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PD Editorial: The market is deciding on GMO labels

  • Foggy River Farm owner Emmett Hopkins, carrying his 7-month old daughter, Gillian, digs for Bodega Red potatoes at the farm in Healdsburg, California on Thursday, July 11, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

No one wants to take a risk with their food.

Nothing profound about that. But it helps explain any number of regulatory controversies, including whether to require labels on genetically modified foods.

The marketplace may be settling the issue right now. That's fine with us as the question seems to be one of preference rather than science.

Consider two recent articles in the paper in balancing concerns about genetic engineering and its role in preserving foods that might otherwise disappear from our tables.

The first story celebrated the resurgence of the Bodega Red potato. This was one of Sonoma County's first cash crops in the 1850s, but it was all but extinct by the late 20th century because of blight and poor farming practices.

As Staff Writer Diane Peterson explained, the comeback of the spud that gave Spud Point its name began with an anonymous donor who provided a half-dozen tiny tubers in response to a call several years ago by Slow Food Sonoma County North, a group that promotes alternatives to fast food.

The potatoes were sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture research lab in Washington for genetic fingerprinting. Then the Bodega Red was regenerated minus the virus that threatened to wipe it out.

"Pure Potato in Washington state did a tissue culture," Elissa Rubin-Mahon told Peterson. "They grow them in the petri dish, then they cut out anything that doesn't belong."

The second story involves Florida citrus, a billion dollar crop threatened by a disease that sours oranges and leaves them half green.

"In all of cultivated citrus, there is no evidence of immunity," the plant pathologist heading a National Research Council task force on the disease told the New York Times.

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