On Proposition 37 and Genetically Modified Foods

Editor’s Note: In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, William Y. Brown responds to Mark Bittman’s September 15, 2012 op-ed on California’s Proposition 37, which would require labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.’s) and prohibit the marketing of them as “natural.”

We need genetically modified organisms. They keep insects and weeds from corn and soybeans. New crops can resist droughts, floods and heat coming with climate change and provide vitamins and nutrients. Nothing erodes life and peace more than poverty, and hunger is its expression. DNA is being sequenced, synthesized and understood with increasing rate and decreasing cost. We need to tap that.

G.M.O. regulation is deficient in the United States. Some products aren’t covered, and the system is incomprehensible. We need a new federal law. But labeling is just toying with what government should do rather than fixing it. It might feel good not to buy a product labeled a G.M.O., but we can do better.