The misguided anti-GMO parade marches on, but not everyone is in lockstep

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R. James Cook, Professor Emeritus of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and co-recipient of the 2011 Wolf Prize in Agriculture has much to say about an illogical (bordering on insane) proposed law in Washington State that would require that ingredients (such as sugar) that were derived from genetically modified crops be labeled as such.

This proposed law is irrational on so many levels that it is almost humorous unless you are trying to sell a perfectly safe product there, or if you re in charge of the grocery budget for your family, in which case it isn t all that funny.

Dr. Cook s recent editorial in the Seattle Times does a splendid job of trying to bring logic to an illogical world. It is a must read for anyone with an open mind on this issue.

Much has been written about the safety (or lack thereof) of GM foods, but Dr. Cook doesn t really address this. Instead, he focuses on some underlying (and indisputable) scientific issues that make this proposed bill look ridiculous.

The bill (I-522) would require that almost anything derived from a GM plant contain a label warning consumers of this. But the bill is based on a completely false premise.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom explains: I-522 is based on the premise that an ingredient (such as sugar) that is derived from a GM plant (or any other source, including petrochemicals) is in any way different from sugar derived from sugar cane. He adds, Almost no one understands this, but it is irrefutable: the source of any given substance is utterly irrelevant. Whether sugar, vitamin C, or aspirin are produced from plants, crude oil or moondust makes no difference whatsoever. Once the product in question is isolated and purified, it is identical in every way to the same product that was produced from any other source. Neither an analytical instrument nor your body can tell the difference between the two. Because there is none.

Yet, this is exactly the basis for I-522.

Dr. Cook notes, Common genetically engineered food crops grown in the U.S. today include corn, canola, soy and sugar beets. Purified food ingredients such as sugars or oils derived from these crops are indistinguishable from ingredients derived from conventional or organic varieties. Importantly, there are no genetically engineered content or traits in these purified ingredients.

In other words, the factory that makes sugar or vegetable oil, whether it be a GM crop, a non-GM crop or a chemical company, makes no difference whatsoever.

If this seems nonsensical, it is because it is just that, adds Dr. Bloom.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross added, While completely in agreement with Dr. Cook (and Dr. Bloom), I d like to point out that the writer chose to focus on one aspect of this issue the integrity of products derived from GM crops. There is, of course, a larger issue. Not only are the ingredients from GM crops harmless, but so are the crops themselves. We have commented on the issue repeatedly.

We urge you to read Dr. Cook s excellent and cogent commentary, which can be found in its entirety here.