Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Genetically Modified Meat Could Be Sold Unlabeled

September 19, 2008 02:12 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The U.S. government is considering allowing genetically engineered animals to be sold as food to consumers, but some feel that the lack of labeling could be a health hazard.

What’s on Your Plate?

Americans could soon be consuming fish that has grown unusually fast, or has particularly heart-healthy eggs, thanks to the U.S. government. According to CBS News, federal officials have announced that they will begin “considering industry proposals to sell genetically engineered animals as human food.”

But consumers might not be receptive, despite government backing. A CBS News/New York Times poll in May 2008 “found that 53 percent of Americans said they wouldn't buy genetically altered food.”

At this point, manufacturers are not required by the FDA to label products containing modified ingredients, making it difficult for consumers to avoid them. Already, “more than 90 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is genetically modified” as is “nearly three-quarters of all corn.” In Europe, Japan and Australia, products with genetically modified organisms (GMO) are labeled, but “the U.S. Congress has never even held a vote on the issue,” claiming there is no health risk involved.

The Los Angeles Times explained that there will be FDA guidelines for companies selling animal products with GMO, but some experts are concerned that “the proposed regulations may not go far enough to protect the public” or the environment.

“Animals can’t be treated exactly like drugs,” said Jaydee Hanson of the Center for Food Safety in Washington. “Drugs don’t go out and breed with each other.”

The debate over whether labeling GMO is necessary continues to rage among consumers, agricultural experts and political nonprofit groups. Andrew Kimbrell, also from the Center for Food Safety, said Americans have become “guinea pigs” for GMO. But Calvin College agricultural biotechnology professor David Koejke is researching a book on GMO effects, and feels that “political rhetoric” often “clouds the issue.”

Koejke said, “I think these foods are tested very, very thoroughly, probably more than those that are conventionally bred. I trust the studies. I genuinely believe the foods that are out there are safe.”

Background: GMO Labeling

A 2003 article in Choices magazine discussed “international approaches to labeling genetically modified foods.” In 1996, the United States exported genetically modified tomato puree to Europe for the first time. The product was labeled as genetically engineered, and was popular among British consumers because it was less expensive than “conventional tomato puree.”

But when environmental groups protested the importation of genetically modified soybeans later that year, the EU promptly made GMO labeling mandatory, partly because “in Europe consumers do not necessarily trust scientists.”

The United States considered label requirements a trade hindrance, and other nations continue questioning which labeling approach to take.

Related Topics: Cloned animal meat; GMO smaller yields

Opinion & Analysis: Debate over labeling of GMO


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