GMO labeling shows that "states' rights" is just a convenient lie for the GOP
Jul 31, 2015

GMO labeling shows that "states' rights" is just a convenient lie for the GOP

Imagine that the Democrats wanted to pass a federal law requiring food companies to label their products if they contained genetically modified organisms. What would be the Republican response? Undoubtedly a big piece of their argument would be the appeal to states' rights. That is, the federal government shouldn't be going around impose their will and view on the states, and that it would be horribly wrong for the federla Democrats to impose their view on GMO labelling on the states.

Except, the US House did this exactly backwards. The Republicans (with some Democratic support) have passed a GMO labelling bill that prevents any state from passing any law that labels food as GMO. Where did the states' rights argument suddenly go?

The main reason for this is that Big Agriculture hates these kinds of bills. Much of the US agricultural system is based around a couple of GMO crops. And not just GMO crops, but crops that are heavily subsidized by the US government through various farm subsidies. The subsidies have been around since the 20s, and have created a food system that asymmetrically depends on these crops and does little to help any of the subsidies putative goals. This industry is one of the most firmly entrenched in political culture. For instance, the first state for presidential candidates is Iowa, a heavy agricultural states. Politicians are forced to praise the continuation of this system as a condition of having a chance to become president.

For years, the standard line for Republicans on gay marriage was that it should be left to the states. This was why the Supreme Court was wrong, this is why they couldn't consider it federally, because it would be grossly wrong to impose something nation wide against the sanctity of individual states. For the most part, this is nothing more than an attempt to mask their real desire - to keep gay marriage banned - under a convenient sounding jurisdictional argument. But let us pretend that their view here was sincere. This GMO labelling business shows just how quickly this states' rights nonsense was dispelled. Minutia about how to label food is sufficiently important to make the federal government step in, but ensuring equal legal opportunities regardless of sexual orientation was not.

Hopefully this is the last time we have to pretend their is any shred of sincerity or standards to when the states rights line gets brought up. No standard, that is, except this: we agree with states' rights when the federal situation is something we don't like, and conveniently forget about it when it is something we do. Or more correctly, forget about it when

Finally, I should not that I am not anti-GMO. I think there is great potential in using science to develop crops that are most efficient, healthier, safer, and cheaper. I think some of that potential has already been realized, while recognizing that we need to strictly test and identify any health, environmental or social consequences. As a member of the left, I often find myself railing against others on the left who are far more generically anti-GMO. And I recognize that food labelling is probably going to lend more towards the kind of knee jerk anti-GMO that we have seen with the increased prevalence of gluten labeling (which is absolutely important for those with Celiacs, even if it has sparked an unnecessary food craze in a huge number of others). However, to categorically ban any state from experimenting or moving in this direction is ridiculous, even if it wasn't blatantly consistent with the GOPs self claimed states' rights ideals.

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