This story is going around: Mandatory labels on foods containing DNA? 80% of Americans support that.
According to a recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, over 80% of Americans said they would support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” roughly the same number that support the mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.”
For anyone with a modicum of science understanding, you can see how silly and pointless that first suggestion is. All living things contain DNA. As the above-linked piece notes, it would be as useless as labeling it “contains atoms” or, even worse, “contains chemicals”. The problem may lie in the fact that the average person doesn’t know what these words mean. They are falling for media fear mongering about science words, where “chemicals” are bad and “DNA” means genetically modified. Or, is it the question and its context?
The LA Times notes that perhaps people aren’t that dumb but that the question in the survey was asked in a confusing context: Food labels: Are Americans really dumb enough to worry about food containing DNA?. The real story in this story might be that polling is not a great way to gage public opinion for various reasons and CERTAINLY not a way to dictate new policies. People may have other reasons for answering a certain way in polls – they could be being funny (this was an online poll) or the question may not have been clear. (My least favorite question is “Do you believe in UFOs?” – What does that even mean?)
The Washington Post goes so far as to say: Why you can ignore that survey showing Americans want to label food containing DNA. So, let’s actually do that. It’s a dumb survey. It probably doesn’t mean what many think it means.
It’s a bad habit for knowledgable (or perceived knowledgable) people to point and laugh at the ignorant ‘other’ but that really does no good. Things are almost always more complicated than that. There is a long way to go with regards to the GMO issue. Labeling is probably not a good move. Sure, education is needed but let’s not get sidetracked.