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GMO Food Labeling. Go For It, Food Companies. Your Fear of Fear May Be Excessive.
Companies fear, and GMO opponents hope, that labels on food will scare consumers away. But more and more research indicates that isn't what happens.
There are a lot of pros and cons about agricultural biotechnology, AKA GMOs. Factual pros and cons about human safety (the vast majority of studies find no harm to humans) and environmental impacts (most hybrids, GMO or otherwise, do cause shifts in the ecosystems in which they grow)…and values-based pros and cons, about commercial monoagriculture and big companies profiting from modern technologies. Those are all conversations society needs to have. But one thing is getting in the way, at least in the U.S.. The fight over labeling.
GMO opponents want labels; to give consumers choice, they say, but actually to scare consumers away and kill the whole technology of manipulating genes to create plant and animal varieties with new traits. Companies that make foods resist such labels, fearful that they WILL scare consumers away.
There are many pros and cons to the labeling question alone, but one BIG question, probably the biggest of all, is; would GMO labels scare people away? Is the corporate ‘fear of fear’ (as Peter Sandman has put it), warranted? More and more evidence suggests it may not be.
1. Agricultural economist Professor Jayson Lusk at Oklahoma State University asked Might Consumers Interpret GMO Labels as a Warning Label and basically, the answer was no. Lusk and colleague Marco Constanigro of Colorado State showed one group of subjects apples labeled either “Contains GE” or “does not contain GE”, and they found;
There was no consistent statistically significant difference in the average level of concern for GMOs expressed by people shown different labels. That is, the mere presence of the GMO label did not lead to a greater level of concern about GMOs.
They showed a separate group of subjects two cereal boxes (Cheerios), one with no GMO label, and one with a label on the bottom of the front of the box stating “partially produced with genetic engineering”. And they found;
There was no statistically significant difference in the level of concern for GMOs expressed among people shown the box with the GMO label vs. the group shown the box without the GMO label.
2. But that was a ‘pretend’ study. Research by Phillip Aerni studied conditions in the real world, Switzerland, and found pretty much the same thing. Sort of.
Three types of bread were sold a street food markets across the country, labeled as made with ‘organic corn’, ‘genetically modified corn’, or ‘conventional corn’. (The recipe was the same except for the corn. The baker was the same for all of it.)
And this was in Switzerland, where the majority of the public dislikes the idea of genetically modified food, and where voters in 2005 opted to ban GMO crops from Swiss agriculture for 5 years. So you’d think, given people’s stated views, that the GMO labeled bread (one of the few foods with GM ingredients legal to sell in Switzerland, as long as it’s labeled) would scare them away. But as always, what people say in opinion surveys and what they do in the real world are different. Aerni found;
The overall response to the sales experiment suggests that the mere presence of labeled GM food is not perceived as a negative externality by Swiss consumers.
Well, sort of. When the bread was all the same price, 20% of the bread that sold was labeled “genetically modified corn”. 31% was "conventional corn". 49% had the “organic” label. Sounds like the GMO label scared shoppers away. But when the GMO labeled bread was priced 30% cheaper than the organic, the number of buyers went up to 26%. And even when the price was the same, one in four of the shoppers who bought either the organic of conventional bread also bought a loaf of the GMO bread.
The researchers varied things one other way too. First they sold only conventional and ‘organic’ corn bread. Average sales per location was 84 loaves. When they added the GMO labeled bread, and all 3 kinds of bread were the same price, average total sales rose to 125, including a bunch of GMO bread, a sales increase of 47%. The authors suggest that "when provided choice", consumers seem ready to buy GMO labeled food, which is consistent with the research on the psychology of risk perception, which has found that any risk we take voluntarily worries us less than if the risk feels imposed (i.e. NO label).
And remember that public vote to ban GMO crops? The Swiss experiment asked the bread buyers, with a questionnaire they were handed after their purchase, how they had voted on the ban. A quarter of those who voted to ban GMO crops, bought the GMO bread. In other words, what people said at the polls and what they did with their money as consumers, didn’t entirely match. Again, the behavior of consumers seems to match what the risk perception literature suggests. As Aerni put it;
The results of our field study show that the Swiss are neither scared nor upset by the presence of GM food as long as they have freedom of choice and are properly informed.
There are many caveats to these pieces of evidence. The wording of the label matters, the product and brand and price matter...even the fact that the products in Switzerland were on sale at street markets, not in regular grocery stores, matters. But these aren’t the only studies to suggest that food companies' understandable Fear of Fear may be excessive. (Not the biotech seed companies, or the farmers who grow the GM crops, but the businesses that sell the finished product to consumers that would have to bear the labels.)
In future essays, I’ll offer a few more examples, including one in which experiments sold GMO-labeled cherries (they sold quite well) in New Zealand and five European countries, and one involving the sale of GMO-labeled cooking oil in China, where the government and biotech scientists and journalists all think the public is freaked out about GM foods, but where the GMO-labeled oil has been selling just fine since 2002
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
We’ve mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.
See the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.