The American Association for the Advancement of Science has recently released a policy statement on mandatory labeling of foods that are produced with GMO crops. Here’s the policy statement from the AAAS, one of the world’s largest scientific organizations:
Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods
The position that has been adopted by the AAAS is that GMO crops are not a major risk and that the foods produced from them are safe for human consumption, hence there is no need for labeling of GMO foods. I agree with the first part of the statement – the vast majority of the research done to date does indeed suggest that both GMO crops and the foods produced from them are safe. However, I must disagree with the organization’s stance on the labeling of GMO foods.
While the science is clear on the matter of GMO foods, consumers do have a right to know about the foods that they are purchasing. This ability to choose based on one’s personal philosophy is a fundamental component of a democratic society. What is wrong with a label that states the following?
This product may contain GMO crops.
Such a label would enable consumers to make an informed personal choice. This type of label can be found right now on food products where multiple plant oils (soybean and/or canola and/or sunflower) are listed in the production of certain processed foods. The type of oil(s) actually used in the product depends on availability and price of the oil and the label covers all of the possibilities. One complaint from manufacturers and processors of food products is that it’s difficult to track the origin of the crops used in production and whether they are GMO or not, or if mixed GMO and non-GMO crops are used. But if the manufacturer is unsure or when mixed sources are used, then just use the label stating that it may contain GMO crops. This should not be a government-mandated labeling requirement but a courtesy to the consumer that is voluntarily adopted by the manufacturers and processors.
When it is known and certifiable that a food or food product is free from GMO crops, then the following label can be used:
Does not contain GMO crops.
That was simple enough.