Go to the grocery and buy a snack, let’s say a bag of chips. Turn over the bag and on the back, in rather fine print, is a lengthy list of ingredients, the first of which may be “enriched corn meal.” Nowhere does it say from what variety of corn the meal was ground, what breeding technique altered the original plant’s genome, where the corn was grown, what chemicals might have been used, what company or university holds the seed patent, whether the patent holder engages in business practices we find acceptable or contributes to political campaigns of the wrong sort. The label says none of those things because they provide the consumer no meaningful information whatsoever.
Much of that information will be implied, however, if Initiative 522 is passed. By 2015 this bag of chips likely will be required to have a label, on the front not the back, that states “clearly and conspicuously” that it is “Partially Produced With Genetic Engineering.” This label is there to help consumers “make an informed choice,” says the initiative and its sponsors. Informed of what? One scientist said this provides no more valuable distinction than saying the corn was grown in Kansas.