Ask Us Anything About GMOs!

Q:
The term GMO to refer to food derived from plants whose genetic endowment, in part, includes traits inserted or deleted through biotech techniques is both highly predjudicial and hardly accurate. Even if genetic engineering had not been invented, virtually every bite of food we eat, comes from a source that is a genetically modified version of some plant or animal ancestor. Is there a more precise term to refer to foods derived from source plants or organisms whose genetic information has been altered in part by modern genetic engineering techniques since these are only a small subset of all genetically modified organisms? Would you be more open to some form of ingredient labeling if the requirement was not to place a designation such as "may contain GMO's" that implies inaccurate inference of safety or nutritional composition of the food product, but perhaps something like "may contain food ingredients derived from organisms improved through [more accurate term to substitute for GMOs]." Or perhaps, "may contain ingredients derived from organisms developed in whole or in part through regulated breeding methods."
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A:Expert Answer

You make very valid points in your question. The goal of food labeling, and this site, should be to provide information that helps consumers make their own determination about a topic that is important to them and their food choices. We believe any label—whether it references biotechnology, GMOs or another term—should be helpful, not confusing, for consumers.

 

We’re continuing to have conversations across the value chain and with a variety of stakeholders to figure out how we can best meet the growing desire for information about how food is raised, and—as you point out—share it in a way that is scientifically accurate and meaningful. Unfortunately, most GMO-labeling proposals to date would result in a patchwork of confusing state-based rules and increased costs for consumers. Another complicating factor is the nearly infinite amount of information about our food that theoretically could go on a label, and yet the amount of space on food labels is finite and traditionally has been reserved for safety and health information vs. marketing claims.

 

In the meantime, companies like ours are participating in and funding this site to answer the questions consumers have about GMOs: questions about GMO safety, the potential impacts to the environment (including beneficial), perceived corporate control of agriculture or how we make biotech crops and why. These are questions that a label cannot answer.

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