the amount of calories, fat, and sugar in foods if it were not
for the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990.
Most everyone supports these nutrition labels today, but the
food industry was unwilling to provide them until they were
mandated by law.
This issue has not divided people among their typical ideo-
logical camps of pro- or anti-regulation. Some regular support-
ers of government regulation—like President Obama's former
regulatory czar Cass Sunstein—oppose mandatory GM labels.
State Representative Harvell of Maine, a Republican, supports
a labeling bill for Maine based on the idea that markets need
information to work well, and he quotes the libertarian hero
Ludwig Von Mises to defend his position. Others who nor-
mally announce no political opinion, like Charles of the United
Kingdom, have publicly asserted that GMOs don't just pose
health harms but threaten the world's ability to feed itself.
Strangely, both sides of the labeling debate claim to have
consumers' best interest in mind. One side observes that polls
show strong support for labeling, while the other side retorts
that when California actually held a vote on labeling, it failed to
pass. This support might fall in real elections because consum-
ers take the issue more seriously, because the people who vote
are different from the people who respond to polls, or because
people are swayed by the political advertising of biotech com-
panies. One side protests that consumers have a right to know
what is in their food, and the other side rebuts that consumers
don't want everything about the product on the label, but only
the information that matters. If only there was a way to ask con-
sumers what they “really” want, but the only thing clear is that
consumers say different things in different contexts. It is almost
as if consumers themselves are unsure of what they want.
Will GMOs Help Us Feed the World?
A typical defense of GM crops and livestock first asserts that
agricultural productivity gains must continue in order to feed