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The Triumph of Emotion


When you can’t get what you want, cry, scream, throw yourself on the floor, wail about the unfairness of life and the injustice of your situation.  This is what my 1 and 2-year-old grandkids do when grandpa has the audacity to use the N world: “no.” It is also the tactic used by those who oppose biotechnology and are demanding mandatory labels on all food and fiber products. Their temper tantrum on Capitol Hill effectively derailed an effort to produce a practical, science-based, national standard for food labels. Instead, we now have a patchwork of drastically different state regulations based on emotion and political expediency.


A compromise was announced by Senate Ag committee leadership late last week, but it came too late to stop the implementation of the Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law. Since the compromise does not have the support of many in agriculture, it stands little or any chance of being passed.  The Senate measure is drastically different from the bill passed by the House; so, even it if gets passed, a conference with the House will have to be held to work out the differences and then be passed by both bodies again.  In other words, a national labeling bill stands about as much chance of becoming law as Donald Trump picking Bernie Sanders as his running mate.


So if the new standard for labeling our food is emotion or, in other words, what makes people feel good, then what else do we need to put on our labels? Perhaps given the current obsession with Islamic terrorists, we need to put “ISIS Free“ on products indicating that none of the producers, processors, or distributors have ties to terrorist organizations.   Perhaps Trump supporters would feel more emotionally comforted if fresh fruit and vegetables were labeled “picked by documented workers.”    To help the self-esteem of those battling obesity, ice cream may start being labeled as “recommended for weight reduction.”


Food labels used to inform. Those who reject sound science and lawmakers who are unwilling to compromise in the name of political posturing have actually done a dis-service to consumers.  Labels are now marketing tools designed to give some products an advantage over others as well as a slick sales pitch. Shoppers will have no objective way to compare products or make informed buying decisions. When food must be labeled with information that is not related to nutrition or food safety, the label becomes meaningless.


Emotion is not only the new standard for labeling food, but is also the way to get anything done in Washington.  Take the sit on the floor and have a tantrum that Democrats employed over gun control. So, next time the EPA publishes a rule on dust or when some urban lawmaker proposes cutting funding for crop insurance, let’s get our righteous anger going and yell, scream, stamp our boots, and get angry. Forget the science, the economics, or the logical arguments. Just tell them it makes us feel bad and that will be enough.


By Gary Truitt