We cant all be heroes, said Will Rogers. Somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.

Id be happy to sit on the curb and clap–but first a hero has to show up. After reading an article about the 2008 presidential candidates and biotech-food labels in last weeks Des Moines Register, Im now worried that I may be in for a long wait.

The Register asked the leading candidates, as determined by their poll-tested popularity among Iowa voters, whether they would support a law requiring special labels for GM foods. Unfortunately, not a single one of them replied with the correct answer, which is to oppose labels because theyre completely unnecessary.

Three of the four top Democrats said that theyre in favor of labels: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson. The only one who didnt say he was in favor was Barack Obama, who didnt respond to the question.

On the Republican side, three out of four said that they had no position on the issue: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson. Mike Huckabee didnt reply.

It might be said that no position is better than outright support for labels, on the grounds that it leaves room for the possibility of opposition. Thats true, as far as it goes–but it isnt far enough.

Ill be sitting on the curb and holding my applause until one of these politicians steps forward and does the right thing.

Warning labels for biotech foods are a very bad idea for a simple reason: Theres nothing to warn against.

Many Americans still dont realize it, but they eat GM food just about every day. Theyve been doing it for years. Currently, more than 90 percent of the soybeans and nearly 80 percent of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, according to the Department of Agriculture.

By now, Americans have eaten trillions and trillions of meals that include GM components. There isnt a single documented case of anybody so much as sneezing from them. Theyre perfectly safe for human consumption.

Biotechnology is simply a means of production–a technique that allows farmers to grow more food on less land. (This trait has the remarkable quality of being both good for the environment and healthy for rural economics.) The foods fundamental qualities are essentially no different from those that are produced with conventional seed.

We dont label books based on whether their authors are right-handed or left-handed because we know it doesnt affect the quality of their work. The same is true with crops. Their seeds may acquire traits through conventional breeding or biotech innovation–the end result is safe and nutritious food.

The problem with labels isnt merely that they convey unnecessary information, but that they also raise needless suspicions. By and large, in the U.S., we label items when they pose a potential threat. If we start labeling GM food products, it may give people a reason to believe they have something to fear from researchers who use the latest innovations to help feed the world.

Last week, Ken Kamiya, a papaya farmer in Hawaii, visited Des Moines to attend the World Food Prize festivities. He explained how biotechnology saved papayas from a disease that nearly wiped out papaya farmers in his state. Without biotechnology, there would be no papayas in Hawaii, he said.

He would like to export his fruit to Japan, but hes concerned that the government will slap labels on what he grows. If you try to translate genetically modified food into Japanese, it comes out as Godzilla!

Ridiculous misperceptions are exactly what anti-biotech activists want to foster. Once this becomes the law of the land, [food companies] will reformulate their products, said Anne Dietrich, the director of a group called the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. Iowa is the best place to start.

Scare tactics are appropriate for ghosts and goblins on Halloween, not for politicians on Election Day. Biotech foods suffer from too many villains. They need a few heroes.

Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer, chairs Truth About Trade & Technology. http://www.truthabouttrade.org