When it comes to mandatory labeling laws for GMOs, I've gone from for it to against it to moderately for it to moderately against it back to totally against it.
I was originally for it because, I mean hey, what's wrong with transparency? Then I was against it when I read up on California's Prop 37, and there seemed to be too many loopholes to make it an effective law in the first place. Then I was for it when my left-leaning, anti-corporate, anti-government friends shamed me into being for it. Then I became ambivalent when I gave it some thought and realized that if we're talking honest labels, it's far more complicated than what these laws call for, and you can read about that here.
The talking point that gets thrown at me when I say that I'm against labeling is: "We have a right to know what's in our food!" It's tough to argue that. What, do you think that we DON'T have the right to know what's in our food? Do you think that corporations should be able to just feed us whatever?
I completely agree with the notion that we have a right to be informed about our food. However, I don't think that labeling laws are about informing people. At least, none of the ones that I've seen proposed are about that. I feel the way I do for a number of reasons:
1. Products that don't contain GMOs are eager to advertise themselves as such. Do you want to avoid GMOs? Easy enough. Buy only organic. Hope you can afford it.
2. Proponents of labeling are eager to point out the companies that are against it: Pepsi, Monsanto (owned and operated by Satan himself, apparently), Dupont, etc. The argument goes that these companies are obviously trying to hide the truth about what's in their food. After all, they only care about making money.
This argument seems logical enough, but who's funding the other side? The Organic Consumers Fund and various companies that sell organic food. Also, you have Joseph Mercola's company, and one can write an entire blog on their anti-scientific stances. Are these all charities? Why does nobody question their motivations? I totally understand, and even sympathize with questioning the motivations of the big companies, but the organic industry raked in over 60 billion dollars last year.
Here's the thing, if I had absolute knowledge and knew 100% for certain that GMOs were safe, and you put me in charge of Monsanto, I'd STILL be against labeling. Why? Because people freak out about it and will be less likely to buy stuff if it's labeled such even if there's no good reason to be afraid of it. Likewise, if I was put in charge of an organic food company, I'd be for it, because I know that it would mean more sales for me.
In other words, the profit motivation argument is a wash, and it doesn't get to the heart of the real issue. The real issue is what the science says about the safety of GMOs, and that leads me to...
3. GMOs are safe. Get over it. You think that they haven't been tested? How about a study of 100 BILLION animals? How about the fact that they've been in our food supply since the 90s and no adverse effects have been discovered? How about 600+ safety assessments? How about the fact that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that they're safe?
Why is it that fruits and vegetables that have been modified using traditional breeding practices (which is just about everything) don't need to be labeled? The results are far more random and thousands of genes are altered. With GMOs, the results are precise and only involve a few genes. Plus, unlike traditional breeding, they're tested. But somehow doing something in a lab is scary because people took what was going on in Gremlins 2 literally.
I'm willing to change my mind again (and again), but as far as I can tell, labeling laws are not about providing information; they're about spreading unnecessary fear. GMOs don't require a warning label, and anybody who's so inclined to learn about the process can do so. Plus, they're easy to avoid if you want. I'm not totally against the idea of labeling in general, and I'm certainly not against informing the public, but the current labeling laws that have been proposed are all founded on scientific illiteracy and science phobia.