Cathleen Enright, Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information, answered a similar question about labeling and this coalition’s five core principles. An excerpt is included below:
We absolutely do support the right of consumers to choose food that is healthy and nutritious. And although we do not sell food products directly to consumers, we support food companies’ decisions to voluntarily label food products for the presence or absence of GMOs, based on their customers’ choices. This type of marketing claim is often used to promote one type of product over another, and is unrelated to health or safety. Some companies have opted to voluntarily label food as “USDA organic” or “Non-GMO Project Verified” for their consumers who opt for food that is not made with GMOs.
We do support mandatory labeling of food, including GMO food, if such food presents a safety risk to a certain population, for example those allergic to a food ingredient. But there has never been any evidence linking a food safety or health risk to the consumption of GMO foods. There are hundreds of independent studies that demonstrate this (check out independent studies at BioFortified), in addition to the determinations from scientific and regulatory authorities around the world that GMO foods on the market are as safe and nutritious as their non GMO counterparts [see FDA information here]. There have been a few studies that have asserted such a risk exists but each of these studies has been found not to be credible, essentially “debunked” by the global scientific community……
As believers in GM technology, and having seen the benefits nurture farmers and society alike (check out GMOs and the Future of Agriculture), the harm comes from a label that conveys to consumers that food made from farmers’ crops grown with our seeds is somehow less safe or nutritious or somehow different from conventional or organic food. This is simply not the case. We believe a government requirement to label a food “GMO” would do just this, and a recent study conducted by an MIT professor supports this view [See Policy and Inference: The Case of Product Labeling].
The original response is available here: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/regardless-whether-or-not-you-believe-gmos-are-good-or-bad-what-harm-labeling-them-so-consumers.
Regarding your comment about Flavr Savr tomatoes, you might be interested in this post by Peter J. Davies, Professor of Plant Physiology and International Professor of Plant Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca New York, USA:
Flavr-Savr tomatoes were developed to have a delayed over-ripening property so that they remained fresh in the retail trade for a longer period of time. They have not been available since the 1990s. A blackening of the insides of tomato fruit is most likely blossom-end-rot occasioned by a deficiency of calcium during fruit development. When available, Flavr-Savr tomatoes were voluntarily labeled to inform consumers of the unique product benefits.
The original response is available here: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/httpgizmodocomthe-original-genetically-modified-tomato-youll-never-e-559924439-where-calgene-0.
Additionally, several experts have addressed the issue of labeling on GMO Answers. Here are excerpts and links to a few of these answers:
By Cathleen Enright, Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information
The wide diversity in the requirements globally demonstrates that the safety, health, or nutrition associated with GMO food had no bearing in the decision to implement mandatory labeling requirements… Many of the labeling requirements also are enforced on a discretionary basis or not at all.
This type of labeling makes no sense to us. The US has a history of reserving the use of mandatory labels to convey information to consumers about the safety and nutrition of a product. We support mandatory labeling of food including GMO food, when a food raises a safety or health issue, for example, to alert sensitive populations to the potential presence of an allergen. But mandating a GMO label would tell the consumer nothing about a product’s safety or nutrition value.
As such, we cannot support mandatory labeling of a food just because it was produced with biotechnology. We believe this would convey to consumers that food made from crops grown by farmers who plant our seeds is somehow less safe, nutritious or of inferior quality to its non GM counterpart. Two decades of scientific study and regulatory review around the world simply do not support this.
That said, we agree completely with voluntary labeling of food, including for the presence or absence of GMOs. Such voluntary labels are often used by food manufacturers seeking to promote their product over another’s. But by law, such labels cannot be used to make claims that are false or misleading to consumers including about the safety of a product. Today, you can find voluntary, marketing labels, such as USDA Organic, being used to promote non GMO foods.
The full response is available here: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/why-are-gm-ingredients-labeled-other-countries-not-us-and-canada.
By John Rigolizzo, Jr., Board Member, Truth About Trade & Technology
There is nothing prohibiting voluntary labeling and many companies do. In fact, there’s an easy way to know if a product does not have GMOs look for the organic label. But this issue is more complex because labeling could be very confusing……
Labels won’t help consumers make better decisions, but they’ll increase the cost of food because the labels aren’t free. They represent a significant new regulation on farmers and food companies. The added expense of compliance will be passed along to consumers. We’ll all pay more for what we eat at grocery stores and restaurants.
At a time when the U.S. economy is at best sputtering along in New Jersey and elsewhere, we shouldn’t pass pointless laws that make it harder for families to feed themselves.
It would be bad enough if the negative impacts of excessive labeling with information of no use to human health or safety were to stop there. Yet they’ll extract an even higher toll as they call into question the very purpose of GM technology. Consumers may begin to wonder why this food needs labels in the first place―and they may start to avoid it.
That would be a tragedy. Biotechnology lets us grow more food on less land. That’s why I grow GM crops on my farm, not far from where Assemblywoman DeCroce cast her wrongheaded vote in favor of an unnecessary labeling law.
As we struggle to feed our families in tough times―and try to find ways to feed a growing global population―we need to appreciate food grown with the benefit of biotechnology as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
The full response is available here: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/hello-i-was-wondering-why-we-arent-aloud-label-it-honestly-isnt-fair.
If you have any additional questions after reviewing these resources, please ask. However, please remember that the purpose of this website is to address fact-based questions about GMOs and biotechnology in agriculture, and please be mindful of our House Rules when posting questions.