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No Need for Labeling, Just Test GMOs First, Says AMA

About 1 in 4 of the nearly one million physicians in the U.S. still belong to the American Medical Association, but at its 161st House of Delegates meeting in Chicago, the AMA found a way to remain relevant.

It weighed into the policy debate over genetically modified foods, and made both sides mad.  AMA called for mandatory pre-market safety testing for all GMO foods. However, it also supported continued use of genetically engineered ingredients in food and beverage products with no need for labeling GMO products.

Consumer Union’s Michael Hansen commended AMA for coming out for mandatory pre-market safety assessments, but remained disappointed about the group’s stance on labeling. Meanwhile, the Grocery Manufacturers Association immediately put out a statement commending AMA for its continued use of genetically engineered ingredients.

“Today’s action is in line with the position of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and numerous regulatory and scientific bodies that agree that foods and beverages that contain GE ingredients are safe and materially no different than those foods that do not contain GE ingredients,” said the GMA statement.

It’s not clear how the AMA-envisioned mandatory safety assessment would differ from the actual process genetic crops have to follow now — namely the full-blown adherence to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Up until now, federal judges have had more say on the process biotech companies must follow for GMO crops than any lawmakers or FDA and USDA. Federal Judge Jeffrey S. White in San Francisco ordered sugar beets literally torn out of the ground in early 2011 so as to not interfere with the GMO process he’d laid down. The 9th District Court of Appeals overturned that part of Judge White’s rulings.

Before environmental attorneys began winning the process decisions in federal court, biotech companies could get by with going through safety consultations with federal agencies.

For the remainder of the year, labeling of GMO foods is likely to get more attention than the approval process. That’s because California voters in November will be deciding upon a ballot initiative to require mandatory labeling.

Labeling proponents think a victory in California would force the issue on a nationwide basis because food companies would not want to carry the costs of dual labeling.

© Food Safety News
  • http://Logantele Jack

    Why no label? Because they are trying to hide the facts because of big burocratic monies. Like Monsantos who doesn’t mind killing and maiming millions of people for personal gain….$.
    Label these products please!!! You and your kids lives depend on it!!!

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    If it weren’t for California, consumers wouldn’t have much of a break in the US. The federal organizations either won’t do anything, or get stymied by Congress when they do.
    As for the AMA, well, it doesn’t speak for consumers; back to trying to re-invent itself.
    Food corporations, don’t you get it? You’re only fighting against the inevitable.

  • Rob

    Get over your obsession with food corporations, Shelley, in this debate sane people are fighting against the fanatically insane.
    Any intelligent person instantly understands labeling those few foods (maybe 5-10%) that do not contain GMO is the practical approach. You create a premium priced niche market for those consumers who fear modern technology. Plus there is testing to affirm (or expose fraud) among those special foods labeled free from GMO ingredients.
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/05/breakthrough-offers-promise-of-improved-gmo-testing/
    The silly idea of labeling 80 or 90% of all foods with statements of the obvious is wasteful to say the least. Besides, us sane people don’t scare so easily as you alarmists like to think. Modern abundant safe affordable foods are just fine with us.

  • Lynn

    In this day and age of the epidemic crisis of life-threatening food allergies, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer; the public deserves to make an informed choice of the foods we wish to purchase and consume. How can we make an informed choice if they do not label????? It’s our money; we pay for the food and our taxes pay for the FDA and Congress. We have to right to know every single ingredient and HOW our food is processed. Does “We the people” have any meaning anymore????

  • Jane Peters

    It’s no wonder the AMA says genetically engineered organisms are safe. They were giving synthetic estrogens to women for decades and telling everyone it was safe. While in reality it was causing heart attacks and cancer. In other words they’re no experts.

  • Ben Mark

    It’s a good idea to label all products that are GMO free. Consumers would buy them first like Gluten free or MSG free. To say GMO doesn’t harm the humans and animals and also the environment is a lie. There are more then thousand evidences around the world that proof different. Some countries are outlawing the use of GMO crops already, as they had bad experiences. When GMO crops are so harmless why don’t just pure Round-up in your food? Some weeds like the round-up so much, farmers can’t get rid of them anymore.

  • Kimberly T.

    Looks like classic mass hysteria. Rabid anti-technology fanatics have scared themselves stupid. What possible value is there in labeling all food if an ingredient is GMO when you are looking for food without it?
    Conspicuously label only the stuff that doesn’t have it. That makes it obvious to locate on the store shelves and it makes it possible to test and guarantee it really is GMO-free. What good is it to know any one food among thousands “may contain” GMO or MSG or whatever? How can you exercise your right to choose if you can’t find the alternative product in the sea of look alikes?
    Leaders of this mob ought to pause for a breath to clear their heads. They definitely aren’t thinking rationally here.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Rob, if it’s so obvious, then it shouldn’t be difficult to add a small note about GMO products. Make the information explicit as well as “obvious”.
    Fear modern technology? I think it’s more of a case of wanting to know facts in order to make an informed determination. Surely an advocate of “modern technology” such as yourself can understand this.
    And I don’t think a few extra words in the label area is going to cost overmuch to labeling costs. Probably not as much as it’s costing the companies to hire organizations to fight against such labeling.

  • Ben Mark

    Why Genetically Engineered Food is Dangerous: New Report
    By Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson and John Fagan
    Earth Open Source, June 14, 2012
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_25655.cfm

  • Linda

    The bottom line is that we have the right to know what we are eating.

  • Nathan

    It is obvious that we are going to be dealing with some sort of law that forces companies to label GMO. It is sad that we are removing this arrow from the quiver. Humans are unique in that we do have the ability to select on genetic basis, hybridize plants, and now make selective genetic modification. This has been happening since ancient Egypt, when we first starting selecting and populating only certain types of wheatgrass.
    At this point we do have the option to choose GMO free, by looking for the GMO free label, or buying organic (yes I know there is a technicality in NOP). But overall these are the choices we can make now. Implementing GMO labeling requirements, will hurt the poor & indigent the most because YES foodstuffs will become more expensize.

  • Ellen VanE.

    Crusading technophobes are a hoot. Demanding the “right to know” when in reality they are too spazzed out to know their elbow from…well, you know. By so proudly exposing us to their fanatic ignorance it is clear they are lobbying to retain their distinctive right to know nothing. Such a hoot!

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Nathan, there’s a difference between selective breeding and genetic modification. A very, very big difference.
    Humans have been practicing selective breeding, not genetic manipulation.
    There is no GMO free mandated label. And it doesn’t make sense, either, because it leaves people confused about what it means when such a label isn’t present. People want clearly defined information.
    As for your comment about hurting the poor–how? The companies know if they’re using GMO modified products. It doesn’t cost that much extra to squish this information into the label. The cost to add this labeling should be minimal.
    So how is this going to hurt the poor?
    I await enlightenment.

  • Ted

    We all anxiously await your enlightenment Shelley. When will you stop the sophistry and get a clue?
    The most informative label for technophobes would be the label stating “100% techno-free”. No confusion in that. Want confusion? Then go with labels something like “may or may not be enhanced with one or more state-of-the-art technologies X, Y or Z”
    Agenda-driven argument wears transparently thin in your food labeling crusade for your right to know nothing…and to crow about it.

  • Jen

    Thanks for your right-on comments Shelley!!
    Biotech industry proponents like to make the claim that GMO crops are just plant breeding as usual. But these claims are false and they know it — these genes are manipulated in the lab via gene guns, viruses, etc to transfer bits of DNA into completely different species — something that can never occur in nature.
    Meanwhile, Big Biotech has taken over our publicaly-funded research budgets so that the major seed and livestock breeding work is proprietary and patentable for Big Biotech Bucks — leaving farmers with fewer and fewer choices or locally productive varieties.
    Consumers have a right to know — GMO products should be labeled in our food supply. A glance into the supermarket shows that the food corporations change their labels all the time — labeling really is easy BUT the fear is consumers would reject those foods if they knew what’s in them. It’s Shameful really….. but money talks…………

  • greg

    GMO has the potential to be a timebomb. The AMA says test them. Great. Big Pharma as proven that as long as you let the manufacturer do the testing, the result will often be slanted or even rigged.
    Democracies listen to people. Plutocracies listen to money.
    I know which we now live in.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Ted, have you ever thought that insulting consumers about our interest in knowing more about what’s in our food is not a particularly effective argument?
    “Hello, I want to know what’s in this can of food.”
    “Well, you’re a stupid technophobe for wanting to know what’s in that can of food.”
    “Wow, thank you for telling me I’m a stupid technophobe. I now no longer want to know what’s in this can of food.”
    It might be satisfying to you to vent, but it doesn’t convince or convert anyone to your viewpoint.
    So … carry on.

  • Nathan

    Thanks for the great debate!
    First, let me answer your right to know question right now. Anything you buy at the store that is not organic, or does not have a GMO-free label certification DOES contain GMOs. There now you know.
    Second, lets not forget that 100 years ago there was serious food insecurity in the USA. Modern agriculture, like it or not has given us the ability to produce copious amounts of diverse foodstuffs found at a Costco near you. This is what give you the ability to sit on your Apple Computer, drink tea and blog. We are living longer, happier and healthier lives because of it.
    Third, if this bill passes a wet blanket will be proverbially thrown on biotech (thats the point, correct?). GM foodstuffs have undeniably increased yields, reduced the need for large amounts pesticides, and brought down the cost of foodstuffs. If we as a society think that this is unacceptable, then that is fine. There is no secrect society that can stop the will of the people. Just be prepared for the consequences.

  • Scott

    Sugar Beet (GMO) has the same DNA as Cane Sugar (Non GMO)…put that in your pipes and smoke that you damn radical food police freaks! Let’s worry about how we create more job and less dependence on the government. BTW – those that advocate non gmo are also advocating for mass starvation in this world.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Nathan, lack of information does not constitute information. Explicit labeling is best.
    By “food insecurity” do you mean food shortage? Food insecurity is related to availability and access to sufficient food for the entire population. And there’s never been food insecurity in the US–not since it’s been the US.
    And there’s been no serious food shortage in this country. There’s oftentimes a disconnect between food supplier and food consumer, but there’s generally been no shortage of food in the country.
    In fact, we basically fed the Allied armies during World War I. And helped feed the people of Europe just after the war.
    Do you have a specific date and/or incident?
    And I’m still waiting on your response to my question about how labeling is going to impact on the poor.

  • Ted

    Hmmm…Shelly flashes theatrically from pious anti-technology crusader to egregiously insulted consumer with a most astonishing alacrity! Somehow we doubt her sincerity in merely wanting to extinguish a deep burning naivete regarding modern foods. ‘Oh, for want of a label…no, a short pamphlet plumped full of nonsensical propaganda…attached to every conceivable food — now that would be just the ticket!’
    More than a little bit over-acted, Shelley, if we do say.

  • Leigh

    I feel many people who are on this band wagon of non-GMO lebeling really do not know the facts….I bet many will still go out to eat, grab a sweet treat, etc. It’s the un-educated that I find ridiculous.

  • Nathan

    Remember the anti-science Bush years? (Disallowing Stem-cell research, revocation of funding for Oregon State dept of Forestry, denial of global warming etc. etc. etc.)
    It feels to me that the left is becoming what they hated about Bush; Anti-science.
    It is impossible to prove that anything is 100% safe. We have to take risks with everything we do as individuals and as a society. We have been producing and eating GM products for 20 years now. It has been done responsibly, and in a way that has improved the environment, security of our food supply, and improved quality.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Leigh, “It’s the un-educated that I find ridiculous.”
    Which is why there is such a strong demand for GMO labeling–so that people can make informed decisions.
    Ted, you forgot the sputter. Can’t dish out vitriol without some good screen spattering sputter. I suggest practicing in front of a mirror.
    Nathan, I don’t believe anything is more “anti-science” then withholding information. Access to data, to information, is the foundation of science.

  • Calvin

    World population at the end of WWI was about 1.85 billion when Shelly crows about how the U.S. fed itself and Europe as well. My dear, times have changed. We are now 6 billion on track to reach 9 billion in the next few decades.
    How dangerously naive is it to state no Americans have ever experienced food insecurity or to suggest there is no prospect of global food shortage? Only a complete idiot would hint we should be dismantling a successful modern agriculture to be replaced with an archaic medieval peasant dung farming technology, but that is the stunning intention of anti-technology ideologues. Luddites.

  • Judith

    Sorry Nathan — you’re absolutely wrong when you say: “GM foodstuffs have undeniably increased yields, reduced the need for large amounts pesticides, and brought down the cost of foodstuffs.”
    That’s just not true. For starters, check out “Failure to Yield” from the Union of Concerned Scientists. While you’re there also take a look at the failure of Biotech’s “drought-tolerant” varieties — they don’t work either.
    And surely you must know that Bt corn and the Roundup Ready varieties are suffering huge losses due to resistant corn rootworm and a host of Roundup resistant weed types.
    The result is the need for MORE and MORE TOXIC pesticides, not less. As for the cost — farmers used to buy their corn seed by the bag — now it’s by the kernal…
    And meanwhile, having bought up the world’s major seed companies, Big Biotech is raking in Mega Profits and leaving farmers with fewer and fewer alternative varieties.
    Further… your claims of “anti-science” are totally misplaced. GMOs are not scientific — but technologies — and proprietary technologies at that — where the Biotech Corporations own the patented seed (until they contaminate other farmers and then they disavow any responsibility while suing those contaminate farmers for “possessing their technology) Real Cute.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    (I feel I am addressing variations of the same person…)
    Calvin, Nathan asserted that a hundred years ago the US faced a food insecurity crises. It’s an absurd claim.
    I realize that conventional farmers feel threatened by the rising interest in organic foods and techniques, but organic practices incorporate some of the most modern techniques and concepts precisely because they don’t depend on conventional techniques brought about because of a surplus of chemicals from past wars.
    As for the use of GMO, as we’re now finding out, the miracle they promise does not come without cost. Worse, we’re not entirely sure what that cost is.
    The problem with GMO techniques is that most are developed with a belief that humanity can completely control nature, which is an absolutely absurd attitude to have. Rather than use sound agricultural practices, use genetically modified seed and a lot of Roundup.
    If GMO is so grand, then why the push back against labeling? If it’s so modern and hip and wonderful, then I would think you’d have a big brand across cans: GMO Corn! GMO Tomatoes!
    Yet, you seek to hide this information.
    You can insult as much as you want, but bottom line, it doesn’t take away from the fact that companies are doing everything in their power to keep information away from the consumers. Everything, and there’s no good excuse for doing so.
    Call us Luddites, call us anything you want, I don’t care. But label the products.
    (And all that’s happening now is a repeat of the same comments, so this will be my last in this story.)

  • Ted

    Doubtless there were alarmist chuckleheads warning the sky would fall if we adopted the wheel…or canal transportation…or electicity…or radio waves…or the internet. There were probably a few hand-wringing screamers on hand when fire was brought into the cave for the first time. Somehow we always muddle through. Prattle on technophobes, prattle on.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley
  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Regarding earlier comment with link to story of dead cattle, the grass is hybrid not GM. The journalist was in error.

  • Ted

    We should have known it was too good to be true. Thought you were through commenting two comments ago, Shelley. Couldn’t resist tossing in one more red herring of misinformation, eh? Thanks for the extra wooden nickels, sis. Oh well, keep dithering and watch out for falling space junk and other modern technological death traps. Remember to be afraid, be very afraid.

  • Joanie

    Wow Ted — It’s true. You Really have nothing to offer but personal attacks and disinformation — prattle on — at least you’re entertaining Yourself!

  • Nathan

    There is so much mis-information surrounding GM technology, that yes it is kind of funny.
    Here is my proposal, if we decide to label GMOs in the USA like the Europeans, than we need to bring over a few of their ‘good’ laws too. Like we should be able to drink at 19…
    It does make me a little upset when people use what they call the precautionary principle to guide their decisions in life. It is sad and scary to be afraid of what you eat, what you think, and what you breathe. We can’t ban everything just because we don’t understand it. Sometimes we have to just trust people who are like you and me. The food industry has worked very hard to be more transparent, and responsible. It was the food industry that lobbied for the new Food Safety Modernization Act. Take a break and worry about something that really matters, and that really is having a negative affect on society.

  • Jean Jean the Quality Machine

    On the cattle story, Shelley, rather than the cause being GMO, I would theorize scientifically that the cause was a natural protective response from the plant coming out of a drought year. In order for the grass to survive, it would need to produce something that would alleviate its being eaten and destroyed. Certainly we’ve seen this over and over again in nature – one example is the poisonous frog. While nature adapts constantly to its surroundings and science tries to investigate, those passionate about “natural” grab at these things to make their case. There is no proof the Tifton 15 grass was the cause for specifically being genetically modified. The GMO most likely has nothing to do with it. Kind of like piercing your ears has nothing to do with your poor singing voice (analogy – please don’t point out that ear piercing is not a genetically modified practice, just get the analogy) As someone with a scientific degree who understands what exactly genetically modified means and how it is done, I am confident that GMO is nearly identical to natural selection and very safe. I’ve not seen anyone grow a third arm yet.
    The explosion of allergies, as someone mentioned above, is due to modern medical advances…they’ve identified that someone is allergic and have been able to train that person to avoid the food or have intervened and saved the person’s life. This allergic person is now ALIVE (as opposed to 100 years ago when they would be DEAD due to their allergy) to procreate and pass on those genes to future offspring, who cycle the weak genes down to their progeny.
    I just returned from the Institute of Food Technologists annual convention. One speaker, Dr. Muhammed Khan, pointed out that 100 years ago people ate vastly more calories than we do now. So, why do we have obesity? It is not that we eat foods more densely packed with calories, because he specifically said we eat LESS calories than people 100 years ago. He left the conclusion to the audience but it is so easy to surmise….lack of exercise. We’ve engineered heavy hard labor out of our jobs and do not have to expend as much energy as 100 years ago to earn a living. It has nothing to do with GMO food.
    Was it Shelley who said changing the labels wouldn’t cost so much? I work for a very small company yet we have over 120 different products. Did you know that as of 10 years ago label plate change is at least $250? With inflation, the price is probably higher these days. Add “GMO” to the label for our products will be in excess of $30,000. I’m sure you don’t think that is much money. When was the last time you could just drop $30,000 at your household for something that won’t get you anything? The company already has labels. Dropping a minimum of $30,000 for a very small business without any return is enough to have to permanently lay off an employee. That employee may be supporting 4 people. Where is the social justice in that? Now, if the company was traded publicly, you wouldn’t get a decent return for your 401K. Thank you so much for squandering my retirement, missy.
    Whomever said it above…assume all products have GMO unless labeled otherwise, said it terrifically. If you do not want GMO, buy organic or buy food with labels with the “Non-GMO project” and you will have what you want. Food companies, knowing that you are passionate about non-GMO have actually labeled the products that way specifically for you. it is a one-time label set up fee to make an appropriate label specifically saying “Organic” or “GMO-free” when the product is introduced to the market. A company does not have to pay twice when they set up an organic or gmo-free product, it is there at the start. Making the food companies, who employ millions, to waste money to relabel non-organic and gmo foods as such is an incredible waste and a socially irresponsible demand.

  • Jonas

    To the people who say, “If you want Non-GMO, just buy organic or non-gmo labled products”…If the GMO crops contaminate all of the organic and non-gmo crops, what do we have left? Cross contamination has already been shown to have happened. You can’t control nature- it’s inevitable that the more GMO crops there are, the more contamination of nearby non-gmo/organic crops there will be. The whole point is this- they need to test this stuff FIRST before they release it into nature. For all we know, GMO’s could be awesome, but without testing to be sure they are safe first, we are playing with fire.