Don’t Worry: GE Labeling Will Not Cause World Hunger

The pesticide and biotech industry players would like us to believe that if we adopt genetically engineered (GE) labeling in the United States, developing countries will import fewer GE seeds. This, they claim, would lead to increased world hunger.


| May 09, 2013



Pesticides Being Sprayed

Genetically engineered (GE) crops fuel the growth engine of the pesticide industry, with virtually 100 percent of GE seeds on the market today designed to either contain an insecticide or to be used with herbicides.


By Fotolia/margaretwallace

Reposted with permission from Pesticide Action Network.

The U.S. movement to label genetically engineered (GE) foods is gaining ground. More states introduced GE labeling bills this year than ever before. And word from D.C. is that a federal labeling bill will be announced in the next week or so. Whether or not these initiatives pass in 2013, this much seems clear: we will win labeling of GE foods. It’s just a matter of time.

Naturally, the pesticide and biotech industry players have come out swinging with a host of dire but false predictions that food prices will rise and the sky will fall if people are allowed to know what’s in our food. The latest evidence of desperation comes from a long-time GE apologist, who now claims that labeling GE foods in the U.S. will exacerbate world hunger and poverty. Seriously?

GE’s Broken Promises

When I got to the end of Robert Paarlberg’s latest pro-GE article in the Wall Street Journal — where he makes the acrobatic leap from labeling GE foods in the U.S. to world hunger — I literally shook my head and said, “Really, Rob?” My tone mirrored that of my 12 year old when he says, “Really, Mom?” if I make a particularly inane or utterly ridiculous (to his mind) comment. 
Paarlberg’s reasoning is pretty opaque, but it seems to go like this: if we adopt GE labeling here, then developing country governments (he hypothesizes) would follow our lead, enthusiasm for importing our GE seeds would drop, and (here’s the leap) therefore people will go hungry.

A few quick points to set the record straight:
• No one is waiting for U.S. leadership in labeling. Already 3 billion people in 64 countries have labeling, including numerous countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The U.S. is actually a latecomer to GE labeling.
• GE crops do not feed the world’s hungry. Instead, evidence shows us they have continually failed to deliver on industry’s promises of increasing yields, improving nutrition or enabling farmers to weather drought.
• Rather, GE crops fuel the growth engine of the pesticide industry, with virtually 100% of GE seeds on the market today designed to either contain an insecticide or to be used with herbicides. This has led to a massive increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds.”

Food Democracy Not GE Dependency

Paarlberg claims that “the world needs genetically engineered foods.” It would be more accurate to say that the world’s pesticide companies need GE products. That’s why they created them. But the drivers of, and solutions to, world hunger are rather more complex than industry advocates like to acknowledge.
The reality is that people are often hungry because they are poor and cannot — for a variety of political, social and economic reasons — afford the price of food. In addition to establishing equitable economic and trade policies, real solutions to world hunger will arise out of investing in locally appropriate ecological farming practices that integrate grassroots science and farmers’ knowledge — practices that are productive, resilient and profitable.





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