Friday, 29 April 2005

Smoking bans and GE Labelling

Much nonsense spoken around the place yesterday over a poll that purported to show that most people like having smoking banned in bars. (I refuse to soil the word 'free' by applying it to to a ban.) Jordan Carter for instance was suggesting that the polls showed that banning smoking on bar-owners' property was "a simple step in line with public opinion."

Well, if that's true and public opinion really was in line with banning smoking on other peoples' property, then there wouldn't have needed to be a law passed to that effect, now would there? And if public opinion now really does favour bars in which the patrons don't smoke, then there is no need for the law and it can swiftly be removed, can't it. The law is either redundant - because people feel that way anyway - or it is a nannying intrusion, because people don't feel that way and are forced by Nanny's agents to behave as Nanny wishes.

In the case of that stupid cow Steve Chadwick, she's both redundant and a Nanny. (Photo here. It carries a Public Health Warning.)

Anyway, once you've grasped the contrast between redundancy and nannying, you might realise that the same argument that applies to smoking bans also applies to the issue of food labelling, something that was discussed around here yesterday (see here and subsequent comments.)

If there is huge public supprt for labelling food as either GE or not, then food manufacturers and suppliers will be doing their darndest to cover their packaging with labels in order to satisfy that demand - and as long as laws on fraud still exist, those labels will need to be accurate. By contrast, if there is little or no public demand for such labels, then equally there is no justification for laws making them mandatory - there is no mandate for such a law, just as there is no principled justification for one.

The situation at present is that many people who favour specialist foods such as soymilk, organic foods and the like do like GE-Free labelling, and this market has responded appropriately. But the wider market? It doesn't give a damn, and - I submit - nor should it.

As I said yesterday, GE is a technology to celebrate, not one to hand-wring about.


  1. GE is something to celebrate, but that does not mean we need to stamp all over people's rights to information.

    I'm rushing off, so here is a dump largely repeated from your previous post (for new visitors). Its a little disjointed due to cut and paste...

    You seem to think the market can decide every-thing. I do think the market can correct itself as it finds imbalances a lot quicker than politicians and the laws they make. I keep that in mind when I form my opinions.

    PC seems to think any type of regulation is bad. I don't think so. I just think most regulation is enacted poorly.

    The market mechanisms are deficient in supporting or guiding socially responsible behaviour, and there are areas that benefit from some regulation.

    It allows time for people to educate themselves and form an opinion that the market can then respond to.

    I compared GE to smoking because people did not have good information in the early days, and opinions formed were very much those that the industry wanted people to have. Boy, did things change there.

    Now we have lots of information about it, and I am for people being able to smoke if they want to, and Pubs letting people smoke if they want to.

    The information and regulation could have happened a lot sooner, and then lightened up once we fully understood what it was we were buying.

    The same goes for many issues: Leaded petrol was a health issue where accurate information was supressed for years, indeed, it took many years to prove what in hindsight seemed obvious.

    You can be blase about GE foods, but talking about GE in itself is wide ranging. There are many areas of GE totally safe, and you can read all of that related research and continue to use the logic that if a major segment of GE work is safe, it must all be safe.

    The cost excuse for not tracking and labelling GE food is ridiculous. We track sugar content and ingrediants, it is just another dimension. Indeed, to accumulate good data over the next 20 or 30 or 40 years we need to ensure we track this. Only then will we have a good pool of information for people to form educated opinions.

    PC has put right for Corporations to do what they want, and their right to interpret data the way they want to make decisions for us, over a basic right to information on an important issue.

    So yes Brian S, I am suggesting the broad GE area is not yet ready to be totally entrusted to the free market.

  2. In other words, people are ignorant, stupid and can't be trusted with their own lives.

    It's for your own good you know. Really.


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