Line 4Line 4 Copyic/close/grey600play_circle_outline - material


My question pertains to labeling. Why aren't GMO ingredients listed on labels in the same manner as high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, etc? Whether I approve of these ingredients is not so much the point as is having the freedom to choose.

Submitted by: peterbob


Expert response from Cathleen Enright

Former Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information

Thursday, 03/10/2013 16:48

I support your (and my) freedom to choose, but because neither safety nor health is a concern related to GM foods on the market, I support voluntary, market-based labeling of food for the presence or absence of GMOs.  As indicated in previously answered questions, while FDA requires food manufacturers to list all ingredients in a food on the product label, it does not require food to be labeled based on the production method used to grow the crop that food manufacturers will use in their food products.  This is because regardless of the method used to modify the genetic makeup of a plant―for example, corn or soybean―the plant produced is still corn or soy, and the ingredients/food made from it are still corn or soy.  Whether whole genomes were mixed together (cross-breeding), a single gene was added (genetic engineering/modification), seeds were exposed to chemical or radiation exposure (mutagenesis, in use since the 1930s) or another of the many technologies in use today was applied—the characteristics of the ingredient or food are the same.  So, using the same example as above, corn and soy ingredients, regardless of whether they were produced from cross-breeding, genetic engineering/modification, mutagenesis or another plant breeding technology, are listed as corn or soy.  As food additives, aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup would also be listed in the ingredients panel if the food contained them.


As explained in the GMO Answers “Basics”  tab, genetic engineering/modification of a plant using modern biotechnology allows plant breeders to alter the plant's DNA with precision by inserting a gene of known sequence and function into the plant.  As the plant goes through its normal gene expression process, the inserted gene is expressed (copied into RNA) and the protein coded for by the gene is made.  (Traditional plant cross-breeding lacks this precision.  When one breeds (crosses) two parent plants together, the resulting plant contains all the genes of both parents.  It has been modified in that its genetic makeup does not look like either of the parent's but is a mixture of both parents’ genes—those desired and those not desired by the plant breeder.)


I appreciate your question.  Previous questions and answers on labeling can be found here and here.