Expert response from Cathleen Enright
Former Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information
Tuesday, 06/05/2014 11:09
Could I begin by describing the labeling we support? When it comes to safeguarding your health and nutrition, we support the mandatory labeling of food, including GM food, if it raises a safety or health concern, for example, to alert sensitive populations to the potential presence of an allergen. We also support mandatory labeling of GM food if there is a change to the food’s composition, nutritional profile, taste or smell, or any other characteristic that would make it different from its conventional counterpart.
But we cannot support the mandatory labeling of GM food just because the food in the market was produced using genetic engineering, for example, in wine, yogurt or bread made with GM yeast, vegetable oil made from GM soybeans, or cereal sweetened with GM sugar. These foods are as safe and nutritious as their non-GMO counterparts as determined by recognized authorities around the world including the American Medical Association, the US National Academy of Science, the World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Their safety has also been affirmed globally by food safety regulatory authorities including in the European Union, which comes as a surprise to some who mistakenly believe that GMOs are banned by the European Union. Why then, should GM foods deserve a special label?
Some of those promoting mandatory labeling of GM foods want to use it as warning to consumers not to buy such foods. I’ve heard a variety of reasons including to increase market share for non GM foods, to make a stand against large agricultural companies, and to oppose current US agricultural policies. For those who just want to know how their food is grown, we absolutely support the right to know. It’s one of the reasons we created the GMO Answers initiative in 2013 and why we support companies’ right to make voluntary marketing claims about the presence or absence of GMOs promote and differentiate their products. For those who want to avoid GMOs, they can look for the USDA Certified Organic or a non-GMO label.