The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has just come out against California’s Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of genetically-modified foods. In my opinion, the AAAS has failed its duty as promoters of Good Science.
The question is not whether genetically-modified foods are safe. I see the benefits, and I see the downsides (especially as a security guy, since food safety testing is, in my opinion, very poorly done), and the debate will rage on for a long time. But whether genetically-modified foods are safe is not the issue. The issue is whether consumers have a right to know what food they eat. There should be no debate here. Of course people have a right to know. And what better way to hear the people’s voice than to vote on this issue? The AAAS should be pro-labeling. If the AAAS believes that genetically-modified foods are, in fact, safer, as they claim in their statement, then they can make that point and rally the troops to explain to consumers that they should specifically seek out the GM-labeled foods. But withholding knowledge? Are you kidding me?
The world would be better off if people behaved according to scientific consensus. I wouldn’t have to worry about sending my kids to a school where up to 10% of kids might not be vaccinated, for example. But does that mean we should force parents to vaccinate their children? Of course not.
The onus is on scientists to make their case. Paternalism has no place in science. People have a right to know. The AAAS Board should be ashamed.