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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 15, 2013 at 7:06 AM

Labeling genetically modified foods in Washington

Trusting scientists

AquaBounty salmon (rear) have an added growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon to a normal Atlantic salmon (front) that results in a transgenic salmon that grown to market size in about half the time it takes for a normal salmon. [Photo courtesy AquaBounty/MCT]

AquaBounty salmon (rear) have an added growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon to a normal Atlantic salmon (front) that results in a transgenic salmon that grown to market size in about half the time it takes for a normal salmon. [Photo courtesy AquaBounty/MCT]

I can’t help thinking, as I read about whether we should label genetically modified foods, that the unacknowledged elephant in the room is trust. [“On voters’ plates: genetically engineered crops,” page one, Aug. 11.]

The scientific community seems frustrated that the public is unwilling to trust the experts about the safety of genetically modified foods. They don’t want to risk letting the public have a voice, or the choice to know the details and decide for themselves.

'Super papayas' growing 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]

‘Super papayas’ growing 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]

Ordinary people, the scientists seem to feel, don’t have enough knowledge or intelligence to make intelligent choices.

So we should trust them to do it for us.

Let’s look at the choices food science has made for us in the past:

World War II science gave us widespread hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenated fats have hardened the arteries of millions.

High-fructose corn syrup is still contributing to an increase the number of diabetics.

Cattle were fed feed made from dead animals to save money and grow beef cheaply. Popular theory holds that cows were infected with prions from diseased sheep, which led to transfer of a neurological disease of sheep to cattle ­— mad-cow disease. That disease was then possibly transferred to humans who ate the beef, leading to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

These consequences were unknown when the products were introduced to market. Science didn’t have all the answers then, and it doesn’t now.

Ask yourself: What evidence is there, based on past experience, that we can trust science and industry to consider public health above their own financial gain?

Susan Plahn, Seattle

Comments | More in Environment, Politics, Seattle | Topics: food, genetically engineered crops, Genetically modified organisms

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