Eckin's picture
Why is it, that with the vast insurmountable demand, consumers have not been simply given what they ask for. "GMO LABELING" so that they can have the freedom you would expect in a free country to choose. And why would the industry not also "Respect those decisions".? isnt a consumers desire to know respectable? if it is Make it Feasable and make it so.

A:Expert Answer

Some consumers wish to avoid foods with genetically engineered ingredients, so food producers have increasingly responded to this market demand by labeling food products that do not contain them. There are many thousands of voluntarily labeled, non-GE foods available in grocery stores throughout the country, in stores as varied as Whole Foods Markets and Walmart. From just 2000 to 2009, nearly 7,000 new food and beverage products were introduced in the United States with explicit non-GE labeling. And those numbers continue to grow.


In addition, groups ranging from Greenpeace to the Organic Consumers Association to the Non-GMO Project have created websites, print pocket guides, and even smart phone apps that help shoppers identify “GE-free” products. And certified organic foods may not be produced with genetically engineered ingredients. So, in cases where a “GE-free” labeled product is unavailable, shoppers can choose certified organic products instead. In short, consumers have at their disposal an abundance of information directing them to affirmatively labeled non-GE products and providing ample choice in the marketplace.


Countless scientific organizations agree that foods that contain GE ingredients are no less safe, no less nutritious and no less healthy than foods that do not. In fact, in some cases, GE ingredients have been shown to be safer, more nutritious or both, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require blanket labeling of all GE ingredients. The FDA’s policy requires specific labeling if, and only if, the composition of those foods differs significantly from that of their conventional counterparts. Material differences would include, among other things, the introduction of an allergen that is not present in the new variety’s conventional counterpart, a reduction or increase in nutrients or even a change in the product’s taste, smell, texture or expected storage or preparation characteristics.


Most importantly, FDA policy requires that the change itself must be identified on labels, not the breeding method used. After all, if you want to alert consumers to the presence of a potential allergen, or to a tomato that contains more or less vitamin C, saying only that genetic engineering was used to develop the plant or animal variety conveys no useful information. Many consumers are unaware of the FDA’s current labeling policy, but when they are told about it, one finds broad support. In a series of polls commissioned by the International Food Information Council, respondents were first read a summary of the FDA policy and then asked their opinion. In every one of the 17 surveys, conducted between 1997 and 2013, a majority of respondents agreed with the FDA’s approach.


Some GE labeling advocates say they have a right to know what’s in their food. But genetic engineering is not a thing that’s in the food. It is simply one of many breeding methods used to modify plants and animals at the genetic level. The very purpose of all breeding is to modify an organism’s genetic composition and expression, in turn changing the food product’s characteristics. So, even if consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, the FDA’s current policy is better at supplying that information than a label simply saying “Genetically Engineered.”


Eckin's picture

Isnt it true that part of the product of GMO foods is (or could be considered) pesticide?
I think at the least any food product as such should be labeled Round up Ready. I am not supportive of round up or any other chemical pesticide not proven safe at consumable levels

Florida Corn Man's picture

Discussions of labelling GMO foods remind me of the days when we used to label water fountains. The same issues apply to both situations: the unknown, the fear of unknown and hate groups that take advantage of this and stir the pot..

The truth of the matter is GMO foods are as safe if not safer than other foods. Tests performed on GMO foods are much more rigorous than the tests on conventional foods. Everyone knows this and the vast majority of people accept the safety of GMO foods. The not-so-hidden real agenda here of the fringe groups is to reduce sales of GMO food. But the larger question is why should people who do not share the bigotries of a few or do not have the financial interests of the few have to pay for a label they neither want nor care about?

Freedom to know does not come without a price nor is it some sort of an inalienable right. What if I didn't like some manufacturer of farm equipment. Do I have the right to know which company manufactured the farm equipment used to produce this crop? Shouldn't food be labeled with the name of the farm equipment used to produce the food? This makes as much sense as labelling GMO foods.

Rickinreallife's picture

One thing, I think it is getting tougher to define what is meant by "GMO". ["GM Foods Grow Up"]. Much of the fear of biotech and push for labeling is based on outdated perceptions of how genetic engineering is accomplished, that the process tinkers with infinite complexity that we really don't understand, and who is practicing and controlling that process.

Eckin's picture

Such lack of skepticism, is alarming, this considering the vast majority of information published is no more than a pile of hogwash once filtered by the propaganda machines that so readily supply the makers with whatever they propose to purport. Fact such as you say are nothing more than cheap performances of man. Real facts are born in the aftermath of experimentation and only relative to any subject.

Rickinreallife's picture

I cannot fault any person for questioning the safety of a food derived from a plant whose genetic endowment had been tinkered with to enable it to produce a substance that was toxic to insects. It entered my mind as well when I first heard of bt crops years ago how we could be certain that a food that created its own insecticide wouldn't adversely affect those eating it, man or animal.

However, I think there is good to have a health dose of skepticism all around and not give in to scaremongering. What is eye opening to me is that even if no synthetic pesticides were ever used, and genetic engineering were never invented, we would still routinely ingest a smorgasbord of insecticides, bt being among them. If you want to scare yourself, read the following article describing the naturally occuring pesticides and toxics you are likely to consume in your Thanksgiving meal. As the article points out, rats fed enough of these food items or the chemicals directly develop cancers and other problems. [Consumer's Guide To Natural Toxicants In Foods]. The article further points out that our exposure to these naturally occuring chemicals is about 10,000 times the level of exposure to synthentic chemicals (bt is not a synthetic chemical). Thus, I hope that I am also free to exercise skepticism, for instance, whether Seralini found a cancer danger in bt corn, or whether it is something that I need to be concerned about. After all, similar results have been obtained when feeding rats a number of common food items.

Many natural toxins and carcinogens present in food is elevated when plants face stresses during their growth, i.e. insects, weeds, injury, drought, etc. One benefit of bt crops is that if they reduce stress due to insect injury, they likely reduce the levels of mycotoxins that would otherwise result as a response to the insect stress, and mycotoxins are as bad or worse for your health as anything man has devised.

Skepticism in terms of questioning and holding people accountable, yes. Skepticism in terms of abandoning all perspective regarding risk, no.

Community Manager's picture

@Eckin – You’re referring to what are called Plant Incorporated Protectants, aka PIPs. The EPA does regulate the pesticidal protein, the PIP, in these products, though not the plant itself. Extensive testing is conducted to ensure they are safe for human consumption. The label on the seed bag informs the farmer what product, or trait, s/he is purchasing, as well as requirements for proper product usage, including insect-resistance management.

Below is an excerpt from EPA’s website explaining briefly what PIPs are and what EPA tests for before allowing the product to be registered. Here is a link to the relevant section on the EPA’s website:

“Plant-incorporated protectants are pesticidal substances produced by plants and the genetic material necessary for the plant to produce the substance. For example, scientists can take the gene for a specific Bt pesticidal protein, and introduce the gene into the plant's genetic material. Then the plant manufactures the pesticidal protein that controls the pest when it feeds on the plant. Both the protein and its genetic material are regulated by EPA; the plant itself is not regulated.

Before EPA can register a pesticide there must be sufficient data demonstrating that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment when used according to label directions. When assessing the potential risks of genetically engineered plant-incorporated protectants, EPA requires extensive studies examining numerous factors, such as risks to human health, nontarget organisms and the environment, potential for gene flow, and the need for insect resistance management plans.”

And, I completely concur with @Rickinreallife. Be skeptical, and please let us know if you have additional questions.

Florida Corn Man's picture

What people fail to realize is that conventional plants produce their own pesticides. Plants can't move to avoid a danger so evolutionary pressure has led to a whole host of plant responses to pathogens. One of the most interesting one is the ability of plants to produce cyanides (that's right, the chemical that kills people) in response to chewing insects. There is a huge literature on these types of defense mechanisms.

JPeaceGreen green's picture

I there is such a high demand for a label for people to avoid GMO, you should see lots of voluntary -'contains no GMO'. One way to meet the demand in this question would be to legislate all non-GMO foods be labeled as such. I prefer voluntary solutions personally.