This Tuesday, November 5th, the state of Washington might become the first to mandate the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Known officially as Initiative 522 or I-522, the bill would enable residents of The Evergreen State to find out whether or not the food they buy in the grocery store contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients by reading the label.
A similar bill by the name of Proposition 37 was defeated in California last November, though 64 countries on all different continents already require labeling and some have imposed outright bans. A New York Times poll conducted this year revealed 93 percent of Americans want GMO labeling.
Yet many a libertarian feels uneasy advocating for a government-imposed mandate, and rightly so. This might lead some to think that libertarians would advocate for the biotech industry’s “right” to poison the food supply with genetically altered foods that have never been proven safe for human consumption and despite the litany of documented health risks surrounding these foods.
But in order to come to such a conclusion one would have to ignore one of the cornerstones of libertarianism. After all, at the core of libertarian philosophy lies the non-aggression principle, which rejects any initiation of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property, as inherently illegitimate. And in the case of GMOs, barely scratching the surface is enough to reveal mountains of fraud and deceit, as detailed elsewhere on this website.
The White House and Monsanto have for decades had a very cozy relationship, leading the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider GM foods just as safe as natural, non-GM foods. Despite the injection of foreign genes into such crops as corn, cotton, soy and canola the FDA allowed them to be introduced into the U.S. food supply, claiming there was no information showing that GM foods were “substantially different from conventionally grown foods”. In doing so the agency also ignored serious safety concerns among its own scientists, and hid this fact from the American people. In other words, the United States federal government and the biotech industry have for decades been involved in a massive conspiracy against the people.
In fact, all governments that allow the cultivation of GM crops are conspiring with the biotech industry to deliberately put the health of billions of people at risk. Clearly this constitutes fraud upon persons, which libertarians – i.e. proponents of the non-aggression principle – regard as inherently illegitimate: the libertarian case against GMOs in a nutshell.
The practical implications of the aforementioned are obvious. What happened to Bernie Madoff when his cleverly constructed Ponzi scheme came tumbling down? The former stockbroker’s crimes were condemned as “extraordinarily evil” by a Federal District Judge who handed him a prison sentence of 150 years for having committed the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
Still, the number of victims Madoff made pales in comparison to the billions of lives that have been and continue to be jeopardized by GMOs. Just consider the estimated 250,000+ Indian farmers that committed suicide after being robbed of their livelihoods by Monsanto.
Without the cloak of government approval the genetic modification of our food supply likely would never have gathered any steam to begin with. In addition, an objective review of the scientific data available today would very quickly come to the conclusion that the risks far outweigh the potential (though highly debatable) benefits. Unfortunately this government complicity also begs the question whether justice will indeed prevail. After all, what incentive do people – even good people – in a centralized bureaucracy have to indict their own colleagues, especially their bosses?
Even though one would have to be delusional to look to government for the solution to a government-created problem, initiatives such as I-522 in Washington are a testament to the growing awareness about and resistance against GMOs. Libertarians should stand together with those opposing genetically modified foods – without calling for government intervention, of course – and take a principled stance against the fraud that has been perpetrated by government and the biotech industry.
 Smith, J.M. (2003). Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating. Fairfield, IA: Yes! Books. p. 130