Just over 80% of Americans surveyed would agree with a government policy for mandatory labels on food containing DNA. That is almost the same as it is for mandatory labels on food produced using genetic engineering, which is just over 82%. This information is available in a food survey conducted by Oklahoma State University, available as a downloadable PDF file.
Here is a sample label proposed by Ilya Somin of the Washington Post. Tap this for his full article.
“WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.”
Is this meant to mock the pervasive ubiquity of scientific ignorance? It could be. That would be so easy. There are many stories about the many people who think the Sun orbits Earth, for instance. It would seem that anyone who believed that would be likely to believe that DNA is a dangerous food additive. The problem is, about three times as many people appear to be ignorant about DNA than about the Solar System. This is bad because food labels have a much greater impact on people’s everyday lives than do celestial mechanics. If ignorance leads to putting this useless information on food labels, it would not only waste the precious time of people reading them, it would also undermine the labels’ usefulness.
We mustn’t mock or criticize the high levels of scientific ignorance among ordinary citizens. We could ameliorate it somewhat with a more rational and effective education system, but there is a more effective way to address the problem. If we could eliminate the ignorance among legislators and rule-makers, then this problem would disappear. If we could ensure that no one that foolish would ever be in a position to foist such a thing on ordinary citizens, then ordinary citizens wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Besides, everyone knows that it’s the dihydrogen monoxide that’s the real problem.