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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #135                                                 August 29, 2002
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk
    in submission to its inevitabilities?  NetFuture is a voice for
    responsibility.  It depends on the generosity of those who support
    its goals.  To make a contribution, click here.
    Editor's Note
    Quotes and Provocations
       From Baby Walkers to High Tech: The Anti-developmental Stance
    Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Labeled? (Craig Holdrege)
       A review of the technical and policy issues
    About this newsletter
                                  EDITOR'S NOTE
    Should genetically modified foods be labeled as such?  The official answer
    by the U.S. government is "no", and the question scarcely makes it into
    the newspapers these days.  Yet there is hardly any issue that bears more
    directly upon our long-term welfare.  The decisive question is whether we
    will be a society in which consumers exercise conscious choice regarding
    the technological gifts continually handed to us, or instead a society in
    which we abdicate this choice to commercial and governmental powers.
    In this issue of NetFuture, Craig Holdrege surveys the technical and
    policy issues surrounding the labeling question.  His review is thorough
    and definitive.  I expect its balanced, uncompromising logic will prove
    extremely useful to those working to preserve choice and responsibility on
    behalf of the consumer.
    As Holdrege makes clear, labeling is not only a matter of product safety.
    It also has to do with the consumer's right to make as informed a decision
    as possible about all the implications of a particular purchase.  Why
    would we not push this responsible choice all the way down to the level
    of the individual consumer?  Certainly decentralization of decision-making
    and widespread access to product information are prime requirements of a
    free and capitalist economy.  They are also essential requirements for
    harmonizing the economy with the welfare of both the larger society and
    the earth itself.
    This assumes, of course, that consumers care enough to inform themselves
    and exercise their choices responsibly.  Whether or not such an assumption
    proves correct will be vastly more important to our future than the evils,
    real or imagined, committed by gene-splicing laboratory technicians and
    corporate marketing managers — who are, after all, people just like
    you and me.  The crucial thing about the labeling issue is that it focuses
    attention e