A Tuesday vote by residents in the state of Washington has trained a spotlight on the issue of whether to label genetically modified foods. And while the referendum has turned up the volume of the arguments, a University of Minnesota scholar says both the fears and the promised benefits in the GMO debate have been overblown.
A Washington Post blog takes an in-depth look at Washington's Initiative 522, which would require food stores to label genetically modified foods. After looking at the issue from several angles, the piece concludes with a comment from the U of M's Jonathan Foley, who told the Post that both sides have oversold their arguments and that what's really needed is more public education and research.
Foley, who directs the university's Institute on the Environment, has studied how the world can feed its growing population without damaging the planet. A 2011 article of his in Scientific American proposed a five-step plan for doubling global food production by 2050 while inhibiting climate change.
The debate over Washington's ballot initiative is most likely not the type of public education Foley has in mind. Politico reports residents are looking forward to relief from the steady stream of television ads that demonize or extol the measure.
The Seattle Times reports that if Washington votes in favor of labeling genetically modified food, it will likely revive the issue in the other Washington.
The Washington Post story says there are also 20 states with some form of genetically modified labeling requirement on the table.