Since genetically-modified (GM/GMO) crops came onto the market, there’s been a lot of debate about whether foods containing ingredients from GM crops should be labeled. Some people believe it’s a right-to-know issue, and all products containing ingredients from GM crops should be labeled as such. Others believe that since there’s no difference between GM and non-GM ingredients, labeling shouldn’t be required.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees food labeling in the United States. The FDA has found there is no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by biotechnology present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. As such, the FDA does not require food derived from biotech crops be labeled differently from other food products, unless the modification results in a meaningful difference, such as changing the compositional or nutritional profile of the food. In that case, the meaningful difference would need to be reflected in the description of the food.
Some might ask what the harm would be in requiring the labeling of products. U.S. labeling laws are based on health and safety. Requiring labeling for ingredients that don’t pose a health issue would undermine both our labeling laws and consumer confidence. Ensuring that such labeling is accurate would also put a huge burden on regulatory agencies.
A better question might be: What would be the benefits of labeling products containing GM ingredients? Individuals who make a personal decision not to consume food containing GM ingredients can easily avoid such products. In the U.S., they can purchase products that are certified as organic under the National Organic Program. They can also buy products which companies have voluntarily labeled as not containing GM ingredients. The law allows for voluntary labeling so long as the information is accurate, truthful and avoids misleading consumers about the food. Monsanto supports both options.
Mandatory labeling of food containing GM ingredients might seem like a no-brainer. However, once you consider the facts, it becomes clear there is no sense in mandatory GMO labeling.
Last Reviewed: 01/25/2012