Rex Peterson's picture
Someone claims that 61 countries require GMO labeling. What does a GMO label look like? What is sufficient to require such a label?

A:Expert Answer

You raise several questions. I’ll address each of them individually.


Someone claims that 61 countries require GMO labeling. There is a quasi-generalised requirement to label products of GM origin that are not considered to be substantially equivalent to their conventional counterpart, with a view that the consumer be informed of novel traits and food properties to facilitate informed choices. Labeling can be mandatory (Australia, EU, Japan, Brazil, China) or voluntary (Canada, Hong Kong, United States). For products that are considered to be substantially equivalent, because they possess only input traits (such as insect resistance), there exists a large heterogeneity of approaches. Labeling can be product (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, United States) or process-based (EU, Brazil, China).


What does a GMO label look like? A concrete example of GM labeling on food products sold in supermarkets in the EU is Reese’s chocolate and peanut bar, which states: “produced from genetically modified sugar beets, corn and/or soybeans." Click here to view an image of a GM label.


What is sufficient to require such a label? GM labeling is not like nutrition labeling. The objective is not to warn consumers about healthy―or less healthy―choices but to be an application of the "freedom of choice" principle, as GM, conventional and organic products target different market segments. Only a handful of GM products are currently made available in supermarkets in the EU. This is the result of commercial decisions made by retailers in Europe, which tend to select products that are below the 0.9 percent GM ingredient threshold that exempts GM labeling. Recently, retailers in the UK have publically announced the end of their GM-free policy for animal feed, as this is not justified by health concerns and leads to higher prices for the food chain and ultimately for the consumer.


More information is available here.


Marianne's picture

Labeling gives you something to choose? I don't want to eat GMO's So I want to know what I am buying!

bobalderette's picture

blahgmo.. generally if you answer a question with a question the formula is something like: Person A "Why do you wear a hat?"; Person B "Why don't you wear a hat?".

It is not usually: Person A: "What is a hat?"; Person B: "That exact question has already been asked so instead of rewriting it I am going to provide you with a link that will answer your question."

It's alright though the link did end with a question mark. Learning is tough.

Robert Wager Wager's picture

People who want to understand labeling food should read this AMA document and then we can discuss the issue.

getperg's picture

This is a quote from the link that Mr. Roger Wager posted.

"The FDA’s science-based labeling policies do not support special labeling without evidence of material differences between bioengineered foods and their traditional counterparts."

Let's have a quick look at the FDA.
The head of the FDA is Michael R. Taylor. Now, let's have a look at his resume:

• He is a lawyer and guess who was one of his clients when he was practicing? Monsanto.

• He worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), where he was Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service.

• Later in his career he became Vice President at Monsanto for Public Policy.


The short of it is this:
1) GMO seed producing companies are saying that they don't want food to be labeled because the FDA policies/government policies state what's best for it's citizens.
2) FDA labeling policies are being enforced by a lawyer who has spent the last few decades moving between Monsanto and the FDA and USDA.

So if you're following closely you'll see that the fox is guarding the hen house.

Save face and save your PAC money GMO companies. This fight and this site doesn't help you.

LICityboy's picture

Getperg - the diatribe over Michael Taylor is getting very old and tired. How about a few pieces of relevant information. Mr. Taylor is not the “head of FDA”; the current Commissioner of the FDA is Dr. Margaret Hamburg – she has been in that role since 2009. Mike Taylor is the Deputy Commissioner for Foods, one of three deputies reporting to Dr. Hamburg. Mr. Taylor has been in that role since early 2010. He was previously at FDA from 1991 to 1994. FDA’s labeling policy on GMOs was articulated in early 2001 – seven years after he left FDA and nine years prior to Mr. Taylor’s return to FDA. All of this was pretty easy to find in several google searches. I fail to see any link between Mr. Taylor and FDA’s policies related to biotech. Mr. Taylor’s on again off again employment by FDA makes for a great conspiracy narrative, but you give him too much credit for shaping FDA’s policies related to GMO labeling.

rickspalding's picture

You people are braindead. Biotechs say nothing is different with the food, hence no label is needed. But when it comes to the patent office the food is COMPLETELY different and must be patented. If you can't see the false logic, you will never be able to use rational thought.

WillingToListen's picture

@rickspaulding - they say that there is nothing NUTRITIONALLY different with the food, hence no labeling. Please read the answers carefully before commenting. Thanks.

Cigany1985's picture

If you refuse to label your products, than any person is logically going to deduce that there is something you are trying to hide. Why should I just sit back and believe what you are telling me about my food. Is the decision about what kind of food I consume, as a human, not a decision I should be able to make for myself? What gives you the right to change the structure, process, and heck knows what else without telling me exactly what it is I'm about to put into my body?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 3- 'Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.'
I have no Free Will (the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors) to choose because you won't tell me the difference between your product and traditionally grown products. I am not making a choice on what I eat, I am being told.

Article 19- 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.' Simply put, everyone has the right to say what they think and to give and RECEIVE information without distortion, enforced silences and lies that aid in the oppression of people . So, I have the RIGHT to say I WANT my food labelled accordingly because I have the RIGHT to this information. It is information that can and will affect my decisions regarding my own health and that of my family that I feed. I have the RIGHT to CHOOSE what I purchase and consume. I have the RIGHT to KNOW if my food is naturally grown or bioengineered. I have the RIGHT to KNOW what the benefits AND risks are. You do not have the RIGHT to withhold this information from me as it is a direct distortion, enforced silence and multitude of lies that are oppressing, violating and essentially nullifying the choices we as human beings have to CHOOSE what we consume!

RSB's picture

It's obvious that this is not a forum to discuss the issues and come to a conclusion or consensus, as the conclusions have already been reached. GMO food labelling will never be mandatory in the US (likely not in Canada, either) no matter how many people demand it. It's not about people, it's about money.

ksubrent61's picture

@Cigany1985...your comment was interesting. Especially the part where you say that people have the right to choose what they consumer. You are absolutely correct, people do have the right to choose. But what I find really interesting in this whole argument regarding labeling is that no one in the United States wants to acknowledge that we already label what doesn't have GMO. You can purchase either USDA Certified Organic or there are labels from private certifications that are for GMO free. So why is never an acknowledgment of this? Furthermore, whoever says that the EU food is always labeled in flat wrong. I just spent 10 days in Germany, the heart of the EU and spent a good amount of time in their food markets. The only time I saw anything marked GMO free was when it had their "Bio" label on it. For the record, "Bio" in Germany is the same as our USDA certified organic. So I wish people would stop saying that everything in the EU is labeled because from my personal experience that is not the case.

jjdoublej's picture

You dont want to eat GMO's.....based on what? A lot of missinformation and scare tactics.

roadfork's picture

Why do people who fear GMOs always insist they "have a right to choose" not to consume GMOs, and, that they're being "forced to eat GMOs"?
Seems like it's easy enough to avoid GMO foods. Why not buy organic, or buy the many foods that aren't GMO?
From what I can tell, only corn, soy, canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, some squash, and some papaya are GMO. That leaves a lot of non-GMO foods to choose from.
You have choice, why not exercise it? Vote with your pocketbook and let the market decide. I don't understand all the angst and indignation. It would appear that many of you enjoy the controversy, rather than the simple and obvious solution.

Rex Peterson's picture

Robert Wager Wager did provide a good answer which included the link to the American Medical Association report:
which references work done by the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration and notes many inaccurate claims concerning GMO safety.
Included in the report was the gem that most food in the European Union is not labeled for GMO's since the stores decided for the consumer that they would not stock such products. This is similar to the situation in this country where beef is quality graded for choice or select which are significantly different in tenderness and flavor, but you will only find one quality grade in any given chain of supermarkets. Walmart recently switched from select to choice because they could not buy enough select and filling the void with choice ran the risk of disgruntled customers who would later buy select meat and complain that the quality was down.
I did some additional research and found England's rules for labeling GMO foods.
From this, it seems that an asterisk after an ingredient with a foodnote:
"may include genetically modified crop" is what a label would look like.
There are some troubling regulations. The GMO product would require a paper trail and non GMO would not. Failure to label or maintain a paper trail could lead to penalties. This is opposite the US organic provisions which require a paper trail and certification to prove something is organic, which also means it is GMO free.
I predict that if labels were required in this country, it would require a paper trail for labeling without the little asterisk and that since almost all prepared foods have either oils or sweeteners, they would all simply have a little asterisk and the consumer would have no additional choice.

gmosrock's picture

Cigany1985's picture


I understad that there are SOME products that are labelled 'NON-GMO' or even just organic but in Canada there are still many products, for example store specific brands like 'Presidents Choice' of 'True Value' products for example that have NO indication on the packaging that they do or do not contain GMO's. I live in the Maritimes of Canada.. Not the stereotypical East Coast 'butt hole of Canada' that it was once (and yes still is) believed to be by those further west of Quebec... And I grew up in Ontario, so yes, I DO know the stigma towards the East Coast.. I used to be one of those mislead people... The price of food here is as I have found, to be a bit higher than Ontario. Our taxes are higher and my wages are still the same. I don't have a car or cell phone any more, I don't smoke or do drugs, I don't go out partying every weekend.. In fact the last time I 'went out' was a staff christmas party two christmases ago and I doubt I can even afford to go out for my birthday next week..I haven't bought new clothes save a shirt or two from Giant Tiger at $4 each.. I don't have children, I'm 28 next week and I live with a roommate. I don't buy books or CD's or go to movies or well really anything that I feel 'normal' people do for fun. I buy my groceries at Giant Tiger and sometimes things that are on sale at the Loblaws or bulk barn. We spend 200$ A MONTH on groceries for two people, two dogs and a cat that are my roommates from BEFORE her separation.

I went to school immediately after high school and became a Chef. I studied for 2 years and have been in the industry for 9 years since then. I'm studying at university to switch careers. You'd think that with all those little 'extras' that I have cut out of my spending I'd have money just sitting around in my bank account to go out and buy the wonderful organic products. Truth is.. and I'm not looking for sympathy I'm only stating the truth.. I exercise regularly but I have asthma and a bad knee from a fall. I've had surgery on my hands 4 times. I suffer from severe migraines yet nothing ever shows up on an MRI, CT scan or ultrasound. I've been suffering from IBS and stomach ulcers that come and go and while I eat a VERY healthy diet on my minimal grocery allowance I'm still sick. I've been deemed 'unable to work' by my doctor. I lose all feeling in my arms on a regular basis from nerve damage. After my half of rent and bills which only includes home phone and BASIC internet, and Nova Scotia Power, I run out of money every last week of every month. Organic rice pasta is $3.00 for a small 450g bag here in NS at the grocery store.. more at a health food store. Or do I follow my budget and buy the no name $0.99 per 1KG bag? I don't buy canned sauces or frozen meals, We eat meat ONLY when it is on sale and usually twice a week. I make everything that goes into my body down to my bread and snacks. I'm intolerant to dairy and have been from the age of 16. I get skin rashes all the time on my face and legs and arms from mysterious 'allergies' that were NEVER this bad as a child. My grandmother and mother raised me on the best quality and healthiest foods they could afford as I grew up. They gave up their OWN treats and things they WANTED so I could eat expensive vegetables and extremely healthy lunches at school. I NEVER wanted for ANYTHING food wise as a child. So lucky compared to some of North America's youth today. I take as good care of myself as I know how and am able to afford. Yet I am CONSTANTLY ill. Why? My doctors can NEVER seem to find anything horribly wrong (which IS a good thing) but they do NOT know how to solve any of the issues that are making even writing this post very difficult. I simply cannot afford to purchase all organic products for my entire month of food consumption. Why should being healthy and having a choice also mean I need to be in a different income bracket? That now falls under a new category of discrimination. Discrimination and DEPRIVATION towards those who are not wealthy people. I would LOVE to have more energy, or even just the money to buy a new inhaler for next week when mine expires. So I can continue running to keep up my health. You're telling me that these GMO products have NO effect on people's health??? REALLY?! The fact is more and more of our products contain these bioengineered 'food-like' products. @ Roadfork- Oh it's only corn and soy and blah blah blah.. Well guess what?! CORN IS IN EVERYTHING!! High fructose corn syrup basically rules the food industry. So you're telling me that I still have a multitude of 'other choices' well obviously you can't read and haven't done YOUR research. Trust me, when you have as many 'mysterious' food allergies as I do, you spend way too much of your life reading labels to know that that fake shit is in EVERYTHING. It's in your bread, yogurt, tomato sauces, cereals, juice, pop (which I don't drink), chips and candy and chocolate (which I don't eat), I try to eat tofu.. but hey that's soy.. The labels are non specific there too!! So what.. because I have less money than Stephen Harper I don't have the right to be healthy and make these choices? Well, I don't. I can't afford to buy only organic, it's too expensive. Am I begging for money here? NO..and whether or not anyone else is actually willing to admit it or you are just to dang embarrassed to admit it, I can do it for you... no.. I just want the ability to choose products within my budget that can still be good for my health.

It's not 'scare tactics' JJDoubleJ, or misinformation. I'm studying biochemistry and already HAVE studied food science AND nutrition. I'm not misinformed. The problem here is I AM informed. As are millions of people who are arguing AGAINST being force fed this garbage. It's the uneducated, the ignorant, the naive, the drones and those who just don't give a fart about life or health or the benefit of humanity as a whole over simply their OWN social status and standing who willingly believe what they are TOLD to believe by their government. 'Getperg' is right.. the people running the GMO manufacturing companies are the same group of people running your government and the very organizations that were SUPPOSED to protect us. If you're unwilling to educate yourself, see the mass deception and realize, 'Hey.. things aren't as I was lead to believe' well then I guess you are one of those very lucky people who can afford (whether financially or with your health or both) the inconvenience, and for that I say with deepest sincerity that you are very lucky people to be in positions where you don't have to worry. I long for that day. Until then, i must keep fighting for my last resource. I am a future scientist with a deep background in food and the science of food. I follow no religion, no type of 'spiritual' way of life save yoga every morning for flexibility training.. I believe ONLY in science. But when I know it is that very science that has negatively infiltrated the only part of my life I'm supposed to have FULL control over, meaning my food supply.. so as to line the pockets of money and power hungry corporations what's left? Why bother? I strive to be the best and healthiest person I can be and yet I, as many others in Canada AND the US, am suffering from illnesses that can only come from one source as my endless list of doctors and specialists have ruled out ALL other avenues. The ONLY aspect of my life that has not been scrutinized by a medical practitioner is my food. And as I said earlier... I eat only what I can make.. I have maybe 2 tablespoons of sugar over the course of a day. Less than 5% of my daily fat intake is from Trans fats. So where are the illnesses coming from? I think somebody has been messing with my food and the food that millions of my neighbours eat. Listen, smoking used to be good for you. Your government let the cigarette companies tell you that to boost product sales.. look how that turned out. In 60+ years your great grand children will be watching their parents and grand parents (your kids) die horribly painful deaths from GMO foods and the government simply will say 'Oops.. Oh well at least we know now that it's bad for you' . On the off chance that ANY GOM product is bad are you really willing to risk it? Are you really wiling to overlook the 'possibility' that these things could be harmful? You won't even demand actual, tangible proof (which respectfully would mean 50 years of controlled testing for accurate results)? You're basically saying you don't give a fart about the lives of the future. Why should you though, right? You'll be dead. It won't effect you. You'll have lived your life and nothing else matters. Good luck to your families and friends, your grand children and those of your friends. They need it!

Rex Peterson's picture

Cigany 1985 have you considered autoimmune diseases for you personal diagnosis?

Cigany1985's picture

Why yes, yes I have.. Nothing wrong there either.. Immune system is fully functional and happy as ever!

YK's picture

What is the GMO labeling?

Rex Peterson's picture

Thank you for your answer. It appears that related comments have been added to this stream that were posted before the answer.