Sustainable lobsters and GMO foods. Hold the government-imposed solutions?

Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Mike: Cynthia, Cinco de Mayo has come and gone, while Chipotle has ceased carrying GMO foods. Should other restaurants do the same?

Cynthia: Restaurants that want to be phenomenally successful and appeal to people who care about genetically modified foods should follow Chipotle’s lead.

Oh, and fast food chains appealing to teenagers that want to please mothers might consider it as well.

Mike: I’m good with that. Restaurants can make the business decision on this issue — whether labeling or banning them, it’s their call, and customers can respond accordingly. Or should the decision be forced by the big hand of government?

Cynthia: Government should regulate food safety and protect consumers based on science. We don’t know everything about all genetically modified foods, but some is clearly good for you, like Golden Rice, a genetically modified grain that prevents blindness, death and disease of poor children.

Who’s crazier, Mike, conservatives who don’t believe climate change is real and caused in large part by human activity, or liberals who don’t believe rice infused with vitamins will help malnourished kids?

Mike: We’ve already covered science in politics. It is an important perspective, but not the sole criterion to be used in setting policy. And, generally, I’m always going to say the far left is crazier. But I’m biased.

Anyway, you didn’t answer my question. Government-mandating labeling: Yea? Nay? Or “only if everyone else is doing it,” which appears to be the view of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Cynthia: I know, right? Science is so annoying! But people should know what they’re eating and where it came from, and it’s reasonable to ask businesses to provide accurate information.

I support the compromise bill that was passed in the Maine legislature requiring labeling of GMO foods when a critical mass of other states agree to do the same.

The real issue for me, though, is not whether to label but what a “GMO” label even means. States and the federal government should fund more research so this issue can be debated in an ideology-free zone. Instead, we rely on nonprofit interest groups dependent on fear-based fundraising to provide information.

Mike: So, instead, we should let non-profit politicians who rely on fear-based fundraising lead the way? Non-profit organizations are more adaptable, responsive, and unburdened by the minutiae of government bureaucracy; they are free to make decisions! Look at the Marine Stewardship Council — the lobstering industry did a great thing getting the fishery certified as sustainable. And it all happened without legislation.

The same concept can apply to GMOs. The market works, and consumers will vote with their wallets. We don’t need to spend taxpayer dollars to solve every ill.

Cynthia: You can’t have a free market if people don’t know what’s for sale. It’s questionable whether politicians are nonprofit, and industry certification is often a scam. For a couple hundred bucks, for instance, any Joe Schmoe can be named Best Trial Lawyer in the Universe.

Mike: And you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. There isn’t any research proving that GMOs are bad, but people are concerned about them anyway. So people discount the existing government perspective, but forcing government-directed labeling will change minds?

Cynthia: There isn’t any research that says genetically modified food is dangerous? Have you fallen off your horse? There’s plenty! And that’s the point. Some GMO food is good and some is bad. People have a right to know facts about food they feed their families. Labeling is an important component of a free market. Look at mandatory fuel economy labels on vehicles. Armed with information, people who care about the planet can choose to drive a Prius, like me, and people who don’t can choose to drive a big white truck….

Mike: Those studies show herbicides may be bad if ingested; there is probably some validity there. But sure, you can keep your Prius and your government label — maybe even hang it on the fridge before you take the organic kale out for dinner! Me? I’ll drive my F-150 to Chipotle for a GMO-free burrito. No bailouts, add the guacamole, and hold the government-imposed solutions.