we eat can actually alter our genetic makeup. If genetically modified foods are going to dominate grocery shelves in the future, we should at least have the right to know what we're buying.
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