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.