Expert response from Cathleen Enright
Former Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information
Thursday, 01/08/2013 14:29
We agree with you completely—let the market decide. Efforts to pass laws that require labeling of any foods, including those made with GMOs, are inconsistent with the market's “dictating what it wants.” Rather, it’s using the legislative process to try to gain an advantage in the marketplace.
We are often accused of being against labeling. We are not. If any food, including GM food, presented a safety risk to a certain population—for example, those allergic to a food ingredient—we most certainly would support a mandatory label on that food alerting consumers to this concern. But this is simply not the case. There is no 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 by the global scientific community.
We support the right of consumers to choose food that is healthy and nutritious. As believers in GM technology, and having seen the benefits accrue to farmers and society alike (check out "GMOs and the Future of Agriculture"), we cannot support a label that conveys to consumers that food made from farmers’ crops grown with our seeds is less safe or nutritious than or different from conventional or organic food. We believe a government requirement to label a food “GM” would do just this.
We also recognize that GM technology is but one tool that will be needed to feed a burgeoning population using less land and fewer resources in the face of increasingly severe weather. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that by 2050, we will need to double our current agricultural production, and 70 percent of this increase will need to come from new, efficient technologies. In this regard, we support any agricultural production method that will help us to achieve global food security by 2050. You will never see us oppose organic farming, for example.
Returning to your question on labeling and letting the market decide, we support voluntary, market-based labeling to promote one type of product over another, including labels for the presence or absence of GM ingredients. Currently, for consumers who wish to choose food that does not contain GM ingredients, marketing labels such as “USDA Organic” are being used by food companies to meet their consumers' demand.