I’ve looked at both sides and I was initially very much against mandatory labeling. Mandatory *anything* activates my libertarian reflexes.
Let’s leave science out of the argument. Let’s leave the hipster “foodie” angle out of it. Instead, let us focus on the following:
Freedom of choice
Corporatism and corporate welfare
Freeing the market
Libertarians find themselves in a pickle: how to shrink (or even eliminate) government in the face of an ever-growing behemoth. Branches may be hacked, but the tree keeps growing. Clearly, voting for liberty-friendly candidates hasn’t had an iota of influence over shrinking government. Our much vaunted “think tanks” issue some good ideas, but the legislature generally ignores those ideas. Protests? They send us to “free speech zones” or hit us with tear gas, water cannons, LRAD, and goons with armor and billy clubs. Yeah…pretty ineffectual.
But what if you can turn government upon itself? Fight fire with fire?
That’s where mandatory GMO labeling comes into play. By passing labeling in one or two states, you begin the process of state governments (who are bound to defend voter-approved initiatives) conflicting with the federal government. This is currently what is happening with the marijuana legalization movement in numerous states. These states are essentially weakening segments of the federal government. Do libertarians generally support these legalization movements, especially in Washington and Colorado? You bet. However, these laws contain some anti-liberty components. yet, with these anti-liberty components, the good vastly outweighs the bad. These initiatives are a net benefit to liberty. The same can be said of mandatory GMO labeling.
The makeup of modern agriculture is not one of family farms, but one of massive corporate “factory farms” who rely on federal subsidies to maintain and increase their profit. This is wrong to any liberty minded individual. Corporations benefit from the stolen money of taxpayers to feather their already luxuirious nests. These subsidies are also used to help “study” and develop GMO crops.
Libertarians like to say they are for freedom of choice. One popular LP bumpersticker proclaims “I’m Pro-Choice on Everything!” However, for the average shopper, freedom of choice in the grocery store with regard to GMO foods is close to impossible. Yes, there is a voluntary NON-GMO labeling project underway and that is a good thing. But it barely comes close to scratching the surface. It’s said that roughly 90% of all corn and soybeans are genetically modified. Walk down the isle of your grocery store and read the ingredients list. It’s absolutely astounding how many products contain corn and/or soy products. These products are all silent as to whether they contain GMO ingredients.
So, here we have an interesting situation: big ag corporations feasting on taxpayer subsidies to develop and produce products that are genetically modified, which are most assuredly in most foods consumers purchase at the grocery store — and these products are unlabeled. So, where is the freedom of choice for consumers? How does one tell if the food they are purchasing contains products which their stolen taxpayer dollars helped to develop and produce? How can they determine if those products contain ingredients which can have potentially negative consequences for their health and the health of their families? Consider: if these ingredients DO have potentially negative health consequences, how evil is it for corporations to use taxpayer money to foist these products onto the consumer? It’s like forcing someone to pay for the bullet they will be shot with.
If that isn’t bad enough, the freedom of choice for consumers is limited even more by so-called “veggie libel laws”, which make it a civil offense (in Colorado, it is a criminal offense!) to imply that certain food products are “bad”. The biggest example is the lawsuit the Texas cattlemen filed against Oprah Winfrey. She did an episode on Mad Cow Disease and declared she would not eat beef anymore. The Texas cattlemen determined this libeled their product and took her to court. What she expressed was her opinion. Big ag decided that opinions hurt their bottom line. Numerous other cases show that veggie libel laws have chilling effect on free speech. Have you noticed that certain dairy products contain the following label: “FDA States: No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone.”? I found that on a diary product in Whole Foods, of all places. Do you know why that label exists? Oakhurst Dairy was given a “Quality Seal” from the state of Maine because it was rBGH free. Monsanto was the corporation which developed the rBGH hormone and they demanded that Maine stop issuing such seals. Maine refused, so Monsanto went after Oakhurst Dairy by suing them, and now, Oakhurst Dairy (Maine’s largest dairy) carries that label.
So much for free choice.
Libertarians like to say “let the market decide”. That is the most simplistic and asinine statement that could be made when there is nothing resembling a free market in big ag. Not only does it reflect general ignorance of the situation, it also demonstrates a general “I don’t give a shit” social Darwinist attitude toward the average person. Libertarians can redeem themselves by supporting GMO labeling, which would go a long way toward dismantling the corporatist grip on the food we eat and untangling the unholy alliance between corporation and government. If it weren’t for the government, companies such as Monsanto would not be engaged in bullying tactics, sucking on the teat of subsidies, and purposefully deceiving consumers by hiding the fact their products contain GMO ingredients.
I hear the chorus of libertarians bleating: “but you can’t use the force of government! It never solves anything!” But what most libertarians do not understand is that this force of government will be used upon itself, not innocent corporations or consumers. If there WAS a free market, there would be no subsidies. There would be no veggie libel laws. there would be no deceiving consumers by hiding the nature of ingredients. Libertarians are against fraud, correct? Then manufacturers who use GMO ingredients are committing fraud against consumers by declaring their product to be “natural”, when there is absolutely nothing “natural” with splicing genetics.
To sum this all up: big ag is committing force and fraud against consumers and taxpayers with the collusion of government. It is absolutely moral and appropriate to use government at the state level against government at the federal level. if small government libertarians wish to be consistent, then they will use GMO labeling laws to protect individuals against the greater force and fraud we face. After all, small government libertarians consent to government existence for the purpose of protecting us from force and fraud. What makes this any different? Nothing.
Libertarian Activist Gene Trosper and Shannon Black