Expert response from Cathleen Enright
Former Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information
Wednesday, 07/08/2013 02:07
This and related questions about labeling are great questions. We are often accused of being against labeling. We are not.
Let’s address seed labeling first. We support farmers’ right to choose the seeds that are the best fit for their individual farms. The individual GM seed products sold by our companies (we sell conventional and organic seeds, too) are clearly identified as containing GM traits, and farmers choose and are aware of the type of product they are buying. They even enter into a contract and pay a premium if they choose to buy GM seed. Our hope is that efforts such as GMO Answers will help to provide information about GM seeds to interested consumers.
With regard to food labeling, 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 use voluntary label, such as “USDA Organic,” for their customers who choose food that is not made with GM ingredients.
This image, provided by DuPont Pioneer, is one example of the detailed labeling on Pioneer Brand seed bags. Seed packaging and label language differ by country, type of seed, specific seed characteristics (e.g., biotech traits) and more.
We do support mandatory labeling of food, including GM 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 GM 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 GM foods on the market are as safe and nutritious as their non-GM counterparts (see FDA information here). A few studies have asserted that such a risk exists, but each of these studies has been found not to be credible, essentially “debunked” by the global scientific community.
Examples can be found here:
- Long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize by Gilles-Eric Séralini (original paper, rebuttals and official retraction)
- A comprehensive letter to the editor requesting a "serious reconsideration of the recent paper by Seralini et al." signed by scientists from all over the world
- Science Media Centre: Study on cancer and GM maize – experts respond
- Discover Magazine: When Media Uncritically Cover Pseudoscience
- Response of the Glyphosate Task Force to the study published in the journal Entropy