Sue Lani Madsen Madsen's picture
Why are companies afraid to proudly label their products as produced using GMO technology? Why the subterfuge?

A:Expert Answer

GMO labeling is a popular topic. You might be interested in reading some expert answers to similar questions posted on the website. Below are several excerpts and links to a few that address your questions.


By Andy Hedgecock, Director, Scientific Affairs, DuPont Pioneer (click here to view full response)


First, I think it’s important to point out that nearly two decades of science and rigorous global review have demonstrated that biotech crops are safe. Therefore, biotech labeling is a question not of safety, but rather of how food is marketed. At DuPont Pioneer, we develop and market seed, both biotech and non-biotech, to meet the unique needs of our farmer customers and the markets they’re serving. As you’ve noted, there already are food marketing programs in place for consumers looking for products grown without the benefit of biotechnology. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Program is probably the most recognized example, but USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service also offers process verification services for companies looking to validate a marketing claim about specific aspects of how a food is grown or processed.


At the end of the day, we believe all labels should be helpful and not misleading for consumers. What I find in the discussions I have is that "helpful" means different things to different people. When it comes to biotechnology, some would find it helpful to know about GM safety, and others are interested in the potential impacts on the environment (including beneficial), perceived corporate control of agriculture or how we make biotech crops and why. In the end, a label will not help answer these questions. But we can. That is why the biotech companies have joined together to create this forum where consumers can ask their questions directly of us―independent scientists, health professionals, farmers and more.



By Neal Van Alfen, Former Dean, College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis (click here to view the full response)


The reason food is not labeled as containing GMOs is that mandatory food labeling is used only to provide information that may be important for consumers to make food choices regarding ingredients known to affect their health.  After many studies and years of experience with consumption of GMOs, there is no credible evidence that there is a health risk associated with eating GMOs.


Is it then fair and reasonable to require mandatory labeling to warn consumers that food contains GMOs when this labeling system is used only when health-risk choices must be made by consumers?  We should not compromise the integrity or credibility of our food-labeling system by requiring a warning, when there is no credible scientific evidence of adverse health effects associated with the consumption of GMOs.


Foods can be and are labeled to help consumers make choices, but such labeling is voluntary. Common examples are kosher and halal labels, which help consumers select or avoid foods based on their belief systems.



By Cathleen Enright, Executive Director of the Council of Biotechnology Information (click here to view the full response)


The United States. 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 GM 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 than, less nutritious than or of inferior quality compared 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 claims about the safety of a product.  Today, you can find voluntary marketing labels, such as "USDA Organic," being used to promote non-GMO foods.



If you have additional responses after reviewing these responses, please ask.


PirateGirl's picture

Sue Lani Madsen Madsen's picture

I checked the link you offered. This appears to be the key statement:

"We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks. Such mandatory labeling could imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts."

Why isn't labeling embraced as an opportunity to tout the benefits? The best defense is a good offense.

jtrav21's picture

Monsanto clearly labels their seed products as GMO or not. Are you referring to food product labeling? Monsanto doesn't produce food products, so how would they label them?

Sue Lani Madsen Madsen's picture

Yes, I am referring to food product labeling. Why oppose food product labeling?

jtrav21's picture

Food companies are not involved in biotechnology or GMO crops. They buy raw ingredients on the market to use in their production.
Here are the statements from the FDA and Monsanto on how they view the need for labeling:

Sue Lani Madsen Madsen's picture

By assuming that labeling will mark products as inferior, Monsanto is nurturing a self-fulfilling prophecy. In any case, health risks (real or perceived) is not the only reason a person may wish to know more about the ingredients of the food they purchase.

The Man Above's picture

Sue, GMO supporters proudly state they support labelling; they repeat this incessantly. Good for them, eh? Gee, what a great spin; it don't mean a thing.

What they don't support is democracy. In a NYT poll, 93% of respondents stated they wanted foods containing GMOs labelled as such.

GMO supporters have to spend countless millions on spin to turn people away from labelling. But they support it, right?