Argument: Labels wrongly imply that GM foods are unsafe

Issue Report: Mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods


Erica Martenson. “The benefits of labeling genetically-modified foods.” Napa Valley Register. January 01, 2008: “Requiring labeling for ingredients that don’t pose a health issue would undermine both our labeling laws and consumer confidence.”

“Genetically Modified Foods: Mandatory Labeling and the Specter of Fear.”: “The crucial term in this determination is the word ‘material.”43 The FDA, in the 1992 Policy Statement, determined that “using techniques such as recombinant DNA techniques’ on plants not to be material.44 It was deemed not to be material because there were no apparent safety issues.45 Usually, the FDA ‘will find labeling information ‘material’ in three general circumstances’ which are: when (1) the product poses ‘special health or environmental risks,’ (2) the product label may mislead the consumer ‘in light of other statements made on the label,’ or (3) the consumer is prone to think that because a certain food has certain similarities to another food that they are the same, when they are in fact not the same.'”

John Eldred, a partner at Keller and Heckman, addressed the Committee on this issue: “The consumer’s need for accurate information is of paramount importance: no one here disputes this fact. What we all should remember is that this need is not a mandate for selective inclusion of label information by individuals or groups that may support or oppose a given technology or ingredient. There is, rather, an ethical and moral imperative to provide full, accurate and non-misleading information that is of real value to consumers….

A simple statement regarding the presence of genetically modified components, delivered out of context and without appropriate elaboration, fails this test entirely. Inaccurate and misleading information is worse than no information at all.”[1]

George Misko. “Oppose Mandatory Labeling For Genetically Modified Food Ingredients.” Food & Drug Packaging. July, 1999: “Why is [labeling] proposed? Because the proponents wish to stigmatize those products with a label notice that has the effect of a warning. And stigmatize, such a label will. To cite one example: In the United Kingdom, the popular press has, through a campaign of misinformation, created near-hysteria by slanderously referring to food products containing GMO derivatives as ‘Frankenstein Foods.'”

Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on Biotechnology concluded: “Given our current knowledge about the risks associated with GM foods compared with similar non-GM food products, we see little scientific reason for treating the two differently with respect to labelling requirements. To mandate labelling for potential health risks in GM products alone would promote an inconsistency with no firm scientific justification.”