GMO Decisions Hinge on Public Ire – Not Fact


by | Jan 6, 2014

No GMOTwo stories today highlight how decision-making over GMOs hinges on widespread public outrage. The scientific consensus is often besides the point.

General Mills has stopped using genetically modified ingredients to make original Cheerios, following a yearlong effort by the GMO Inside campaign, which rallied consumers to post more than 40,000 messages on the Cheerios Facebook page.

Meanwhile the New York Times shares the tale of Greggor Ilagan, a councilman on the Big Island of Hawaii. On December 5, the island’s mayor signed into law a near-complete ban on genetically modified crops. (That came just weeks after the council for another Hawaiian island, Kauai, overrode a mayoral veto on a bill instituting pesticide disclosure rules and buffer zones for GMOs.)

The Big Island measure was the most vocally supported the council has ever seen. But Ilagan had doubts. Looking into the issue before the vote, he found that local papaya farmers credited genetic modification with saving their crop from disease. And the University of Hawaii told the council that, according to the global scientific consensus, existing GMOs pose no increased risks and have also provided some benefits.

As the Times neatly sums up, “At stake is how to grow healthful food most efficiently, at a time when a warming world and a growing population make that goal all the more urgent.”

Still, the measure passed, 6-3.

Takeaway: Companies facing virulent anti-GMO campaigns often find they must sacrifice considered scientific judgment to placate consumers.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: Rfduck via Flickr

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