NEWS BITE: New CAST paper – “To Label or Not to Label”: A Look at the Issue of Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods

In the last few years, many states have considered legislation to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. A new publication from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) examines arguments for and against labels, the costs involved with labeling GE foods, and experiences in countries that currently require mandatory labeling. Led by Task Force Chair Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California at Davis, the authors gathered factual information to produce a peer-reviewed publication titled, “The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Food in the United States.”

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.

The authors conclude that mandatory labeling has potentially negative effects and call for better communication about this issue. They recommend that legislators and consumers be provided with independent, objective information to help move the national discussion from contentious claims to a more fact-based, informed debate.

According to Eenennaam, “The bottom line is, we need better communication regarding the scientific issues and the possible legal and economic consequences of mandatory GE food labels.” 

CAST Issue Paper 54 and its companion Ag quickCAST (a summary) are available at no charge on the CAST website, www.cast-science.org/publications, along with many other scientific publications.