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Why is a Major Food Advocacy Group Against Labeling GMOs?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

You may have noticed the impressive grassroots movement gathering steam lately over the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. Recently, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to enact a law to require such labels, and 26 other states have introduced similar bills this year. Millions of Americans are demanding more transparency in the food supply and our elected officials are finally responding, after decades of work by groups like Center for Food Safety (CFS).

But one advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), often seen as a leader in nutrition policy, stands virtually alone in its continued opposition to labeling GE foods. This stance is troubling and confusing given how outspoken CSPI has been for decades on food labeling and consumer information.

CSPI's position, explained in this recent news interview, boils down to three claims:

GE foods do not present either safety or nutrition concerns;  Processed GE foods do not contain genetically-engineered material;  Non-GE labels are "misleading" because they imply a safer or superior food.

Let's take these one by one.

GE Food Safety is an Open Question

First, CSPI claims that genetically engineered food labeling is "not a food safety or a nutritional issue-it's not like allergens or trans fats."

This is a pretty bold statement to make given how little information is available on the safety of GE foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require or conduct safety studies on GE foods, nor does it approve GE foods as safe. Instead, there is only confidential consultation between industry and FDA, where GE food developers decide what summary information to provide the agency; and even that is voluntary. So we are essentially taking the biotech industry's word that GE food is not hazardous. CSPI itself acknowledges that the government isn't doing its job, calling on FDA to "require a mandatory pre-market approval process" and "formally approve that the crop is safe for human and animal consumption." How can CSPI on the one hand admit we need more rigorous oversight, while on the other claim there is no safety issue?

Further, while obviously no substitute for adequate food safety oversight, mandatory labeling of GE foods will allow the detection of adverse health effects of consuming such foods. Without labeling, anyone who gets sick from eating a GE food has no way of identifying the cause.   

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