Blog | Friday, April 8, 2016

Are GMO foods safe?

The nutrition police are at it again. They demand that food products that use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their processing inform us of this on the product's label. They argue, not only that consumers have a right to know how their food is prepared, but also that manufacturers should be required to disclose when evil GMOs are utilized. (Keep in mind that most of the food that we consume includes GMOs, a fact likely unknown by most of us.)

This labeling demand from the nutritionistas is a little hard for me to swallow.

I don't want to hear about polling that demonstrates that most American favor mandatory labeling. I guess we cite poll results when they support our views and dismiss them when we don't. Donald Trump is ahead in every poll. See my point?

There is no scientific evidence that GMOs harm our health. Fear is not evidence. Political correctness is not evidence. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration requires no GMO labeling as it has concluded that these foods are safe.

What's at stake here? Just a small trifle called freedom of speech. I don't think a person or a business should be forced to “speak” just because a vocal constituency demands it, in the absence of any pressing public need for this. Obviously, I support labeling that highlights specific known dangers of a product. If a food item, for example, contains peanuts, then this should appear on the label to protect individuals who have a peanut allergy.

Why should we stop with just GMO labeling? Why not force food companies to include on their labels what cleaning supplies the companies use so the public can be reassured that they are environmentally friendly? Should a coffee shop be mandated to label their coffee as made with tap water because the filtered-water crowd believes this to be toxic? Should vegetables be required to have labels that specify that this product is not organic?

If a consumer wants to know if their Pop Tarts are tainted with GMOs, then he should feel free to call the 1-800 number on the label to inquire.

What if everyone could be forced to label ourselves according to the whims of others? How about if the nutrition police had to wear the following label: CAUTION!


I think this is totally reasonable and reasonable. Maybe this individual is harboring a serious communicable disease and is simply unaware that he is infected. Just because there isn't a shred of medical evidence behind this, doesn't mean we can't mandate a public warning. Absurd? Of course.

There's right to free speech. There's also a right to remain silent. You have no right to make me say what you want to hear.

This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.