CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Reports Food Industry Claims People Would Not Buy Genetically Modified Foods If Given a Choice

NYT Reports Food Industry Claims People Would Not Buy Genetically Modified Foods If Given a Choice

Thursday, 24 April 2014 05:01

According to a NYT piece, the food industry claims that people would not buy food if they knew it contained genetically modified organisms. The piece discussed a law passed by Vermont's legislature that would require foods that contained genetically modified organisms to be labeled. It told readers:

"Big food manufacturers and the biotech industry that produces the seeds for genetically engineered crops contend that mandatory labeling of products containing ingredients derived from those crops — also known as genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s — will be tantamount to putting a skull-and-crossbones on them."

Its striking that the industry apparently believes that it has to conceal information from the public in order to sell its products. Economists usually favor making information available to consumers so that they can make better choices.

Comments (29)Add Comment
New Transparency Standard for American Food Products: It's a Crime to List What is NOT in Food
written by Last Mover, April 24, 2014 7:04

Exactly. Communism plain and simple. The problem is consumers are unable to decide what is good or bad for them. They scare easily like schools of fish changing direction in a flash. They deserve protection. Somebody has to provide it besides big commie government.

That's why sellers must make decisions for consumers, concealing where food comes from and of what it is made. So consumers won't be mislead and panic from statements of what is not in food like oh, you know, dirt, bird droppings, rat poison, not to mention GMO.

That's how free markets work. Information is the key to intelligent consumption under capitalism. Econ 101.

But the information must come from those who know. Those who are actually in the business. Those whose job it is to manufacture information itself, competing fiercely with other manufacturers of information until the good information drives out the bad information.

That's how it works America. Competition. Innovation. Good information. They decide. You consume.
written by watermelonpunch, April 24, 2014 8:52

Wow, thanks for pointing that out. That's quite a quote.
Truth In Labeling
written by Larry Signor, April 24, 2014 9:09
...would be a good idea. Many common health afflictions are associated with the consumption of ingredients in the food supply. Not being able to identify ingested ingredients can be life threatening to some consumers. Truth in labeling is in everyones best interest. It's not good to kill your customer base.
Amazing it took this long
written by Jennifer, April 24, 2014 9:54
I am personally ambivalent on the topic GMOs but the idea that corporations have a *right* to not disclose information regarding their products is completely unacceptable. Apparently they would rather throw their money at lobbyists than consumer education. An earlier fight was with rBST- or rBGH-free milk-milk produced without the use of artificial bovine growth hormone. In that case laws were passed preventing honest labeling for the same reason, although I believe in most states they were overturned.
Politics vs Science
written by Joshua, April 24, 2014 10:00
It is not that the industry feels they need to hide what is in their products. It is that they do not want a legal requirement imposed to satisfy the dictates of a small minority of potential customers, many of whom will not consider buying their products no matter what the label is. It's not industry versus consumers, but industry versus an organized quasi-religious movement designed to spread misinformation and panic amongst consumers so that they can sell alternative (more expensive) products.

No one is objecting to the National Organic program, which prohibits the use of GMO, becuase the added costs associated with compliance and verification are only paid by those who voluntarily choose to buy based on that label or its absence. If you want to avoid GMO, then buy USDA Certified Organic. Problem solved.

However, there is a movement every bit as anti-science as the anti-vaccine, or climate change deniers, that is pushing to eliminate the use of GM technologies in food production, not based on evidence of harm but on an idiological opposition to "screwing around with nature" as they so colorfully put it. It is not enough that they can buy non-GM products themselves, but they want to eliminate GMO products as an option for everyone else. They spread lies about the safety of GM products (despite literally hundreds of formal safety determinations by government regulators around the world), claim they are not regulated (when they are regulated by the FDA, EPA, and APHIS in the US), that no testing is done (despite the millions of studies available on pubmd), and through policy like the Vermont bill.

On the face of it, it does seem ludicrous that putting a GMO label on foods would scare away consumers. However, the mere existence of the label suggests that there is something fundamentally different about this product. Why else would the label be MANDATED by government unless the difference is meaningful? This is political grandstanding at its finest. It allows the politicians to look like they are defending consumers against evil corporations and special interests, when in fact they are just throwing one special interest under the bus in favor of one with higher profit margins.
written by Alex T, April 24, 2014 10:05
Some people wouldn't buy food if it were handled by black people. That isn't a good argument for mandatory labeling.

Food produced from or including GMOs are substantially similar (eg: no nutritional differences, no health risks), and millions of dollars in testing and decades of successful use testifies to that. A label now won't help inform people, it is an attempt to create the impression that there is a difference when there isn't one. It's demonizing a technology, not benefiting the consumer.
written by dick c, April 24, 2014 10:44
I like labeled food, not because I believe there are health risks from eating GMO foods, but because I would prefer the use of alternatives to heavy herbicide and pesticide usage--which is why these genetic modifications are made. I think this view is fairly common. As far as health risks go, who knows? Not too long ago our best and brightest were bleeding and blistering to cure our ills.
Substantially similar does not mean identical
written by John Wright, April 24, 2014 11:32
In this complex world with examples of unintended consequences discovered later, how can one say definitively:
"Food produced from or including GMOs are substantially similar (eg: no nutritional differences, no health risks)"?

Remember that CFC's (Freon-12) was originally promoted by General Motors/Dupont as safe in 1930 and the Montreal protocol of 1987 prohibited them for the side effect of ozone depletion. So it took 57 years for harmful side effects to be manifestly obvious.

I have no problem requiring the labeling of GMO food, let's call it a "Citizen's United" labeling policy.

And if sophisticatged believe "Food produced from or including GMOs are substantially similar (eg: no nutritional differences, no health risks)" then the labeling will be effectively ignored anyway.

Label the foods and let consumers make their choice, even if one views it as an ill-informed choice.

Hey Dude, Where's My Gamma Irradiated Food?
written by Paul Mathis, April 24, 2014 12:05
From the FDA:

Why Irradiate Food?
Irradiation can serve many purposes.

Prevention of Foodborne Illness – irradiation can be used to effectively eliminate organisms that cause foodborne illness, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
Preservation – irradiation can be used to destroy or inactivate organisms that cause spoilage and decomposition and extend the shelf life of foods.
Control of Insects – irradiation can be used to destroy insects in or on tropical fruits imported into the United States. Irradiation also decreases the need for other pest-control practices that may harm the fruit.
Delay of Sprouting and Ripening – irradiation can be used to inhibit sprouting (e.g., potatoes) and delay ripening of fruit to increase longevity.
Sterilization – irradiation can be used to sterilize foods, which can then be stored for years without refrigeration. Sterilized foods are useful in hospitals for patients with severely impaired immune systems, such as patients with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy. Foods that are sterilized by irradiation are exposed to substantially higher levels of treatment than those approved for general use.

Debunking Irradiation Myths
Irradiation does not make foods radioactive, compromise nutritional quality, or noticeably change the taste, texture, or appearance of food. In fact, any changes made by irradiation are so minimal that it is not easy to tell if a food has been irradiated.

Irradiation is very cheap and could eliminate much hunger in the world, but you can't buy it in stores.

Gee, I wonder why?
written by Alex T, April 24, 2014 12:18
GMOs are the most heavily tested foods we eat. We know what genetic changes were made, they are tested for new proteins which may cause new allergies, and each one has to go through extensive, expensive tests. It takes many years and millions of dollars for every new strain. They have also been in heavy production for decades in North America so we can do epidemiological studies, comparing NA to Europe, and if there are harm, it's so slight as to be undetectable. When people die from eating food (it happens every year), GMO has never been implicated (while organic foods regularly are, eg: E coli). I'm not saying we know for absolutely certain a given GMO doesn't have dangers, but the risks are far less than "conventional" or organic crops which rely on uncontrolled, untested and unknown genetic mutations. If harm or risk was the real issue, we should really focus on mandatory labels on produce (including organic) if the seed strain was irradiated or exposed to mutagenic chemicals to create new, useful mutations. That's far more risky since the mutations are uncontrolled and it sounds at least as "icky", yet these aren't even tested for harm let alone labeled.

Even deciding what a "GMO" means is tricky. Is it only using genes from widely different species (eg: fish genes in wheat - what many people think happens but I don't think is commercially available)? Using genes from closely related species (eg: corn genes into wheat)? What about manually setting a single base pair to disable a gene? Is it a GMO if a virus introduces foreign genes into a new strain (something that happens naturally in plants & animals)?

There are many issues with labeling which, I think, make it clear that it's not an attempt to inform people of a genuine issue but instead to scare people needlessly. Having a label sends a clear message that it's harmful, which they aren't. It groups all GMOs together when each crop is unique, and any risk in GMO papyas says nothing about the risk of GMO wheat. Ultimately "GMO" doesn't tell you anything about the nutritional value of the food, the health risks, the herbicides used, the size or type of farm it was grown in or anything else which a consumer might reasonably need to know about. Producers are free to add a "no GMO" label if they wish (and many do), but mandatory labeling should only be present when the label conveys useful information and there are real risks.

There's an "ick" or "not natural" reaction to GMOs. I get that, but it shouldn't be a basis for policy.
written by Joshua, April 24, 2014 1:01
rBST is molecularly identical to the BST produced by the cow herself. As a result it is truly impossible to test milk and determine if rBST was used in its production or not. The levels of BST in milk from rBST treated cows is not changed by rBST administration, only the quantity of milk produced per cow changes. The laws were to prevent producers from LYING on their labels to indicate they knew something it was impossible for them to know or verify. The current labels "our farmers pledge not to use rBST" are about as strong as is possible without lying to customers.

dick c,
GMO's don't increase the total tonnage of pesticide per acre/year. They usually change which classes of herbicides are used (glyphosate is among the safest herbicides from a human toxicology standpoint). Pests have not particular preference for GMO, and as a result pesticides are used for all crops, except those GM crops that produce endogenous pesticides. In reality a GMO label will tell you NOTHING about the pesticide/herbicide levels used to produce a product. The USDA certified organic label will at least tell you which were usable (there are organic herbicides and pesticides) after a quick check of the USDA National Organic List.

Also, the use of blood letting and blisters was never supported by science. In reality the move away from medicine by authority (leaches, blood letting, the bodily humors) to evidence based medicine (what you find in modern hospitals and medical journals) was driven by the same scientific methods used to determine the safety of each commercially available GMO on the market today.

John Wright,
CFC's are a very glaring black eye on the record of science, true. However, in the end we corrected our position on CFC's by doing MORE science. Not by catering to ideologs who prefer ballot initiatives and lies on the internet to conducting science. I'm willing to conceed a particular GMO is unsafe if you can provide evidence in the form of high quality scientific trials. I know for a fact the FDA, EPA, and APHIS will as well. Many in the anti-GMO crowd agitating for these labels will not accept ANY amount of evidence for their safety. Including the 20 years for which they've been widely used in the US without a single incident of harm.
written by Last Mover, April 24, 2014 1:33

To clarify an essential difference that may be have been missed, by way of example of bovine growth hormone from Jennifer above:

In that case the issue was whether a competing producer of milk could label its product as "hormone free" - not just whether those who used the hormone had to list it on their own label.

It's one thing to oppose the required labeling of one's own product. It's a different level altogether to oppose the rights of a competitor to list on the label that the milk is "hormone free" on grounds it economically harms milk producers who do use hormones.

That's like claiming producers of gluten-free products are liable for taking market share from producers of food with gluten.

Given much of the GMO issue is about monopoly profit rent seeking driven by patents anyway, such claims designed to crush effective free market competition are to be expected.
Truth in Advertising
written by Joshua, April 24, 2014 3:53
Last Mover,

I'm not exactly sure what you were driving at. All milk has always contained some concentration of hormones, with BST being only one of them. As a result, any claim of "Hormone free" milk is in-point-of-fact a lie. Claiming milk to be free of rBST is illegal becuase it cannot be verified analytically due to the lack of any molecular differences between rBST and endogenous BST. Claiming a product is free of any compound requires some sort of testing to ensure the product is below the level of detection, or at least below the level where it needs to be reported. It is only by producer afidavit that milk buyers can make any attempt to exclude milk from rBST treated cows from their products. That is insufficently verifiable to be acceptable under the food labelling laws.

To allow the original claim would have been to allow milk sellers to potentially lie to their customers about what they are buying. If my competitor is trying to lie for competetive advantage, then I may very well explore legal means to prevent them from continuing to do so. Whether through advertising to my customers, or through appeals to regulators to enforce existing "Truth in Advertising" laws. Wouldn't you?
Joshua Makes a Strong Argument for Mandatory Labeling
written by Dean, April 24, 2014 4:25
Joshua argued that the claims by some companies that their products were GMO-free could not be supported since they did not do the necessary testing. Since people obviously care whether their products contain GMOs, and private labeling is apparently not reliable, this is exactly the sort of situation in which you would want the government to intervene to set clear standards.

It is possible that people are being stupid in not wanting to eat food that does not contain GMOs. But people do have the right to do stupid things. If they would prefer to pay more for food without GMOs then fans of free markets should support their right to do so. After all we don't prevent people from paying more for the shoes that Michael Jordon endorses, why would we say that they can't pay for GMO-free food, even if our scientists say GMOs are not harmful?
This is not just a science issue
written by saurabh, April 24, 2014 4:47
I'm astonished to see the readers of this blog discussing this mostly as a scientific issue. As a biologist I think it's lamentable that environmentalists have chosen to frame this largely as a food-safety issue and push for labeling on those grounds, because (1) it's not clear they have the science to back up those claims and (2) it allows the industry to position themselves as the ones advancing science and progress in the face of Luddites.

I think it's lamentable because the FAR greater issue at play, to me, is that GMOs are part of a general corporate strategy to increase control over the agricultural process. In the early part of the century Monsanto became notorious not because they were responsible for major health scares, but because they were going around suing people to maintain their patents on crops and their monopoly on seed purchases of GMOs.

To frame this as *merely* a scientific issue is to ignore the way that GMOs have been pressed around the world, and to ignore the way they are being used to move large corporations into (and on top of) agriculture. In the US this has largely been accomplished; in many third-world countries these technologies are being pushed and put into place to create and enforce patent regimes and bring third-world farmers in line with these regimes.

In India, for example, farmers have been pushed to use some GMO crops despite any clear lack of efficacy, despite them being inappropriate for the agricultural context. Read the history of GM cotton there; it's a travesty. It led to waves of suicides amongst farmers.

The fact that this is a technology that uses patents on life forms to exert corporate control over agriculture of a kind that is wholly unfamiliar to the history of the world should be extremely alarming. I'd sure as hell like my food labeled so I can avoid patronizing products that are supporting this trend.
written by skeptonomist, April 24, 2014 5:20
There seems to be a lot of alarm currently about glyphosate (Roundup weed killer) toxicity (Google "glyphosate danger") . Glyphosate immunity is the main advantage of some GMOs. I don't know how valid this alarm is, but it does bring up the point that problems are not necessarily restricted to the properties of the food itself. Nobody can foresee all possible problems of new types of products, nor is the system really set up for thorough objective testing.
It's Already There!
written by rrose, April 24, 2014 5:21
For produce items, if the four digit PLU code is preceded by an "8", that means that item is GMO ("9" means organic).

As I remember, it was the agriculture industry itself that lobbied for that identification because they thought that consumers would flock to GMO foods.
Price Look Up codes
written by Larry Signor, April 24, 2014 6:47
International Federation for Produce Standards, an affiliate of the Produce Marketing Association. The system has become a widespread standard, but is voluntary for grocers.

written by Joshua, April 24, 2014 8:37

You totally misunderstood what I wrote. The rBST question was not about whether or not they did testing, but about weather testing was even possible. It was not the users of GM technology (Neither rBST treated cows or their milk are GMO, but the rBST itself is produced through GM techniques) who were trying to lie or at the very least mislead, but those trying not to use it. They were voluntarily using an unverifiable label claim for competitive advantage, something which is already illegal, and were forced to change the label by the FDA (The agency ALREADY responsible for food and feed labeling). Requiring mandatory GMO labeling will not address the potential for this problem to repeat itself, just as it won't address the safety of the product, or the quantity/level of herbicides/pesticides used in food production.

Also, as I stated before, no-one in agriculture objects to the desire to eat non-GMO food regardless of the reason. Some subset of customers have demanded, or at least expressed a preference for non-GMO foods and the USDA National Organic program was developed to cater to that audience. The organic food segment is one of the fastest growing segments in decades and growers have responded by producing more organic (non-GMO) food in order to earn the premium that exists. The problem with the Vermont, Connecticut and other bills like them is that it is an attempt by a small minority to force EVERYONE to pay the costs for their food preference. That they are using lies and fear mongering to do it is reprehensible, but that's politics. Polls have consistently shown that only a minority of consumers have strong feelings about GMO and yet we all are supposed to face higher food production costs on their behalf? If not due to safety then why?

Don't pretend that these costs I talk about are minor. Right now, every state considering this issue has different definitions and rules for what requires a label and what language needs to appear on that label. That means every product will require state specific packaging and labeling, which adds costs. This means supply chain segregation by label group, which adds costs. This means constant surveillance of changes to labeling rules in each state, which adds costs. This means the development of state surveillance programs to monitory and guarantee compliance with THEIR set of GMO labeling rules, which adds costs. All for what? So that the 10% of the consumer for whom this really matters can easily see which perfectly safe food was produced without GMO products, something the current "Certified USDA Organic" ALREADY allows enables?
Is the law an appropriate fix?
written by Joshua, April 24, 2014 8:47

This most definitely IS a science issue, and a blog about data sense is an excellent forum for this discussion. The questions of Monsanto's business practices are best address by changing the rules under which they do business, not by changing rules that don't directly address them at all. If you don't like that genes can be patented in the US, the lobby to get patent law changed. If you don't like that farmers cannot buy feed soy and plant it because of the contracts the seed company negotiated with the farmer, then change contract law. However, GMO labels on finished foods will not change any of that on iota. Just as a scientific study needs to be well crafted to answer the intended question, laws must be well crafted to address the root cause of your problem.

By the way, it may surprise you, but Monsanto sells non-GMO seeds as well. May further surprise you that business practices such as "no seed saving and replanting" clauses pre-date modern molecular techniques such as GMO by at least a decade. Farmers are not victims of Monsanto. They have many hundreds of companies to choose from for buying seeds and many years Monsanto isn't even the market leader (they've licensed many of their gene patents to competitors so you can benefit from their genes without paying them directly), and the glyphosate gene patent expires this year so you won't have to pay them even indirectly in the future for that particular gene.

Farmers are far better qualified than the average armchair suburban foodie to decide which seeds will deliver the most value to them in terms of yields, input costs, and risk management. They choose with their wallets every year and can choose non-GMO seeds at any time. The fact that they don't despite the frequently higher costs for the GMO seeds should tell you something. Just as a Mac is to many worth the higher up-front purchase price because they get a better value than a PC, most farmers feel that they get better value and a better chance at profitability with GMO seeds than non-GMO.
Risk management
written by Joshua, April 24, 2014 8:55
What you have there is some very circular logic. We can’t know everything, but shouldn’t act until we do. Are we supposed forego any new technology until we’ve done what is literally impossible? You are correct that we can't know every possible outcome. However, we do know the probable ones.

There is an entire field of study called Toxicology. Specialists devote entire careers to understanding what makes things toxic and how to best determine at what point something becomes unsafe. Lots of toxicological work is done before a GMO crop is approved. They run the gene sequence through software designed to determine the potential for human allergenicity based on an ever growing database of known allergens and their structures. They run tolerance studies where animals are fed massive quantities of these new gene products to see if they cause acute toxicity, or chronic toxicity in developing embryos, over multiple generations, and in susceptible sub-populations.

Are these techniques infallible? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Then again, no one is claiming they are. What they are is the best methods available to enable use to take advantage of new technologies while managing potential risks. I think the 20 years of successful GMO food products without any credible evidence of harm to humans are a pretty damn good track record!
Nearly all regulations rely on a substantial amount of self-reporting
written by Dean, April 24, 2014 10:38
I understood your post. Almost all regulations require a substantial amount of self-reporting about company practices. The idea here is that a regulatory agency (presumably the FDA) would create a set of standards, including standardized contracts from suppliers.

If this were a matter of government policy, violations would be potentially criminal, not just a civil case involving the enforcement of a contract that could contain ambiguities. This would be a far more effective way to ensure that people who did not want to GMO food products were getting what they had paid for.

I know that the industry claims this will be incredibly complicated. Anyone who has ever worked on any regulation knows the industry group always claims that they lack the competence to deal with a regulation. For years Jeff Bezos claimed this his computer whizzes at Amazon couldn't figure out how to collect sales taxes in different jurisdictions -- something his brick and mortar competitors had been doing for decades.

So I'm quite confident that the industry folks can figure this out and if they can't they will be replaced by more competent competitors.
An example of a farming practice that continues despite public health concerns
written by John Wright, April 25, 2014 12:34
This ia a bit off topic, but does highlight a farming practice that is counter to public health, while helping the bottom line of farmers.

And, apparently, the practice continues.

Per http://www.fda.gov/forconsumer...78100.htm, the FDA is implementing a VOLUNTARY plan with industry to phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production.

The concern is that governments consider antimicrobial-resistant bacteria a major threat to public health.

However, there was some early and public advance notice of this potential problem, so it should not come as a surprise.

More than 68 years ago on December 11, 1945, Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin, closed his Nobel Prize acceptance speech with these words:

"The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant. Here is a hypothetical illustration. Mr. X. has a sore throat. He buys some penicillin and gives himself, not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin. He then infects his wife. Mrs. X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin. As the streptococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails. Mrs. X dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs. X’s death? Why Mr. X whose negligent use of penicillin changed the nature of the microbe."

And in 2014 we're moving to voluntary regulation.
USDA Organic
written by Joshua, April 25, 2014 12:32

You seem to keep forgetting that there already is a federally regulated food label that a consumer can use to guarantee they don't buy GMO products. The USDA National Organic List prohibits the use of GMO crops, or products derived from GMO. As result, mandatory GMO labelling of all foods is unnecessarily duplicative of effort. The USDA Organic program is currently run by the same group responsible for other process based certifications like Hallal and Kosher, where the difference is not one of safety but simply customer preference, which is EXACTLY what those trying to avoid buying GMO products are exercising, consumer preference.

As to industry compliance, I don't believe anyone is saying that they CAN'T implement such a label. Fact is, most organic food is produced by the same companies that sell non-organic (conventional) food products. The mechanisms exists already. However, they add costs and I'm saying that as a fellow consumer I shouldn't be forced to pay higher food costs to satisfy the food buying preferences of a vocal minority. Especially sicne there is no evidence that such a label will benefit anyone.

The rights of the majority (those with no strong preference) are being trampled by those of a very vocal minority. They are not looking to allow labelling, USDA Organic and other 3rd party verification programs already exist. They are looking to force labelling (and the associated increases in costs) on all consumers. That may seem trivial to those of us who are food secure (my family included), but there are alot of Americans who are not food secure with the current prices (my family circa 2009-2013), and unnecessary increases in those costs will put those Americans into an even more precarious position.
Feed use of antibiotics
written by Joshua, April 25, 2014 1:00
John Wright,

You are correct, this is off topic, but I will address it here anyway.

There are several different issues here. First is the use of antibiotics to treat or prevent disease. That is not going to be banned ever. It would be inhumane of us to let animals suffer simply because they got sick.

Second is the use of antibiotics at sub-therapeutic doses for "Growth Promotion". This will eventually be banned. Everyone in the industry accepts that, but they are putting it off as long as possible so that they can develop the new tools and managment practices necessary to replace such use. Organic acids, Prebiotics, Probiotics, Irradiation, Formaldehyde, and enzymes are just some of the products the industry is evaluating very aggressively as alternatives. Some of the early movers have even started to attempt antibiotic free animal production in at least a portion of their barns.

Thirds is human prescribing practices. Very little concern seems to be centered around human prescribing practices. Antibiotics in animal feed are an added cost, and as such there are very strong economic incentives in place for farmers to minimize or at least optimize their use. For doctors their is no such incentive. They don't pay for the drugs, their patients do, or I should say their patients insurance plan does (2 degrees of separation). More important to the doctor is keeping patients content and to avoid malpractice lawsuits. Patients come in DEMANDING antibiotics and if the doctor does not prescribe them, becuase he thinks it is a viral infection, the doctor runs the risk of being wrong and sued for malpractice. Or, the doctor runs the risk of the patient shopping around for a different doctor who will write the desired prescription. However, if the doctor does write the unneeded script there is litterally no direct consequence.

The Final issue is that not all antibiotics are the same. It is frequently stated that animal production consumes 80 percent of all antibiotics in the US by weight*. Pretty damning until you learn that 36% of all antibiotics used (by weight) are ionophores or other animal specific drugs that are not used in human medicine at all. Another ~34% are tetracyclines, of 1 percentage point are used in human medicine (evidence that they are not widely used anymore) and the rest for animals. That should leave about 29% of antibiotics being relevant to both animal and human health and of those remaining, about 2/3rds are used by humans.

*[Going by weight is next to meaningless because 1ton of the active ingredient in penicillin will treat a very different number of animals than 1 ton of tetracycline, but as bad a metric as it is, weigth of active ingredient is the one most often used because it is easiest to collect.]
Great comments here
written by tl did read though, April 25, 2014 3:00
My take: (1) Labeling is irrelevant. Really. (2) saurabh is right. The real issue here seems to be the inefficiency and danger of patents on GMOs, similar to the effect of patents on prescription drugs that Dean often discusses. If you remove patents on GMOs (not that this will ever happen), no more problems with corporations using GMO seeds to squeeze out all the competition. If an incentive to research GMOs is still needed, use a more efficient method (NIH style).

tldr; forget labeling and change patent/contract law to sell GMOs at a fair market price.
I'd buy that for a dollar!
written by Joshua, April 25, 2014 3:35
Personally, I'm not comfortable with gene patents either. I'd rather see their abolishment. I don't think it would change many minds on labels, but it would address one of the more valid concerns raised about GMOs.
GMO's in almost everything cept certified Organic?
written by Viewer II, April 25, 2014 7:35
Are you saying GMO's are in every food except those labeled as Organic? If this were the case there truly would be no need to label foods that contain GMO's. Otherwise, label foods containing GMO. Definitely protect against patent monopolies.
Great discussion!
Pretty much!
written by Joshua, April 25, 2014 8:39
Viewer II,
By 2012, 88 percent of corn (maize) and 94 percent of soy grown in the United States were genetically modified, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Therefore, If there is any corn (except sweet corn), soy, or by-products of either it is highly probable that at least some of it is from GMO. Non-GMO crops, if they can be certified organic, get a premium when sold so very little of it gets planted without at least the intention of selling for use in organic products.

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.