I’m a molecular geneticist who helped commercialize the world’s first genetically engineered whole food. I wholeheartedly support providing Californians with information about whether the foods in their grocery stores have been genetically engineered. I believe this issue is now best left to lay society to examine.
Richard Feynman, the late, great Nobel laureate in physics, would have agreed with me. He said that scientists have a duty to explain the science that forms the foundation of a new technology to nonscientists — and to not only “tell what’s true but … make clear all the information that is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind” about how the technology should or shouldn’t be used.
Once scientists have told the truth, warts and all (and genetic engineering has its share of warts), society as a whole must decide how to use and control the technology based on that science. Controlling technology, Feynman said, “is something not so scientific and is not something that the scientist knows so much about.”
The question of whether to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, as Proposition 37 would require, is not about science. Prop. 37 is about people having the right to know what’s in their food and how it was produced. It’s about making competition in a free market — the hallmark of capitalism — more transparent. And it’s about fairness. American companies must label their GE products for sale in some 50 other countries; they should label them for us as well.