Getting Sensible About GMOs


I’d hope that by the time this session of the Hawaii Legislature is pau, the current fad of claiming that genetically modified food poisons our bodies also will be pau.

Or at least have faded into the background chatter as did the idea of total Hawaiian sovereignty.

My argument against the no-GMO (genetically modified organisms) crowd is simply this:

There is not one piece of peer-reviewed and -accepted evidence published by any mainstream science journal that says GMOs are harmful to human health.

That’s a fact, folks. Yes, there are various scientists and pseudo-scientists who have self-published their anti-GMO theories or found offbeat sources to carry their ideas, but the entire body of peer-reviewed evidence contradicts them.

There also are talk-show hosts and others on the edge who claim all sorts of self-learned food scares — one of the most common being that milk is slowly killing us. I’d like to call that looney but I try to be more compassionate about the deranged. Sometimes it’s hard!

There’s no question we need to do more study about three issues that surround GMO production: 1) Pesticides. Many of the genetically modified plants are bred so that they can tolerate higher doses of pesticides. The companies doing this must, of course, spray pesticides on their product to see if the breeding works. Hawaii isn’t Kansas. So experimental fields may often be close to people. I doubt any degree of pesticide exposure is good for people. That’s a valid issue. 2) Proprietary seed. A farmer cannot reuse seeds from a GMO crop to re-plant. He must buy new seed from the company that created this special one. That could give seed-producing companies alarming control over part of our food supply — especially corn. This might require government intervention. 3) Labeling. It may be humbug for the food companies, but GMO labeling makes sense. If a buyer doesn’t want to use anything genetically modified, he should have the means to know what to shun. Some people are allergic to peanuts, so we made food companies include peanut warnings in addition to listing all ingredients. We should label GMO foods as such, as well as whether they’ve been exposed to pesticides. That’s just plain right.

So, if that clamoring crowd aboard the anti-GMO bandwagon-of-the-moment would stick to those three issues, I might climb aboard with it.

But if it’s just for hollering that GMOs are killing us, I hope a sensible portion of the population will rise up to de-wheel that wagon.

This legislative session is an excellent opportunity for lawmakers being flooded with loud-minority petitions to say, “Whoa, there!”