Why Big Ag Should Fight For GMO Labels

David Ropeik, a risk consultant, pens an open letter to agricultural CEOs:

Engaging in a potentially risky behavior, knowingly and voluntarily, makes the potential risk feel much less scary. This is the underlying psychological reason why the idea of labeling has so much popular support, and is almost certain to become law despite the millions you are spending to forestall the inevitable. We all want choice over the risks we may face. You do too. Choice makes risks feel voluntary. It makes us feel empowered, more in control of our health and safety, and that makes any risk feel less scary. Time and time again, when people are given choice – as labeling would do – their fears are reduced and they engage in risks they fight tooth and nail when the risk feels imposed.

The fear of GMOs has little to do with the science behind the actual safety of the product, the ground on which you keep fighting your battles. Fighting labeling, denying people choice, feeds that mistrust. It sounds – it is – defensive, self-protective, not really about our health and safety, which you so adamantly argue is not at risk from GMOs, but the safety of your profits. But that is precisely why the focus of the GMO battle on labeling has given you the most dramatic opportunity in years to advance the application of this vital, valuable, and yes, safe technology (according to all the most prestigious independent science and research organizations in the world.) Nothing you could do, and certainly nothing you could say, would have as great an impact on public trust as changing your position and supporting labeling.