The Food Industry’s Dirty Secret: DNA

Does DNA = Frankenfood? The American public seems to think so. As reported in The Washington Post,

Last year, I wrote about an Oklahoma State University survey indicating that over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA.” A new study written by economists Brandon McFadden and Jayson Lusk (who also helped author the OSU survey) similarly finds that 80% of the public support labeling of foods containing DNA (though in this case the question does not clearly indicate whether the labeling should be mandatory or not). Katherine Mangu-Ward has some additional discussion of the study here.

Obviously, such DNA labels would be absurd. Nearly all food contains DNA, and there is no good reason to warn consumers about its presence. As McFadden and Lusk and explain, the survey answers on this subject are an indication of widespread scientific ignorance, proving that many of the respondents “have little knowledge of basic genetics.” Other data from the study also support this conclusion, including the fact that 33 percent of respondents believe that non-GMO tomatoes do not contain any genes, and 32 percent think that vegetables have no DNA. Our vegetables would be blissfully free of DNA if not for the nefarious corporations who maliciously insert it into the food supply!

The authors note that the proportion of respondents who support labeling of foods containing DNA is very similar to the percentage who support mandatory labeling of GMO foods (84 percent).

The unintended consequences of DNA…

Something often missed in the debate over mandatory labels is that “”free” information is not really free at all. Labels cost money. Those costs will often be passed down to consumers. They also take up the time of consumers, and potentially divert their attention away from more valuable information. Mandatory labeling of substances that are not actually risky can also mislead people into thinking that a threat exists even where it does not.”

Given our previous posts on GMOs here at Difficult Run, you can imagine that I wasn’t too thrilled about this information.