Report: U.S. doesn't need mandatory GMO labeling

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 28, 2014 - A new report from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) used public polling, food safety and testing data and philosophical and legal evaluations to determine that mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) food would increase food costs and have “negative implications” for First Amendment rights.

Lets Talk Food

The report also concludes there is no science-based reason to single out genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for labeling and finds that GMOs are safe for human consumption.

CAST says the report is response to “seemingly contradictory” studies on labeling, some of which are funded by groups with stakes in the debate. The paper's authors call for a renewed dialogue on GMO issues, which would include a reenergized push for independent and fact-based studies on the issue.

“Independent objective information on the scientific issues and the possible legal and economic consequences of mandatory GE food labels need to be provided to legislators and consumers…to help move the national discussion from contentious claims to a more fact-based and informed dialog,” the authors write.

Though the report does not present an estimate for the costs of mandatory food labels, it finds that costs would vary widely depending on how food manufacturers respond to a hypothetical labeling rule from the FDA. Companies could choose to simply label their products and keep their formulas as they are now - that's the least expensive option. But firms could also decide to change their products to avoid labels, shifting away from GMO ingredients and changing well-established sourcing and supply chains.

The report also touches upon state mandatory labeling laws, just as Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is poised to sign the country's first mandatory GM label law this week. (Connecticut and Maine have passed laws that would mandate labeling in their states only if four contiguous states created similar legislation.)

“[S]tate mandatory labeling laws may be invalidated for conflicting with preemptive federal authority and may also violate First Amendment rights,” the report's authors write. But courts that invalidate state laws will be viewed as hostile to consumers' wishes. “Litigation seems a likely outcome,” the report concludes - an assertion borne out by recent statements from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which has said it will attempt to reverse Vermont's law in court.

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