US consumers, like others, would prefer NOT to buy or consume genetically modified food

Consumer research consistently indicates that US consumers, like others, would prefer NOT to buy or consume genetically modified food (variously called GM, GMO, GE or biotech food by official sources and "FrankenFood" by many health advocates).

The US FDA believes that consumers would "make the wrong choice" (that is, NOT buy genetically modified foods in favor of natural ones) if they had the information necessary to make that decision. Therefore, the FDA policy is to deny consumers access to accurate information about genetically modified foods since labeling such foods accurately, they say, would be "false and misleading". The FDA maintains that genetically modified foods are safe although the US FDA does not carry out or review any safety data on genetically modified foods. The US FDA does not require safety testing, conducts no safety testing, does not examine documentation of any safety testing for these foods. Instead, it relies solely upon the assertion of the patent owner (the company that wants to market the GM food) that the product is safe for human or animal consumption and poses no threat to the environment.

If GM food has the same sensory characteristics as natural food, the FDA will grant a "Certificate of Equivalency" which has no safety assurance associated with it whatsoever. If GM food is "substantially different" from natural food, that difference will be labeled, but the fact that the difference arises from genetic modification is not labeled.

The US FDA regulates advertising/labeling claims and can removes products and devices it believes are unsafe or dangerous from the market and does so regularly. In the matter of genetically modified foods, the FDA policy is different since it takes no responsibility for food safety assurance in these products. It also pursues a policy which shifts questions of safety (and hence liability) for marketing unsafe foods to the the courts although in other areas, it makes efforts to determine safety of food, drugs and devices before they are put on the market, and thereafter, as well. This judicial determination is rendered, in my opinion, meaningless if there is no way of tracking whether GM foods have been consumed because of absent food labeling.

The US Delegate to the recent Working Group on Genetically Modified Foods (Feb. 6-7, 2007, Oslo) stated that the FDA could not compel companies to "say things on their labels that they did not want to say" because of "First Amendment Issues" despite the fact that the FDA regularly compels companies to add or remove language which the FDA feels is appropriate.

Rima E. Laibow, MD Medical Director


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