This is a tough one. I’m not sure where to begin. I attended a
show trial NY State Assembly public hearing on gmo labeling last Tuesday which was held at Lehman College in the Bronx. It was chock full of lies, bullying, nonsense and a pretend sense of balance. Basically it was a 3/12 hour farce disguised as a public hearing.
The public hearing was convened by Assembly member Linda Rosenthal who sponsored a bill that would require all foods sold in NY that contain genetically modified ingredients to carry a label.
Although Rosenthal touted the hearing as “hearing from both sides,” it was obvious that she didn’t mean it. Her demeanor was more self-righteous bully. She acted more like an anti-gmo activist than an elected representative looking for facts. She told the NY Daily News in an email
“I am confident that after a comprehensive public airing, where both sides have an opportunity to provide testimony, the case for labeling of GMO-containing food products will be categorically made.”
She spouted all the anti-gmo nonsense which included citing discredited studies. What makes it even worse is she is the Chairperson of the Assembly’s Commission on Science and Technology. Why is that bad? She’s scientifically illiterate, at least on this issue. If you are going to chair a science committee, it would behoove you to understand something about how the science works, especially before you sponsor legislation that is based on scientifically unsound information.
One of the issues she kept raising was the idea that gmos create “new allergens” which is a bold-faced lie.
She and other antis brought up the Brazil nut example which if anything, actually proved their claim wasn’t true.
The story is this: The company Pioneer tried to insert a Brazil nut gene into soybeans. They selected a protein that wasn’t allergenic. To be on the safe side, they asked allergists to test it just to make sure. It was found that the allergen transferred over. So, they abandoned the project.
She also kept harping on the idea that there is no “concrete proof” gmos are safe. Well, as chair of a science committee she should know that nothing can be proven “concretely” safe. And if she actually cared about whether they are deemed safe, or as safe as anything can be, maybe she should consult the hundreds of independent studies that exist out there. Even better, actually consult scientists.
While grilling three upstate farmers she really went bullygirl actually disagreeing with the farmers about their experiences with gmos. She read otherwise, she claimed, dismissing their actual experience. One of the farmers, Beth Chittenden of Dutch Hollow Farm seemed to get the bulk of her bullying.
She accused the farmers of making disparaging remarks about consumers when they suggested labeling might confuse them in thinking there was something wrong with the product. She said that the reason to be against labeling is because they (the farmers) might be afraid of what we might find out. She also said what they were saying was… “reprehensible is too strong of a word…objectionable”
Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket. What an asshole. These weren’t industry bigwigs, they were upstate family farmers trying to explain why they used gmos; their own experiences.
During those exchanges, the packed anti-gmo crowd showed their true colors when they heckled Chittenden. Some shouted, “Bullshit.” It was at that point the chair of the hearing admonished them and basically told them to act civilized and listen to what people had to say. But that’s not what they were there for. They were there to make public their incredible lack of brain power apparent. I decided to not engage any of them since you can’t have a rational discussion with true believers.
It was becoming clear this wasn’t a legislative hearing, but a chance for Rosenthal to denigrate the opposition.
She allowed the pro-labeling witnesses to spout all kinds of discredited nonsense without an inkling of challenge they way she challenged the opposition.
Pro-labeling folks like Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union got plenty of time to lie and obfuscate. Throughout his questioning by the panel, he kept contradicting himself at one point saying that gmos aren’t ingredients and then later saying they were. He made some absurd statement that Bt, the soil bacteria used widely in organic farming somehow “bleeds from the roots to poison the soil.”
Now these witnesses were sworn in and testified under oath. I wonder if it would be possible to bring Hansen up on perjury charges?
Of course the industry was represented. Louis Finkel VP for Government Affairs at the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Michael Rosen, VP of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State held their own against hard questioning. They were pros. Nurse Ratchet kept asking them about how much money was spent lobbying. She wouldn’t leave that alone. She also kept whining how she wasn’t getting a satisfactory answer. You have to have a begrudging admiration for guys like these two. As hard as she tried to knock them off their game, they never wavered.
Anyway, what the hell does how much money the industry spends lobbying have to do with the issue of gmo labeling?
So, who were some of those other guys? Guys like Hansen, who never met a GMO fact he liked. Hanson, did his best Sean Hannity impression, flogging the discredited Seralini corn rat study, one the many studies he said were “carefully well designed studies.”
There were others like reps from the usual suspects likes Patty Lovera from Food and Water Watch and Andrew Kimbrell from the Center for Food and Safety and Stacey Orel from GMO Free New York.
I would have left half way through had it not been for the fact that a Twitter acquaintance was scheduled to speak toward the end, Val Giddings. The incredibly tall Giddings came out of the box and ticked off a list of false claims made by the previous pro-labeling witnesses. Rosenthal seemed to be unimpressed since this was what she was doing while Giddings was speaking
While guys like Hansen and Kimbrell got a lot of time in the form of questions. When Giddings finished his testimony, he was given a polite, dismissive, thank you.
Actually, it would be unfair to dismiss this hearing as all one-sided. The biggest offender was Rosenthal, but the chairman, Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz and James Skouflis asked some good questions and actually seemed interested in hearing the anti-side.
At one point Skouflis scolded…damn I can’t find it in my notes, one of the pro-labeling witnesses who trashed farmers. Skouflis responded by saying he took offense at their depictions of farmers; that many of his constituents were farmers and they were good, decent hardworking people. Yay, James.
On a side note: Trashing farmers seems to be common on the anti side. What’s up with that? They depict farmers as greedy people who don’t care about the environment or people’s health. On one hand they claim farmers are being exploited by companies like Monsanto and when farmers respond by saying, “No we’re not,” they counter that they’re greedy poisoners.
But lest you go away thinking Rosenthal is some shrieking harpy, she does have a good record on progressive issues. That’s the disconnect on this issue with the liberal/left. They seem to throw reasoning out the window. Rosenthal is a classic example of this.
On a final giggity note, Dinowitz pressed Kimbrell that if labeling incurred no onerous cost, why not require labeling of conventional/non foods? Kimbrell said he would be against that. “Why? Dinowitz pressed. If there is no “onerous cost”, “Why not? Dinowitz knocked him off his game.