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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 13, 2013 at 7:05 PM

Labeling genetically modified foods

Transgenic soy plants in a field near Santa Fe, northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2012. Argentina has seen trials against agricultural producers for the use of agrochemicals, which are considered to be the cause of malformations in infants, as well as numerous cases of cancer. [JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/GettyImages]

Transgenic soy plants in a field near Santa Fe, northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2012. Argentina has seen trials against agricultural producers for the use of agrochemicals, which are considered to be the cause of malformations in infants, as well as numerous cases of cancer. [JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/GettyImages]

Glyphosate is harmful

The Seattle Times article on genetically engineered crops was informative, but it leaves out one of the crucial points of labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs). [“On voters’ plates: genetically engineered crops,” page one, Aug. 11.]

One benefit to farmers in raising GMO crops is that it allows farmers to saturate their crops with weed-killing glyphosate (Roundup) and initially have higher yields.

Glyphosate has been shown in test after test to have harmful effects on the environment and on animals eating food from these crops. It is implicated in infertility development of animals, including cattle and other livestock.

Bee populations necessary for the pollination of crops are dangerously reduced, and soil fertility is low in the U.S. Glyphosate is unhealthy, and we would like to know which crops are raised using quantities of this and other chemicals.

Do you wonder what these companies stand to gain by pouring $44 million into a campaign against requiring labeling? Just labeling, mind you, not prohibiting the production or sale of GMOs.

Cindy Damm, Seattle

Labels should be educational, not political

A member of the Papaya Administrative Committee holds one of the new 'super papayas' at a field somewhere on the island of Oahu in Hawaii in 1998. The new strain of papayas was genetically altered to be resistant to the ringspot virus, which severely affected local crops. [AP Photo/Ben DiPietro]

A member of the Papaya Administrative Committee holds one of the new ‘super papayas’ at a field somewhere on the island of Oahu in Hawaii in 1998. The new strain of papayas was genetically altered to be resistant to the ringspot virus, which severely affected local crops. [AP Photo/Ben DiPietro]

Thanks for Melissa Allison’s article on labeling of foods containing transgenic crops.

The article unfortunately omitted mention of transgenic papaya, which saved the Hawaiian papaya industry from ring-spot virus, benefiting farmers as well as consumers, and only hinted at the benefits of transgenic rennet, transgenic insulin and golden rice.

Thirty years ago, I favored the labeling of transgenic crops, thinking that it would help educate the public about genetics, evolution, ecology and food history. Sadly, anti-GMO forces, including environmental organizations that ought to promote biological understanding, have instead waged a decades-long campaign of fear-mongering and disinformation about genetic engineering.

These groups solicit contributions by using obfuscating terms like “frankenfood” and unsupported claims of toxicity to alarm the public, rather than providing evidence-based assessment of risks and benefits. Their efforts have all the intellectual dishonesty of climate-change deniers.

Labeling food as “genetically engineered” is merely a political move to discourage thoughtful evaluation, but the inclusion of the name of the transgene and a national database with objective information about each product might actually be educational, and lead to informed choices.

Paul Talbert, Seattle

Comments | More in Environment, Politics, Seattle | Topics: food, genetically modified, genetically-engineered

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