By Rob Roper
A UVM study by economist Jane Kolodinsky came to a surprising conclusion about labeling GMO foods, a policy the Vermont left pushed and succeeded in passing in 2016. As the title of the UVM article explains, “Mandatory Labels Reduce GMO Food Fears.” Yup, reduce.
It’s hard not to chuckle a little at this news. The objective of mandating that GMO food products be labeled, despite plenty of scientific research showing GMOs to be perfectly safe, was to scare people into buying organic alternatives. Proponents of the labels thought they would be perceived as warnings. Turns out, they’re a selling point.
As Kolodinsky, who has been tracking attitudes toward GMOs in Vermont for fifteen years, stated, “We’re finding that both in real-world and hypothetical studies, the introduction of a simple disclosure label can actually improve consumer attitudes toward these technologies. In a state that has been such a hot bed for GMO opposition, to see this change is striking.” And kind of funny, no?
One of the keys to a functioning free market is access to accurate information, so labeling GMO products as such is not a bad thing in itself, especially if this is information consumers really want to have. It was the punitive and disingenuous way the Vermont legislature that went about it that was so distasteful. At the time Vermont was debating this labeling, Ethan Allen Institute preferred allowing non-GMO products to voluntarily label their products as such as a positive selling point, rather than creating a government imposed mandate on their competitors. But, I guess it’s always more fun and easier to kneecap your competition instead of doing the hard work of sell your own wares on their own merits.
But, now that we know labeling GMO foods as such helps boost their appeal, maybe the next step for GMO food manufacturers should be to run a “Look for the GMO Label” advertising campaign. Highlight the benefits of GMO foods, like decreasing the need for chemical pesticides, creating higher yields from fewer acers, thus allowing for more natural preservation, and making food more affordable and more accessible to everybody.