QHow long does it take for a GMO to be approved and able to use?

How long does it take for a GMO to be approved and able to use?

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QCan you please explain the safety debate of gmo? can you please discuss the labeling controversy?

Can you please explain the safety debate of gmo? can you please discuss the labeling controversy?

AExpert Answer

GMOs are safe. In fact, according to this response, “the overwhelming consensus of scientific experts and major scientific authorities around the world, including the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the American Medical Association have ruled that GMOs are safe.”


In the spring of 2016, The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) issued a comprehensive report where a panel of more than 20 scientists, researchers, agricultural and industry experts reviewed over 20 years of data since GMOs were introduced, including nearly 900 studies and tests and European and North American health data. They concluded – as other previous research concluded – that genetically modified crops are safe to eat, have the same nutrition and composition as non-genetically modified crops and have no links to new allergies, cancer, celiac or other diseases.


Extensive and continued studies on GMOs are being conducted to ensure their ongoing safety. In addition to the NAS analysis, there are thousands of studies available confirming the safety of GMOs, as well as hundreds of independent studies.”


Bruce Chassy, Professor Emeritus of Food Safety and Nutritional Sciences, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explains the longest study done on how GMOs affect the longevity and overall health of human beings in his response here.


We also invite you to check out the full response which provides more information about GMO safety.


The topic of labeling can be discussed in many different ways. We hope the below information on labeling GM food addresses your question.


The issue of GMO labeling, the consumer choice and logistical impacts of labeling genetically engineered food is discussed in this response.


Scott Kohne, NAFTA market acceptance manager for the Seeds Unit at Bayer, explains the difference between labeling in different countries vs. labeling GMO products in the U.S. Read his full response here.


“Foods being produced or packaged in the U.S. and exported to those countries that do have GMO labeling requirements would need to comply with the specific labeling requirements for that country. There are different requirements for many of these countries, which creates additional costs and complexities for both the food manufacturer and exporter and for consumers in that country. Remember that these GMO products are regulated in many countries and a part of the regulatory approval process is the evaluation of the safety and nutritional facts of the GMO product – the same evaluation as conducted in the U.S.”


Lisa Katic, president of K Consulting, explains the rationale for the FDA labeling policy of GM food in her response here.


Kate Hall, former managing director for the Council for Biotechnology Information, also addresses how labeling of GMOs would affect the consumer and the producers in this response.


Several other experts have addressed the issue of GMO labeling in previous responses. Read some of their responses here


By • January 31, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an opinion piece in U.S. News & World Report by former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on the issue of misleading food labeling

For the food industry, 2017 was the year of the label. Whether 'non-GMO' or 'no high fructose corn syrup', 'no added hormones' or 'gluten free,' consumers are increasingly demanding more information about what's in their food.

A report last fall by Nielsen found that 39 percent of consumers would switch from the brands they currently buy to others that provide clearer, more accurate product information. Additionally, 73 percent reported feeling positively about brands that share the "why behind the buy" information about their products.

On its face, it makes sense. If consumers say they want transparency, tell them exactly what is in your product. That is simply supplying a certain demand.

But the marketing strategy in response to this consumer demand has gone beyond articulating what is in a product, to labeling what is NOT in the food. And this is where "simple" supply and demand is no longer simple. So-called "absence claims" labels – those that arbitrarily tell a consumer what isn't in a product, rather than what is – represent an emerging labeling trend that is harmful both to the consumers who purchase the products and the industry that supplies them.

For example, Hunt's put a "non-GMO" label on its canned crushed tomatoes a few years ago – despite the fact that at the time there was no such thing as a GMO tomato on the market. There still isn't today, yet the label remains. Some dairy companies are using the "non-GMO" label on their milk, despite the fact that all milk is naturally GMO-free, regardless of the type of feed given to the cows that produce it. In addition, the "no added hormones" label has become de rigueur within the poultry industry, even though federal law already makes it illegal to sell poultry in the U.S. that was raised with added hormones.

While creating labels that play on consumer fears and misconceptions about their food may give a company a temporary marketing advantage over competitive products on the grocery aisle, thereby boosting the bottom line, long term this kind of ploy will have just the opposite effect: by injecting fear-mongering into the discourse about our food, we run the risk of eroding consumer trust in not just a single product, but the entire food business.

Click here to read the entire commentary

By • January 05, 2018

The following is a blog post by GMO Answers Expert Wayne Parrott at the Processed Food Site about the potential downsides of non-GMO labeling. 

One day while walking home some 60 years ago, my uncle was approached by a street vendor, who explained that a fine boy like him could surely use a wrist watch.  He proceeded to show him his assortment of watches.  “Why are they so pricey?” asked my uncle.  “Because these have no jewels, unlike the ones the stores sell,” replied the salesman.   The explanation was good enough for my uncle, who went home, found his savings, and went back for the watch.  The excited boy then ran home to show off his purchase, “And I was even able to get one without jewels,” he bragged.

Consumers who still appreciate a fine mechanical watch over a digital version are undoubtedly familiar with the concept of jewels- namely bearings made out of ruby—that improve the function and longevity of watches.  And, as this ad from 1933 attests, the more jewels used in a watch, the greater its price.  Jewels make for a fine watch.

As my uncle’s misadventure shows, marketers have learned to never underestimate the power of claiming superiority due to the absence of something.  Nowhere is this trend more evident today than in the popularity of ‘-free’ labels, which have skyrocketed in the food industry.  Food singled out by its lack of given ingredients (artificial dyes, transfats, gluten, high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, preservatives, etc) are eagerly snatched up by consumers.  Most do so out of a conviction that these are healthier products.  A small number of these consumers even like to feel smug about it.  We’ve all met someone like that at one time or another.


Perhaps the most popular ‘-free’ label today is the GMO-free or non-GMO label.  However, are GMO-free products truly superior, or are they marketing ploys like a jewel-free watch?  Consider these questions:

  • What is a GMO? Most consumers admit they really do not know what a GMO is. In its current use, GMO (genetically modified organism) has no biological meaning, because both nature and humans have been genetically modifying our food for 1000s of years. Instead, GMO has become a legal term that describes how the latest modification was done, and says nothing about the type of modification made.
  • What makes a GMO product different?   GMO refers to a process, not a product.  GMO is not an ingredient.
  • But, is it safe? Yes, they are as safe as non-GMO foods.  Although there is no reason to single-out GMO foods for extra regulation, the precautionary nature of the regulatory system ensures they get extensive testing, while conventional food gets almost none.  Furthermore, because of our global economy, many other countries & groups, such as Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, and the European Union, repeat or review the safety assessments, meaning there is lots of redundancy in the safety system.  Nevertheless, there are always claims of harm from GMO foods.  Not one of these claims has stood up to close examination.
  • Is there an upside? Yes, there are several. GMO crops have been particularly efficient at increasing sustainability and decreasing the agriculture’s footprint on the environment. GMOs reduce losses from agricultural pests and decreasing the amount of insecticides used.  Other GMO crops have made it easier to implement farming practices that protect the soil from erosion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Returning to my uncle’s watch, more than sixty years later, the rest of family has not let my uncle forget his misadventure, and retell the tale at all family gatherings.  The tale is retold with particularly glee if the youngest generation is present, thus ensuring that they can retell the tale to future generations.  Sixty years from now, will people make fun of today’s aversion to GMOs?  I sure hope so.  So, the next time you see a non-GMO label, do not fall for the marketing ploy.  Like watches without jewels, being free from something does not automatically mean “better.”

Dr. Wayne Parrott is a Professor of Crop and Soil Science at the University of Georgia. His lab research focuses on molecular breeding with an emphasis on soybeans, switchgrass and white clover. He is a member of the university’s Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics. Wayne was recently recognized as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was selected for this prestigious award “for distinguished contributions to the development and implementation of plant transformation technologies and to the discussions of the science and regulatory processes associated with genetically modified organisms.” Perhaps no one in the world has been a more ardent defender of and advocate for genetically modifying agricultural crops for a more bountiful, nutritious and sustainable food supply.

To read the original post, please visit the Processed Food Site. 

By • January 05, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an interview between the advocacy group Food Tank and university professor and agriculture economist Jayson Lusk about a variety of food issues. 

Food Tank (FT): What motivated you to step outside of the halls of academia and bring your analyses and criticisms of policy proposals like soda taxes, vegetable subsidies, and GMO labeling to the popular media?

Jayson Lusk (JL): Having grown up around people involved in production agriculture and working with the scientists who bring new food and agricultural technologies to life, my sense was that the public could use a broader perspective about how and why we grow food the way we do. Popular media portraits of the state of food and agriculture often paint selective and sensational pictures of the state of modern agriculture. My economic training also made me skeptical of the effectiveness of many of the policies that had become fashionable.

I don’t think I’ve ever argued that our current agricultural production system doesn’t face challenges, rather one needs to understand the tradeoffs and consequences of attempts to move away from our current system and consider whether the policies being proposed will actually create the outcomes people want. So, my main motivation is to provide information to help consumers, farmers, agribusinesses, and policy makers make decisions that will lead to a prosperous food future.

FT: The U.S. Food system currently fails to satisfy the basic needs of some consumers. What interventions do you think are most efficiently correcting this deficit and who is driving them?

JL: I’m not sure I agree with the premise of the question. Our food system feeds more people, more affordably, with more variety, and more nutritiously than has any other food system in human history. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Some people, even in rich countries like the U.S., go hungry, and many farmers cannot turn a profit. We have a variety of policies that attempt to address those problems with varying degrees of success. The research suggests the SNAP program, for example, is largely successful in achieving its goal of improving food security.

To read the entire interview, please visit the Food Tank website

By • December 07, 2017

The following is an excerpt of an article in the Financial Times about the global acceptance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Genetically modified crops are continuing to spread across the world’s agricultural land. Last year they covered a record 185m hectares, 3 per cent up on 2015. Experts are anticipating another small increase this year, though the authoritative annual GM survey by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) will not appear until next spring.

These modified crops are still distributed very unevenly. They are found predominantly in the western hemisphere.

The US and Canada are the heartland of biotech crops, while South American countries are adopting them rapidly — especially Brazil, where the GM area grew by 11 per cent to 49m hectares last year. Europe remains steadfast in its opposition to GM food, with just 136,000 hectares cultivated in the EU (0.07 per cent of the global total). While Asia was quick to adopt GM cotton, it too has been reluctant to accept GM foods.

“China has been very slow to approve GM products for many years,” says Erik Fyrwald, chief executive of Syngenta, the Swiss agricultural group that was recently bought by ChemChina. But he sees signs of change: recently, the Chinese government approved imports of some GM crop varieties and Mr Fyrwald expects approvals for cultivation in China to follow. Mr Fyrwald is not optimistic about a change of heart in Europe, however.

“In Europe we are unlikely to see GM crops for many years to come,” he says, because of intense opposition from consumers and environmental groups. “We’re not pushing [genetically modified organisms]. It is not our priority to spend money and effort to try to convince European consumers to encourage their politicians to start accepting GMOs,” Mr Fyrwald says. “We’re better off providing GM technology in countries that want it.”

To read the entire article, please visit the Financial Times

By • December 04, 2017

The following is an excerpt of an article at Ag Daily summarizing six key points about the new food documentary Food Evolution. 

If you have the opportunity to see the documentary “Food Evolution,” do it. It has been the most talked-about food and agriculture film of the year — and rightfully so. The movie examines one of the most important tools in today’s agricultural industry, genetic engineering technology, and shows the emotion and divisiveness created by three small letters: G-M-O.

It’s a movie about the science of farming, and the filmmakers said they approached this project with no preconceptions and with a level playing field in the GMO discussion. After seeing the film Tuesday night during a screening at Ferrum College in Southwest Virginia, I understand why detractors have labeled this as GMO propaganda — truthfully, you can’t be pro-science and avoid being pro-GMO. So yes, the film shows GMOs in a favorable light. It respects science and technology. It would be a disservice to play down the consensus among the scientific community and how widely celebrated genetically engineered traits are for drought tolerance, disease resistance, and the ability to feed the hungriest among us.

I enjoyed this film immensely, as did most of the 100 or so people in attendance at the screening, and it affirmed much of what I understand about biotechnology and agriculture in the modern era. So much has already been said about the movie (just look here and here and here), and because of any perceived or actual confirmation bias I may have, I’m not going to write a review, per se, but I will share six takeaways I have after seeing this film:

  • Food is an emotional issue
  • You have a tribe if you’re pro-GMO
  • It’s cool be an ag nerd

To read the entire article, including details about all six takeways, please visit the Ag Daily website

By • November 03, 2017

The following is an excerpt of an opinion piece on by Phil Lempert explaining consumer confusion about the labeling of food that contain ingredients from genetically engineered crops. 

Two new surveys come to the same conclusion: The average American shopper is clueless when it comes to having an understanding of what is a genetically modified organism (GMO).

A new nationally representative Food Literacy and Engagement Poll ― which is part of [email protected], a new initiative based in Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources ― finds more than one-third of Americans do not know that foods with no genetically modified ingredients contain genes. Forty-six percent of poll respondents either don’t know whether they consume GMOs or believe they rarely or never do. The other major surprise in the survey is that most of the people who stated this incorrect answer were young and affluent, and described themselves as having a higher-than-average understanding of the global food system.

Boy, are we in trouble.

Another study that was conducted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Purdue University and was just published in the journal Applied Economics: Perspectives and Policy was designed to examine just how much shoppers might pay for non-GMO foods. The researchers found that “consumers are also confused between food labeled as 'organic' and 'non-genetically modified.'"

While the study, a national survey of 1,132 respondents, found that respondents would pay 35 cents more for apples that were labeled "Non-GMO Project" and 40 cents more for those labeled "USDA Organic," there was a frightening finding: When it came to granola bars, the same respondents were willing to pay 35 cents more for a box of 12 bars that were labeled "Non-GMO Project" and 9 cents more for a box marked "USDA Organic."

As the University of Florida wrote about the study, "genetically modified material is not allowed in food labeled 'USDA Organic,' while 'Non-GMO Project' means the food has no more than 0.9% GM characteristics."

While one could argue the sample size is small, it points out that people don’t read labels carefully and may not be able to distinguish between labels.

To read the entire article, please visit

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