The GMO labeling debate is not going away. And it is almost certain that the food industry’s efforts to stop GMO labeling attempts by consumer groups is a bad public relations move.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider GMOs unsafe, and does not require products containing them to be labeled. But there is a clear gap between what most scientists think about GMO safety and public perception, as a raft of recent surveys prove. (Most recently, a survey published by the Pew Research Center revealed that while almost 90 percent of scientists surveyed thought that GMOs were safe to eat, only about 37 percent of the public agreed).

Tom Zeller, Jr. (@tomzellerjr) reports for Aljazeera America. This is a definitive piece summarizing the labeling debate from a variety of perspectives. Read the full piece here.


“Despite two decades of assurances from biotechnology firms, food processors, federal regulators and even a substantial share of scientists that GMO foods are safe, ballot initiatives and citizen petitions seeking labels on GMO foods are springing up as quickly as the industry can pay — or sue — to defeat them. Meanwhile, sales of foods labeled GMO-free have been steadily gaining ground on consumer shopping lists, and polls suggest that more Americans than ever favor labels that identify GMO foods.

This has even some supporters of genetic engineering wondering if it’s time to rethink the labeling question. “If you give people a choice and value, that wins,” said David Ropeik, a risk-communication consultant. He has begun calling on the industry to let go of its “fear of fear” and embrace GMO labeling, which is required in at least 64 other nations, including Japan, Australia, Russia, Brazil and more than a dozen European countries.”


There are other perspectives on the issue, including the one held by Duane Grant, who told Zeller:


“To allow popular perception of harm — or benefit — to be the basis for mandatory labeling would not result in food being safer,” he argued. “It would result in the scientific community being pushed to the sidelines in favor of food-fad-of-the-day mob regulation.”


Related Links:

Vilsack: Smartphones could help resolve GMO labeling debate

The gap: what scientists know and what the public thinks