When Losing Opens the Mind

By Keith Kloor | November 12, 2012 8:19 am

Last week, I wondered what lessons the food movement would learn from the defeat of California’s GMO labeling measure. I also asked (since pro-labeling efforts are moving ahead in other states) if leading foodies

believe that a campaign based on junk science and fear-mongering is the best way to achieve a political goal?

It’s still too early to tell how the food movement, as a whole, will respond, but one of their biggest champions, Mark Bittman has signaled that a change in tactics is necessary. In a weekend NYT column, he wrote:

Labeling is important not so much because G.M.O.’s are “bad” “” they have not introduced harmful ingredients into the food chain, and those who argue that they have are taking a position that is difficult to defend “” but because once we know what’s in food we can better influence how it is produced.

Sensibly or not, many consumers are predisposed against G.M.O.’s; but G.M.O.’s are not exactly evil. A better choice might be a broader discussion about animal welfare. After all, Americans are also predisposed to treat animals fairly, and it could be that a struggle for transparency in livestock production would be more successful: mistreatment of animals is easy to prove, as are the many, many downsides of industrial livestock production.

Anyone who has been following Bittman’s writing on the GMO issue knows this is a significant departure for him.  A year ago he was suggesting that GM foods posed “real dangers” to human health. Just last month, Bittman wrote:

G.M.O.’s, to date, have neither become a panacea “” far from it “” nor created Frankenfoods, though by most estimates the evidence is far more damning than it is supportive.

The evidence he cites takes you to this article by a website called Organic Authority. It is a ridiculous piece of GMO-fear-mongering propaganda that has no place in intelligent debate on GM crops.

So Bittman’s sudden change of tone on GMOs (which translates to, never mind about everything I said before) is as notable as Sean Hannity’s newly “evolved” position on illegal immigration. Will other influential pundits follow suit and have a change of heart on these respective issues? Time will tell.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: food movement, GMOs

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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets.From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine.In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest.He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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