October 2, 2014


Value of labelling GMO products questioned



A study commissioned by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technologies (CAST) based in Ames, Iowa in the United States, has questioned the wisdom of the mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) food products.

Done by a five-member study team led by a professor from the University of California-Davis, the study was in response to the passage of a state law in Vermont early this year that makes it necessary for all food items that use GM crops to be labelled as GM products.

Vermont became the first US state to impose such mandatory tagging on GM products. CAST says the law "violates commercial speech."

Some lawmakers in the Philippines plan to adopt the same law in the country. Critics, however, argue that should it GM labelling become mandatory, practically all poultry products that consume soya bean from the US must be labelled as such.

The same holds true for farmed fish in thousands of Philippine fishponds and cages that feed on soya meal laced with GM ingredients, like those in Laguna de Bay, which supplies 70% of the fish requirement of Metro Manila.

CAST is a nonprofit organization that counts scientific societies, professors, students, companies and other non-profit groups as members. It assembles, interprets and publishes science-based information using volunteer scientific experts as authors and reviewers.

A total of 19 GM crops had been approved in the US since 1996 and billions of the animals grown for meat have consumed GM ingredients in their feed from corn, soya bean, alfalfa, canola and other crops.

If the said labelling rule will be followed, all meat products, including eggs, will be labeled as GM products.

The CAST paper, entitled "The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labelling for Genetically Engineered Foods in the US," analysed the scientific, legal and economic consequences of GM products tagging.

Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist and cooperative extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California-Davis, led the team with Bruce M. Chassy, a food science professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia; and lawyer Thomas P. Redick from Global Environmental Ethics Counsel Llc. as co-authors.

"Mandating process-based food labelling is a very complex topic with nuanced marketing, economic and trade implications depending upon how the labelling laws are written and how the market responds," Van Eenennaam said.