Although genetically engineered (GE) products are used around the world, the issue becomes contentious when they are present in our food. A key part of the resulting debate centers on proposals regarding the mandatory labeling of GE food.
Many states are considering legislation to mandate such labels. CAST Issue Paper 54, The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Food in the United States, examines arguments for and against labels, the costs involved with labeling, and experiences in countries that use mandatory labeling. Led by Task Force Chair Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, the authors gather factual information to produce a peer-reviewed publication that clarifies the potential impacts of mandatory labeling.
Proponents of mandatory GE labeling cite the right to know what is in their food as an important attribute of a democratic society. Opponents think that such a label will increase the cost of food and confuse consumers with no corresponding improvement in human health or food safety. Seemingly contradictory studies are cited to support opposing views—informed discourse about this emotional issue is hard to find. This paper looks at key aspects of the argument including the following:
- Public opinion, polls, and methods used
- Consumer choice and interpretations that support both sides
- Right-to-know issues
- Food safety and testing
- Legal and economic issues
The authors finish with conclusions they pulled from their science-based research. They also call for better communication about this issue. They recommend that legislators and consumers should be provided with independent objective information to help move the national discussion from contentious claims to a more fact-based, informed debate.
CAST Issue Paper 54 and its companion Ag quickCAST are available online at the CAST website, www.cast-science.org/publications, along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications. All CAST Issue Papers, Commentaries, and Ag quickCASTs are FREE.