Ask Us Anything About GMOs!

Q:
When will you start labeling all of the GMO products? That is what I want. Thank you, Diane
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A:Expert Answer

 

In response to a similar question, Cathleen Enright, Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology, addressed GMO labeling. An excerpt is included below, and the original post is available at http://gmoanswers.com/ask/if-you-say-gmo-so-safe-then-why-all-billions-being-spent-fight-labeling-why-not-just-spend-few.

 

We oppose mandatory labeling of GMO food because we believe such a label would convey to consumers that food made from farmers’ crops grown with our seeds is less safe or nutritious or different from conventional or organic food.  A recent study conducted by an MIT professor indicated that this indeed would be the case (See Policy and Inference: The Case of Product Labeling).

 

We support a consumer’s right to know about the food that they are choosing, but in the absence of any food safety concern, and as believers in GM technology who have seen its benefits accrue to farmers and communities around the world (Check out GMOs and the Future of Agriculture:), we believe claims regarding the presence or absence of GMO ingredients are best left to voluntary, market-based labels that traditionally are used by competitors to promote one type of product over another.

 

With regard to safety, we are not asking for you to take our word for it, but ask you to consider the hundreds of independent studies demonstrating  that GMO food does not raise any new concerns about the food we eat (Check out independent studies at BioFortified). In addition, scientific and regulatory authorities around the world have determined that GMO foods on the market are as safe and nutritious as their non GMO counterparts [See FDA information here]. 

 

You might also be interested in reading this response by Greg Conko, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which discusses the voluntary labeling system for organic and non-GMO products currently in place.An excerpt is included below, and the original response is available at http://gmoanswers.com/ask/why-it-vast-insurmountable-demand-consumers-have-not-been-simply-given-what-they-ask-gmo

 

Some consumers wish to avoid foods with genetically engineered ingredients, so food producers have increasingly responded to this market demand by labeling food products that do not contain them. There are many thousands of voluntarily labeled, non-GE foods available in grocery stores throughout the country, in stores as varied as Whole Foods Markets and Wal-Mart. From just 2000 to 2009, nearly 7,000 new food and beverage products were introduced in the United States with explicit non-GE labeling. And those numbers continue to grow.

 

In addition, groups ranging from Greenpeace to the Organic Consumers Association to the Non-GMO Project have created websites, print pocket guides, and even smart phone apps that help shoppers identify “GE-free” products. And certified organic foods may not be produced with genetically engineered ingredients. So, in cases where a “GE-free” labeled product is unavailable, shoppers can choose certified organic products instead. In short, consumers have at their disposal an abundance of information directing them to affirmatively labeled non-GE products, providing ample choice in the marketplace.

 

Countless scientific organizations agree that foods that contain GE ingredients are no less safe, no less nutritious, and no less healthy than foods that do not. In fact, in some cases, GE ingredients have been shown to be safer, more nutritious, or both. So, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require blanket labeling of all GE ingredients. The FDA’s policy requires specific labeling if, and only if, the composition of those foods differs significantly from their conventional counterparts. Material differences would include, among other things, the introduction of an allergen that is not present in the new variety’s conventional counterpart, a reduction or increase in nutrients, or even a change in the product’s taste, smell, texture, or its expected storage or preparation characteristics.

 

Most importantly, FDA policy requires that the change itself must be identified on labels, not the breeding method used. After all, if you want to alert consumers to the presence of a potential allergen, or to a tomato that contains more or less vitamin C, saying only that genetic engineering was used to develop the plant or animal variety conveys no useful information. Many consumers are unaware of the FDA’s current labeling policy. But when they are told about it, one finds broad support. In a series of polls commissioned by the International Food Information Council, respondents were first read a summary of the FDA policy and then asked their opinion. In every one of the 17 surveys, conducted between 1997 and 2013, a majority of respondents agreed with the FDA’s approach.

 

Some GE labeling advocates say they have a right to know what’s in their food. But genetic engineering is not a thing that’s in the food. It is simply one of many breeding methods used to modify plants and animals at the genetic level. The very purpose of all breeding is to modify an organism’s genetic composition and expression, in turn changing the food product’s characteristics. So, even if consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, the FDA’s current policy is better at supplying that information than a label simply saying “genetically engineered.”

 

If you have additional questions, please ask.

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