Diane Rehm Show on GE labeling

posted in: Science | 7

This morning on Tuesday, from 11 to noon EST, the Diane Rehm show on NPR will be discussing the issue of GE labeling, and I encourage you to tune in, and call in as well. Here is the show listing:

Environmental Outlook: Labels for Genetically Modified Foods

In 1992 the FDA ruled against requiring labels for genetically engineered foods. Join us for a panel discussion on the rationale for that decision and why some are urging the FDA to reconsider its stance.

Thomas Redick: Global Environmental Ethics Counsel

Gardiner Harris: Science reporter for The New York Times and author of the mystery novel “Hazard.”

Gary Hirshberg: President, Stonyfield Farm, Inc.

The development of the roster of guests was rather interesting, and bears mentioning. It has gone through numerous rounds of change. Initially, Val Giddings, President of Prometheus Agricultural Biotech, was going to be on the show, and then they also decided to add Doug Gurian-Sherman from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Then they switched to inviting our own Pam Ronald from UC Davis, and for a brief time period her name was also on the website. I heard from Pam last night that they decided that they did not want to have a science section on the show, and canceled that part of it.

In this whole process, it seems, the producers were trying to “balance” the show, but each iteration of the process showed that a false balance was being achieved. The journalist Chris Mooney has described the trap that some journalists fall into when covering science-related issues is to give equal time to scientists that represent the consensus of the scientific community and those that represent outlier or minority positions. This show was about to go even farther by giving this minority viewpoint more time on the show than for responses from the practicing scientist guests, and as a result, there was difficulty negotiating the interview.

But the end result may be more appropriate. The newly-added guest, Thomas Redick from GEEC sounds interesting, and it appears that he argues against labeling, as evidenced by a book he co-authored, Thwarting Consumer Choice: The Case against Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Modified Foods. I am not familiar with him or his arguments in specific, so that will be new to me.

So have a listen, I will be, and represent science by calling in as early as you can to ask questions! Feel free to discuss the show below live or afterward.

(This just in: at the last minute, they have added and advertisement for a pro-labeling e-book by Hirshberg and other critics of GE, making it pretty clear the intent of the show.)

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:
Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.