Tis the season of lutefiskthe time of year when untold numbers of Norwegians and their relatives here in the United States, eat a plate of whitefish made with lye.

Some people love the stuff. Others do their best to pretend.

The humorist Garrison Keillor once described the festivities: Every Advent we entered the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat.

Maybe lutefisk should come with a warning label.

Except that labels can be unreliable, as demonstrated by a recent article in the New York Times. It asked a deceptively simple question: What makes a fish organic?

It turns out that food labels are a very fishy business indeed. Many consumers, उदाहरण के लिए, will see an organic label and assume that it indicates an all-natural, free-range, wholesome goodness. Yet fish sold as organic almost certainly were raised in a managed environment-on a fish farm.

What about salmon that live wild in the pristine waters of remote Alaska? Those fish arent organic because their diets arent controlled.

If you cant call a wild Alaska salmon true and organic, asks Sen. Lisa Murkowski, what can you call organic?

Thats an excellent question. It highlights the complexity of our food-labeling laws and regulations.

While most Americans do not often eat organic food, they consume food with biotech ingredients every single day although most of them dont realize it. The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology recently reported that the public has very little in-depth knowledge of the topic.

You can say that again: केवल 41 percent report even a vague awareness of biotech food, तथा 61 percent say that they didnt eat any at all this calendar year.

Just because they claim it, तथापि, doesnt make it correct: Ill eat a barrel of lutefisk if it can be proven that more than a tiny sliver of the U.S. population managed to avoid biotech food over the last 12 महीने. It has become an essential and safe part of the food chain. ऊपर 70 percent of our supermarket-purchased food contains some element of biotechnology.

Despite this, 29 percent of Americans actually believe that biotech food is not safe. This is a terrible misperception: Absolutely no scientific evidence suggests that GM food is bad for anyones health. (In the poll, केवल 34 percent state, correctly, that biotech food is fine to eat. The rest of those surveyed admit that they dont know.)

Whats both amusing and troubling about the Pew poll is that after showing that huge numbers of Americans are biotech illiterate, it proceeds to ask them more detailed questions, as if their opinions have much value. Pluralities of the poorly informed then claim that there isnt enough regulation of biotech food and that the Food and Drug Administration should do more.

Nobody, बेशक, opposes basic safeguards for food safety. Yet these are already firmly in place: Despite the occasional high-profile news story about food poisoning (none with a biotech connection), never in human history has food been as safe to eat as it is right now.

The amazing thing is that when there is a threatthe recent outbreak of E. coli at Taco Bell restaurants, उदाहरण के लिए–we confront it with incredible speed. We contain the problem quickly rather than let it fester and grow. Minor challenges may generate headlines but they do not become major calamities.

Yet anti-biotech activists insist that our regulations dont go far enoughand so they demand special labels for GM food. Their proposals may sound reasonable, but really they arent. Labels can serve a purpose when they convey basic nutritional information, but making a fetish of them yields the absurdity of organic salmon that have never known life in a state of nature.

As the Pew poll revealed, millions of Americans wouldnt know what to make of the information that labels supposedly deliver. And if they actually learned what to make of it, they would come to know that these labels arent even necessary because GM foods are perfectly safe to eat were already eating it. So when anti-biotech groups call for labels, theyre actually preying on public ignorance.

We should focus our regulatory energies on truly urgent tasks, such as making sure that people know what theyre getting themselves into before taking a bite of lutefisk.

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