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The Libertarian argument for GMO Labeling.

The Libertarian argument for GMO labeling. A well written submission to Ronpublicans.com

http://www.ronpublicans.com/archives/2614




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I stopped reading when he

I stopped reading when he started listing free market problems that last longer due to the harmful affects setting in over a long period of time and included monetary inflation.

The libertarian principles would be that we can't force anyone to label there food...but maybe we should be smart enough to not by food that doesn't disclose it's contents, process of being made etc.

tasmlab's picture

I digress, but all food has been genetically modified for 6,000

I digress, but all food has been genetically modified for 6,000 years, either through farmers selective planting of heartier species, weeding out weaker strains, and cross-breeding.

Even planting crops in neat rows and pulling weeds is starting down the path of them not being natural.

I know there's a lot to mistrust with food technology, but food technology is also is what is going to likely help fix poverty and make us all wealthier.

Currently consuming: Harry Browne, Free Domain Radio; JT Gatto and Holt; Wii U

I am not for GMO labeling

The reason is to me, ALL FOOD IS GMO unless labeled ORGANIC.

It's that simple.

The "libertarian" argument for GMO labeling

The "libertarian" argument for GMO labeling is: "I support big government and the destruction of liberty as long as it enforces a policy that I personally agree with". Not very convincing.

C_T_CZ's picture

Labeling provides the market information...

I am one of many interested in this topic.

We already have laws in place for labeling food products. The problem is that GMO companies are fighting against GMO labeling, but not because they don't want to be forced to label their products as containing GMO. Rather, they fight these laws to prevent companies from labeling their natural products as non-GMO. They don't want their GMO products to be put at a competitive disadvantage versus products labeled as non-GMO.

If a consumer goes to the store and there are two bushels of corn, one labeled non-GMO and the other labeled GMO, the belief is that the non-GMO would be preferred. GMO products would be at a disadvantage if they are labeled, so the GMO industry is fighting the labeling.

For consumers who want open disclosure in this area, product labeling makes sense. For the market to make proper decisions, product labeling makes sense. But for the GMO industry, product labeling is troublesome because it provides consumers with a differentiating factor between GMO and non-GMO products. The GMO industry wants everyone to just think corn is corn is corn, and GMO or non-GMO does not matter.

For many consumers however, it does matter.

rEVOLutionary Ads: It's Better Than Sitting On Your Rump Doing Nothing™

tasmlab's picture

By this logic

By this logic every new technique or technology used to compose a consumer good should require labeling to save us time from letting markets, reputations, the demands of the consumer, etc. figure this out - presuming producers were out to hurt their customers in the first place! Every new anti-lock breaking system. Every new biopharma technique for making medicine. New methodologies for software development. New ways of tool lubrication in carbide rod manufacturing, and so on.

And be enforced using the threat of violence by the government. The author takes time to establish the NAP and then promptly stomps on it once it gets in his way of desired information!

I think the argument can be boiled to "This one particularly subset of producers within this particular category of consumer goods should be forced (under threat of government violence) to disclose information that I prefer them to."

The argument certainly doesn't sound libertarian to me. I wouldn't bother to argue whether the author was or not (does this credential matter anyways?? The author flexed enough Austrian-speak to convince anyone that they're in deep.)

I digress, but I wonder how much of this concern would be erased if the food industry was properly disentangled from government protection and intervention to start with.

The Kosher food industry is a delightful anecdote on how free markets can successfully label foods even with much stricter criteria than most of us are used to.

I submit these thought politely and humbly. Please let me know where I'm wrong.

Peace!

Currently consuming: Harry Browne, Free Domain Radio; JT Gatto and Holt; Wii U

Nothing wrong with providing information. Kosher agmt invalid

The market adjusts much more quickly when important information is readily available. In the case of GMO vs natural food, the consumer has no ability to identify the difference otherwise unless non-GMO producers label their foods as "non-GMO" as a selling point. The free market works best when actors making informed decisions.

"By this logic every new technique or technology used to compose a consumer good should require labeling to save us time from letting markets, reputations, the demands of the consumer, etc. figure this out..."

If the new technology or technique poses potential health risks to the consumer that are known beforehand by the producer and not readily apparent by the nature of the product, the consumer has a right to know about the hazards whether or not the producer wishes to disclose the information.

For instance suppose that I want to market a food to diabetics that has a new sweetener that I have developed. Personally, I know that the new sweetener can cause intestinal cancer in the long term; however, I deem the risk to be minimal and decide not to disclose the information. Subsequently, the product is a success, but after ten or twenty years of consumption, people begin having problems. At this point, the people have been consuming the product so long that I could say that the cancer could have been caused by nearly anything. Then, the burden of proof is placed on the accusers which must spend exorbitant amounts of money in medical expenses trying to prove their case.

Should have I been obligated to disclose this information as soon as I knew it? Or as the producer, is it my right to make the unilateral decision to not release the information and let the market find it out over a very long period of time?

"...presuming producers were out to hurt their customers in the first place!"

I do not presume that producers are out to hurt their customers. However, when it is deemed that risks are minimal by the producer, the decision to disclose would likely be weighed against potential profits and/or potential court costs.

" The author takes time to establish the NAP and then promptly stomps on it once it gets in his way of desired information!"

This is simply not true. Every person has a right to defend their health. Without a way to tell which is which, am I not to buy corn at all until the health risks are found at some later time? If corn were outright boycotted by a large part of the population due to lack of knowledge of what was what, innocent producers would be unduly punished due to the other producers unwillingness to label foods voluntarily.

"I think the argument can be boiled to "This one particularly subset of producers within this particular category of consumer goods should be forced (under threat of government violence) to disclose information that I prefer them to."

No. I think it should apply broadly where known hazards are present, but the products couldn't be differentiated otherwise and the hazards aren't apparent from the nature of the product.

"The Kosher food industry is a delightful anecdote on how free markets can successfully label foods even with much stricter criteria than most of us are used to."

It's not a good example at all. There are laws that cover the enforcement of kosher preparation whether broadly or specifically. See "KOSHER WITHOUT LAW: THE ROLE OF NONLEGAL SANCTIONS IN OVERCOMING FRAUD WITHIN THE KOSHER FOOD INDUSTRY" by Shayna M. Sigman, a law professor from the University of Minnesota. An excerpt from page 550 reads:

Most states have consumer protection statutes that are broad enough to cover many instances of the fraudulent sale of nonkosher food, even though they do not identify kosher fraud specifically. For example, most states have deceptive business trade acts that prohibit false advertising and misrepresentation.236 This includes the behavior of parties who recklessly or willfully offer food for sale as kosher when it is not. Prosecution occurs on the state level, and the power is vested in the attorney general’s office.

From page 551:

Kosher fraud statutes represent a specialized form of consumer protection law aimed at protecting consumers in the kosher food industry. Twenty-two states have enacted kosher fraud laws.

People definitely have the right to know what they are eating.

BTW, I wrote the original article.

tasmlab's picture

Why do you insist on calling this "libertarian" though?

HI Dwalters, thanks for your thoughtful and detailed response as well as your original article.

I guess I don't understand why you labor to call this "libertarian"? At the end of the day, it is a government regulation, enforced by their power to coerce and to to inflict violence, and is categorically non-laissez faire.

It might be a great preference, great for consumers, populist, etc. It might make the market more efficient and be dandy in helping consumers make decisions. It might be nice and well intentioned. But it is a government-based solution, and categorically/definitionally not "libertarian".

Call it "good government" or "good government regulations" or "good laws that even a libertarian might like", or "constitutional" but there isn't much utility in calling it libertarian - or as you said directly "doesn't make me less libertarian".

Why fuss? Just confess to saying it is a piece of government you prefer!

At this level, I'm just arguing against your chosen semantics and how you characterize the solution.

And this is all just on principle. Would you trust the FDA with this task? Monsanto seems to own the joint and probably would just use this type of regulation to define what GMO means in their terms and then find a way to dump on the local producers. But that is an entirely different conversation.

Currently consuming: Harry Browne, Free Domain Radio; JT Gatto and Holt; Wii U

Wow, are the criminal and

Wow, are the criminal and commercial codes against "fraud" non-libertarian too? Ron Paul says the government should protect against fraud.

Ventura 2012

tasmlab's picture

What does fraud have to do with this topic?

We're talking about mandatory labels.

If a manufacturer makes false claims than it is fraud (or fraud-ish, let's not critique the entire field of advertising here). This has little to do with whether they are forced to provide certain labels.

If we were minarchists, the forced labels would be categorically 'non-libertarian' but cases of fraud where the manufacturer falsifies claims, presuming, I guess, with some implicit contract between the buyer (I'd accept this), then prosecuting fraud would comfortably fall within the definitions of libertarianism.

And the labels are just those, the systems, audits, tests, etc., to judge the veracity of those labels is implied too. Add these in to the other food protection regulations (making sure it doesn't have chemicals in it, it's clean, it disease free, it's fresh, it's rated a certain quality, its traceable, etc.) and you're building a pretty fascistic food chain!

You might as well make the family farm and the farm stand illegal at this point. Who could afford that much verification?

But again, why fuss over insisting this is 'libertarian'? We can call it 'good government regulation' if we happen to like this type of law.

Currently consuming: Harry Browne, Free Domain Radio; JT Gatto and Holt; Wii U

NAP applies in the free market just as it does in general...

Even in the free market, I have a right to defend the right to my life/health in accordance with the NAP. The sole purpose of government is to secure the rights of the people. This is one of those cases, imo. Without labeling, I am otherwise unable to differentiate visually similar products, such as corn, in order to protect my health.

Whether or not you are comfortable with the argument, it is still rooted in valid libertarian philosophy. While I think that we should aspire towards a pure anarcho-capitalist system, there are still instances where libertarian thought can support government action - although in much more limited roles than other political philosophies.

How many libertarians do you know that want the government to ban abortion? The right to one's own life doesn't end where the free market begins. Do you believe that people that choose to maintain a Kosher diet have the right to know if the food they eat is actually Kosher? The reason I ask is that there have been cases where producers have reasoned that no one can tell the difference in the final product anyway and ensued to label non-Kosher food as such. How is one to defend oneself in such circumstances?

Labeling does not cause companies to incur unreasonable overhead like quality control regulations would. All that is required for labeling is to change the image file that is printed on the packaging. In reality, honest labeling allows the market to regulate quality and acceptable content without further government interference that some would argue for otherwise.

When an argument is grounded in the NAP, how else would one classify it other than libertarian?

tasmlab's picture

How do you justify or defend the aggression being applied to

Hi Dwalters,

How do you justify or defend the aggression being applied to the food producers? If they fail to comply, then they experience the aggression of the government.

Does the NAP only apply to consumers and not producers? Remember, everybody for the most part is both a consumer and a producer. Can you desire libertarianism when you are consuming and then bow to the state when you produce?

If we are to strive for an an-cap society, then certainly the most ticky tacky type laws applied to the market must be first on the chopping block. If insist on the government mandating something as insignificant as labeling, you are not ever get into the neighborhood of removing the military or suggesting private security is a valid option.

If you don't mind answering one of my earlier questions*, do you have any problem calling GMO labeling "Good government" or "good market regulation"?

(* I know I didn't go through your objections one by one. I will if you wish).

Peace and thanks!

Currently consuming: Harry Browne, Free Domain Radio; JT Gatto and Holt; Wii U

This argument reminds me of the Bush quote

"We need to abandon the free market to save the free market."

His arguments are

1. The free market is too slow
2. He wants labeling and needs government force to get it.

These are not good arguments, nor libertarian, but at least wasn't riddled with pseudoscience, like many anti-GMO essays.

I want to be able to make informed decisions about what I eat...

I don't want to wait twenty years down the road for the long term effects to be realized before I can once again eat corn or the like.

If I seek important information, it is refused to me, and I am unable to visually differentiate the product in question from a similar non-affected product, what am I to do? What do you suggest?

Then only buy food you know the source of. Duh.

There are entire aisles in the grocery stores of "organic" good.

I eat a mostly paleo diet. I don't mind eating GM grains when I eat carbs because it is cheaper and convenient. There is no nutritional differences between GM corn and wild type (though the wild type doesn't really exist anymore because of selective breeding.) I'm not overly concerned about pesticides and herbicides as it seems our metabolism handles small amounts just fine. If you are worried about them, then there are many options for you with organic, like I said before.

It's not my place or your place to demand government enforced labeling. I don't understand why so many 'libertarians' aren't understanding this. It's like a big collective blind spot.

I blame people like Mercola and Mike Adams and other natural living nuts for posing as libertarians and then advocating for government force. I would have though that the vast majority of Ron Paul's fans could see through those bullshit artists and support economic and personal freedom in spite of their alarmist cries, but I guess I thought wrong.

**Also, my sister has a garden growing in her basement. (And the backyard during spring and summer) Lots of libertarians have fish and chickens and pigs. There are farmers markets in every city.

It takes work and initiative to live in a free society.

I garden as well...

That's beside the point.

You argue that you don't mind ingesting small amounts of pesticides. As a chemist, I do mind and wish to protect my rights.

If I stab someone, they have a right to defend themselves - even using the force of government.

If I personally put pesticide in someones food without them knowing, I would be liable - rightfully so - and could be held accountable in a court of law.

Why is it that a company can put pesticide in my food without letting me know, and in that case, I have no right to self-defense?

As a chemist you chose a profession where you are constantly

exposed to poisons. It must not bother you too damn bad.

But that is beside the point. They aren't forcing you to buy and consume their product.

If they advertise pesticide free and put it in there, that is fraud. The same government that approves and regulates those pesticides is the one you want enforce labeling and oroect you from possible fraud.

Anyway you look at it your statist position makes no sense.

Ah, on the contrary, I am a physical chemist...

I am more of a theoretical physicist than I am a traditional chemist. I do not enjoy experimental chemistry.

It is true that they can't force me to eat corn. However, I should be able to make the narrow choice of solely not eating their corn. I should not have to boycott corn altogether simply because one producer engages in questionable practices that they do not want to reveal to consumers on their packaging. By not eating corn at all (since visual differentiation is not possible), other non-GMO producers are also and unduly punished by my free market vote.

Cool. I've dabbled in some theoretical physics.

I took Nuclear and Particle Physics in college (for fun) and it was probably the stupidest I've ever felt in my life.

But dude you are still not getting this. Please try to think about this like a physicist and not a sociologist.

If GM producers are not labeling their food, this HELPS the non GMO-producers because it lets them tap the passionate non-GMO food market. Forced labeling and more authoritarianism is counter-productive, as the same forces are going to manipulate the governing body (the FDA or whatever agency controls the labeling). This is called REGULATORY CAPTURE.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture

What you should be advocating for is more freedom in labeling, not more control. Non GMO producers need to have more freedom to label their food as such. That is the the libertarian, and logical, solution.

The argument should be simple..

If the product is not labeled GMO, the act of selling that product is a fraudulent act.

Companies would be in charge of labeling and consumers would be able to take them to court and win if companies sold GMO products as if they were Natural.

my2cents..

www.youtube.com/truefictions

I try to change people every day. Do You?

Exactly right.

It is very simple fraud is fraud whether you are selling fake tomatoes or fake gold coins or fake eggs. I want what I pay for and I want to know what I am paying for.

Isn't it funny how we got down voted..

by the parasites who are being paid to post on the net?

No one even bothered to say why they down voted our comments.

:) Happy days. I smell their fear, they know the tit is running dry and that they will have to find an other way to make a living.

www.youtube.com/truefictions

I try to change people every day. Do You?

They are not libertarians.

They are anarchists. Besides, simple truth is hard to dispute.