Daniel S. Greenberg's article makes an important, but probably unintentional, point about the labeling of genetically engineered food products ["The Right to Know What We Eat," op-ed, July 7]. No legal requirement is needed for producers to label products in a way that gives consumers information they demand.
Kosher and vegetarian foods are labeled, Mr. Greenberg notes, so why not genetically engineered food? The reason is that labels are placed on kosher and vegetarian foods voluntarily in order to meet a niche-market demand for those goods. Similarly, packagers who sell non-genetically engineered foods are free to label their products as GE-Free, just as Ben and Jerry's ice cream is labeled rBGH Free.
No law forces food packagers to label their products as non-kosher or non-vegetarian. Nor should any law require producers to put other information on their labels just because members of the public want to know. Indeed, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that forcing producers to label products containing genetically engineered ingredients is a violation of free speech because that information is not material.
So long as manufacturers do not make false or misleading statements about their products, there is no justification for government intrusion. If simple curiosity guided public policy, the Court of Appeals concluded, there would be no end to the information that governments could require manufacturers to disclose about their production methods.
When consumers place a true value on obtaining certain information, however, the market usually finds a way of providing it.
The writer is a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.