Genetically engineered food labeling examined in new paper

April 29, 2014 by Pat Bailey, UC Davis

(Medical Xpress)—As consumers and legislators across the nation grapple with whether to require labeling of genetically engineered foods and food products, a new "issues paper" addressing that topic is being released today by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technologies (CAST).

The paper, titled "The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Foods in the United States," examines the scientific, legal and economic ramifications of requiring that food containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled as such.

It comes on the heels of the April 23 passage by the Vermont legislature of a bill that would make that state the first to mandate of "GMO" or genetically engineered foods.

Lead author on the paper is Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist and Cooperative Extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis.

"Mandating process-based food labeling is a very complex topic with nuanced marketing, economic and trade implications depending upon how the labeling laws are written and how the market responds," Van Eenennaam said.

Co-authors on the paper are Bruce M. Chassy, a food science professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, an economics professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia; and lawyer Thomas P. Redick from Global Environmental Ethics Counsel, LLC.

Noting that such labeling would be based not on differences in the content of the crop or food product but on the way it was produced, Van Eenennaam and her co-authors conclude that there is no scientific reason for singling out the process of genetic engineering for mandatory process-based labeling.

They maintain that voluntary labeling programs, such as the Non-GMO Project, motivated by market influences rather than government regulation, currently provide interested consumers with the choice to select non-genetically engineered foods in the United States.

They suggest that state-based labeling laws may run into legal challenges related to interstate commerce, international trade, federal authority over food labeling and First Amendment protection of "commercial speech."

In terms of economics, they project that mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods would increase U.S. food costs. Just how much food prices might rise would depend on how food manufacturers and retailers respond to mandatory labeling.

The authors project that the impact on food prices would be substantial if processors decide to switch to non-GMO ingredients to avoid labeling requirements, as has been the case in other countries following the introduction of mandatory GE labeling. The cost increases would be less if processors instead opt to label all of their as containing ingredients.

The paper concludes with a call for more independent, objective information to be provided to consumers and legislators on the scientific issues, legal ramifications and economic consequences of mandatory labeling, especially in states that now have labeling initiatives on the ballot.

"This would help to move the national discussion on mandatory GE labeling from contentious claims and counterclaims to a more fact-based and informed dialog," Van Eenennaam said.

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technologies (CAST) is a nonprofit organization composed of scientific societies and individual student, company, nonprofit and associate society members. CAST assembles, interprets and communicates credible science-based information using volunteer scientific experts as authors and reviewers. That information is then made freely available to legislators, regulators, policymakers, media, the private sector and the public on the organization's website at www.cast-science.org.

Explore further: US cos. push voluntary labels on modified foods

Related Stories

US cos. push voluntary labels on modified foods

February 6, 2014
America's large food companies are trying to head off efforts to enact mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients by proposing new voluntary labels nationwide.

Vermont moves toward labeling of GMO foods (Update)

April 24, 2014
Vermont lawmakers have passed the first U.S. state bill to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, underscoring a division between powerful lobbyists for the U.S. food industry and an American public that overwhelmingly ...

States weighing labels on genetically altered food (Update)

January 22, 2014
In the absence of federal regulation, American state governments are considering laws to require labels on food items containing genetically modified ingredients.

Farm bill: Senate rejects GMO labeling amendment

May 23, 2013
The Senate has overwhelmingly rejected an amendment allowing states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Battle over GMO labeling rumbling in US

January 5, 2014
A GMO labeling battle is rumbling in the United States, with those demanding full disclosure of genetically modified organisms in food products pitted against big companies.

Labeling of genetically engineered foods: Proposition language raises legal issues

November 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—California's ballot initiative that proposes to require labeling of genetically engineered foods raises important legal and policy issues that could take years to resolve through the courts and other means, ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.